Through her scholarship and the documentary films she produced, Johanna Spector not only preserved the music of Jewish communities around the world but introduced them to new audiences. The only member of her family to survive the Holocaust, Spector immigrated to America in 1947 and earned her doctorate from Hebrew Union College in 1950. From 1951–1953 she taught at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, then returned to America and joined the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1954. From 1962–1985 she served as founding director of the JTS College of Music’s ethnomusicology department, devoting her career to discovering and preserving rare Jewish musical traditions from far-flung corners of India, Yemen, and other little-studied communities. She founded the Society for the Preservation of Samaritan Culture in 1971 and served as vice president of the Asian Music Society from 1964–1974 before becoming president from 1974–1978. In 1971 she also produced her first documentary, The Samaritans, followed by documentaries about the culture and music of Jews across the Near, Middle, and Far East. She collected over ten thousand recordings of religious and folk music and wrote extensively on Jewish musical traditions, continuing her work until well into her eighties.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Johanna Spector." (Viewed on March 5, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/spector-johanna>.