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Cantors

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.

All of the Above: Refusing to Choose

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.

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

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

Julie Rosewald became the first woman known to have led services at an American synagogue when she led the music, chanted portions of the worship normally reserved for a cantor, and directed the choir at San Francisco's Temple Emanu-El following the death of the congregation's cantor.

Julie Rosewald: America's first woman cantor

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.

Angela Warnick Buchdahl invested as first Asian-American cantor

May 16, 1999

Angela Warnick Buchdahl was invested as the first Asian American cantor. Two years later, she became 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.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Cantors." (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/cantors>.

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