Cantors

Content type
Collection

Angela Buchdahl

Angela Warnick Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a rabbi and cantor. She is the senior rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York and is a major leader in American Judaism’s continued work on diversity, equity, inclusion, and innovation.

Julie Rosewald

Julie Eichberg Rosewald was America’s first woman cantor. Known as the “Cantor Soprano” at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, she served between 1884 and 1893. Rosewald enjoyed a brilliantly successful career in opera as well as being a composer, author, teacher, and professor of music.

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

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

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

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 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

Basya Schechter with her Nieces

All of the Above: Refusing to Choose

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

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

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

Betty Robbins is often heralded as the first female cantor – in fact, that honor goes to Julie Rosewald. However, Robbins was the first woman to be officially designated as cantor. The Board of Trustees at Temple Avodah in Oceanside, New York unanimously appointed Robbins as their cantor in 1955.

Women, Music, and Judaism in America

This article emphasizes American Jewish women’s multivalent musical choices from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries. In doing so, it acknowledges that mainstream Jewish liturgical, educational, art, and “popular” music histories often exclude or minimize women’s participation—as does the very term “Jewish music.” Instead, this article focuses on Jewish-identifying women’s activities in both religious and non-religious settings, rather than seeking to classify the music they create.

Jewish Feminism in the United States

Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. The accomplishments of Jewish feminists have transformed American Jewish life, even as the ultimate goal of gender equity and shared power has yet to be fully realized.

Hadassah (Spira Epstein)

Hadassah Spira Epstein was 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 propelling the Conservative Movement to confront essential issues including Jewish education and gender equality. The Movement’s attention to issues such as the religious education of Jewish girls, the status of the agunah (deserted wife), equal participation of women in ritual, the ordination of women, and innovations in liturgy and ritual to speak to women’s experiences has helped to shape the self-definition of Conservative Judaism, and has enabled talented Jewish women to reach new heights in religious leadership.

Cantors: American Jewish Women

Women’s vocal leadership in synagogue music began with zogerin (women prayer leaders) in the women’s gallery. In the nineteenth century, women began participating in mixed choral and community singing, and some opera singers acted as cantors in important Reform congregations. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Reform and Conservative movements began formally investing women as cantors, and today a plurality of cantors in liberal movements are women.

Making History in the Cantorate and the Rabbinate

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!

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!

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox