Conservative Cantors Told to Prepare for Women Colleagues

Cantors attending the annual convention of the Cantors Assembly, the association of Conservative cantors, were urged to prepare for changes in the Conservative movement which would give an equal role to women as rabbis and cantors.

“Let us not fight these signs of growth in our movement,” said Cantor Ivan Perlman of Providence, R.I., who was re-elected president of the Cantors Assemby. He told the 300 delegates that “They are admittedly emotional issues, but we can influence their direction best if we help to initiate changes rather than merely respond to them.”

Cantor Samuel Rosenbaum of Rochester, N.Y., the assembly’s executive vice-president, said “we must cast aside emotional prejudices and learn to adjust to women rabbis as colleagues.” On woman cantors, he said “we will be bound by whatever Halachic decision is made by the (Jewish Theological) Seminary. The issue will soon arise. When it does, we must deal with it with respect, compassion and understanding.”

Prof. Joel Roth, dean of the Seminary rabbinical school, told the delegates there is no Halachic impediment to women serving as rabbis or cantors provided they are willing to obligate themselves to time-bound commandments such as daily recitation of prayers at prescribed times, adding “I do not know of any Halachic source that prohibits conferring the title of rabbi upon a woman.”

The Seminary will admit this fall women candidates to its rabbinical school for the first time. The Seminary does not now invest women cantors. Roth said the vast majority of the Seminary’s rabbinical school faculty acknowledged the Halachic validity of ordaining women as rabbis and cantors and expressed the hope that the American Jewish community would accept women in these roles.

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