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Cantors

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 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

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.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Cantors." (Viewed on December 12, 2017) <https://jwa.org/topics/cantors>.

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