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Cantors

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Sabrina Sojourner

Hazzan Sabrina Sojourner is a seasoned cantor whose spoken word midrashim create a larger vision of who we are as a people, inspiring us to take better care of ourselves, each other, and our planet.

Cantor Alisa Pomerantz-Boro

Blazing a Trail, One Note at a Time

by Sofia Gardenswartz

I’ve always considered words to hold a certain power. As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” So, when I was sitting in the front row as my little brother was called to the Torah for the first time as a bar mitzvah, something struck me about the language of the event. Usually, the English translation in the siddurim (prayer books) follows the literal Hebrew on the opposite page, reading “God” for “Adonai” and “He” for “Hu.” But in the readings that day, God was genderless. The biblical Hebrew that has been passed down for millennia wasn’t changed, but the English translation avoided the use of any pronouns that would invoke gender. 

Natalie Harder at her Bat Mitzvah

A Woman’s Place is in the Cantorate

by Natalie Harder

If you ask any member of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts, they will tell you that Jodi Sufrin was made to be a cantor. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, but she radiates this soft warmth at all times—inviting everyone to take part in what she is saying or singing. From sing-alongs in Beth Elohim’s preschool to Friday night services, Cantor Sufrin has been a gentle, but nonetheless powerful female presence in my life. She is, and has always been, the type of person I (and every other young Jewish girl at my temple) aspire to be. And as I grew up and became the person I am today, I couldn’t have been luckier to have a role model like her, showing me what being a Jewish woman can mean.

Rising Voices Fellow Madisen Siegel with her Best Friend Lucy

She Has Pink Hair and Just Doesn't Care

by Madisen Siegel

Lucy is easy to find. It’s easy to spot her bobbing pink hair in the crowd, though it might have a blue or purple undertone now. Even before she started dying her hair last year, Lucy made herself known. Whether it’s by singing at the top of her lungs – with perfect pitch, by the way – or boldly introducing herself to strangers left and right, Lucy is not like everyone else.

Topics: Schools, Music, Cantors

Angela Buchdahl

As the first Asian-American rabbi and cantor, Angela Buchdahl has shifted people’s perceptions of what it means to look Jewish, but it is her intellect, charisma, and deep spiritual curiosity that have made her the senior rabbi at a prestigious Manhattan synagogue.

Angela Buchdahl

Angela Buchdahl made history as the first Asian-American rabbi and cantor, but it has been her skill with congregants that has fueled her rise to senior rabbi at a prestigious Manhattan synagogue.

Miriam Gideon

Miriam Gideon took inspiration for her compositions from great poetry and Jewish prayers, earning acclaim as the second woman inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1976.

Angela Buchdahl named one of America’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis

April 16, 2011

"Once people enter my synagogue and hear me chant, the fact that I am Korean begins to melt away.” Rabbi Angela Buchdahl

Betty Robbins

Betty Robbins spent her life breaking gender boundaries in the Jewish community even before she made history as the first woman cantor in 1955.
Basya Schechter with her Nieces

All of the Above: Refusing to Choose

by Lisa Batya Feld

There was a moment in my late twenties when I seriously considered rabbinical school. I was changing careers, trying to figure out what my next step would be, and becoming a rabbi would have allowed me to blend my love of Jewish ritual, my intellectual curiosity, and my passion for helping people into a calling. It made sense, on a deep level. But the more I talked about it with friends who were already rabbis and rabbinical students, the more they cautioned me, “As a woman, if you become a rabbi and you’re not married yet, you need to accept that you’ll probably never marry. Men don’t want to date women who are authority figures; it’s too emasculating.” I wanted to be a rabbi. But I also wanted marriage and children. When I believed that I needed to choose between them, I couldn’t bear the thought of never having children of my own. I quietly turned my focus to other graduate programs.

Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl

More Than Just The Celebration of One Woman: Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl

by  Judith Rosenbaum

Usually, I’m a bit of a skeptic about the transformative power of women’s leadership. I don’t believe a woman in a position of power will necessarily create meaningful social change. I’m a little weary of celebrating “firsts” for women. I’m impatient and demanding and all the things feminists need to be if we’re going to change the world for more than an elite few. 

And then there are moments when I feel the momentum rumbling beneath my feet and cynicism is nowhere to be found. Today I had one of those moments when I heard that Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl has been chosen as the next Senior Rabbi at Central Synagogue, a prominent and powerful Reform congregation in New York City.

Julie Rosewald becomes the first woman to lead services in an American synagogue

September 20, 1884

As the solemn First Day of Rosh Hashanah (5645) got underway on a Sabbath morning in 1884, congregants at San Francisco’s Temple Emanu-El experienced something entirely new.

Julie Rosewald

Julie Rosewald: America's first woman cantor

by  Judith S. Pinnolis

She wrote a book. She was an actress. She sang opera. She became a professor. She toured the world by herself. She paid her own way. She was a musical superstar.

First female cantor leads Rosh Hashanah services

September 15, 1955

Betty Robbins, the world's first female cantor, led Rosh Hashanah evening services at Temple Avodah of Oceanside, New York, on September 15, 1955.

Angela Warnick Buchdahl is invested as first Asian-American cantor

May 16, 1999

Buchdahl became the first Asian American cantor, and just two years later, made history again by becoming the first Asian American rabbi.

Betty Robbins

Amid great worldwide controversy, the first female cantor in Jewish history, Betty Robbins, was appointed in July 1955. Never before had a woman worn the garb and performed the traditional role of hazzan (cantor) in a Jewish synagogue anywhere in the world.

Jewish Women and Jewish Music in America

American Jewish music has expanded vastly in variety, range, and quality of activities. Jews brought to America their secular-folk and sacred-liturgical musical heritage. There has been a renascence of age-old traditions that have become means of self-expression for Jewish women.

Jewish Feminism in the United States

Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. Of America’s four Jewish denominations, all but the Orthodox have accepted women as rabbis and cantors.

Hadassah (Spira Epstein)

“One of the finest artist gifts to come out of Israel is Hadassah,” proclaimed the Dance Congress of 1953. Hadassah was recognized as a major dance artist of the twentieth century, a performer of Jewish, Hindu and other ethnic dance forms, and a leading force in presenting the dance of other cultures to the American public. She was a pioneer in bringing Jewish dance to the United States and was recognized as such in the first U.S. Congress on Jewish Dance held in New York City in 1949.

Conservative Judaism in the United States

Women have played a pivotal role in Conservative Judaism throughout the twentieth century and have been instrumental on both the grass-roots and national levels in propelling the Conservative Movement to confront essential issues including Jewish education, gender equality and religious leadership. The Conservative Movement’s attention over the decades to issues such as the religious education of Jewish girls, the status of the ]agunah (deserted wife), equal participation of women in ritual and the ordination of women has helped to shape the self-definition of Conservative Judaism and its maturation as a distinct denomination.

Cantors: American Jewish Women

Though debate continues regarding the female cantorial profession, women’s voices increasingly come forth from pulpits in America, leading congregations in all the year-round calendar and life-cycle observances of the Jewish faith.

Making History in the Cantorate and the Rabbinate

by  Jordan Namerow

Apropos of recent conversations on Jewesses With Attitude about diversity and multi-ethnic identities, nine years ago today, Angela Warnick Buchdahl was invested as the first Asian-American cantor.

Topics: Cantors, Rabbis

JTS Welcomes Gays and Lesbians!

by  Jordan Namerow

Earlier today, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) announced its decision to open its doors to gay and lesbian rabbinical and cantorial students, a decision that is effective immediately!

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