At HUC-JIR’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, where we just admitted one of our largest classes in recent years, the cantorate is in a process of continuous renewal (“Where Have All The Cantors Gone?” Culture View column, Aug. 28).
Our cantors are flourishing throughout the Reform movement, integrating tradition with modernity and serving the Jewish community as spiritual leaders, liturgical artists, pastoral counselors and educators. Rooted in the rich heritage of cantorial music and equally committed to the dynamic and inclusive repertory of our time, we are in the forefront of revitalizing public prayer. Utilizing our interpretive skills and our ability to galvanize the voice of the congregation, we are helping to transform contemporary Judaism.
In my career I have witnessed firsthand how Jewish music bridges the generations. Cantors bring a diverse array of voices into harmony, guiding congregants into a deeper relationship with one another and leading them toward a shared sense of meaning. Cantors interconnect the different experiences of our lives through music that reaches the heart. Cantors articulate the distinctive Jewish sound we identify readily with the synagogue.
In addition to their congregational responsibilities, cantors serve on faculties of Reform Jewish summer camps, and they educate thousands of young people year-round in communities throughout North America. They officiate at weddings, funerals, baby-namings and conversions. Their collaborative partnerships with rabbis and congregational educators are essential to the modern fabric of Reform Jewish life.
Most importantly, a cantor helps to bind the souls of our people to the soul of existence through song. Where have all the cantors gone? We are in congregations large and small, helping people of all ages give heartfelt expression to the enduring melody of the Jewish spirit.
Cantor Richard Cohn, director
Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion