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Cantors

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.

Betty Robbins

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Canot and educator, Betty Robbins (1924-2004).

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Canot and educator, Betty Robbins (1924-2004).

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.

Basya Schechter with her Nieces

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Promotional still of Basya Schechter and her nieces from the documentary All of the Above.
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Promotional still of Basya Schechter and her nieces from the documentary All of the Above.

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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.

Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl

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Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl at JWA's 2013 annual "Making Trouble / Making History" luncheon.
Photo by Jordyn Rozensky
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JWA use only on jwa.org

Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl at JWA's 2013 annual "Making Trouble / Making History" luncheon.
Photo by Jordyn Rozensky

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Cantors." (Viewed on April 29, 2016) <http://jwa.org/topics/cantors>.

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