As a teenager in Riverdale with a strong interest in music and an equally strong interest in Judaism, Deborah Sacks Mintz would frequently attend the Friday evening services at the Bronx neighborhood’s Hebrew Institute, where both of her interests were fed.
She was impressed by the singing of Dr. Eli Kranzler, a psychiatrist who has served as the congregation’s longtime cantor. She noted how he led the worshippers enthusiastically in song, while not dominating the community of worshippers with his vocal artistry.
That inspired Sacks Mintz to pursue a career that combines music and Judaism.
Now a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, she is the community singing consultant of Hadar’s Rising Song initiative, traveling around the country to work with synagogues of various denominations, leading davening and giving workshops, instructing prayer leaders and congregants — with a special emphasis on women — how to “deepen their practice of empowered song and connective prayer.”
Most weekends she’s a lecturer or scholar-in-residence somewhere; a growing number of Jews wish to strengthen the musical component of their worship services and improve their tefillah, she said.
“We’re in a renaissance of Jewish music now,” said Sacks Mintz, a Wexner Graduate Fellow who lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, David, a cantor, and their son, Nadav, 3.
She calls her personal practice “traditional egalitarian,” and her singing style “neo-chasidic.” A composer, she’s at work on an album — her first solo one — that is to come out next year.
Jewish music also plays an important part in her life at home.
Who makes Kiddush on Shabbat or yom tov: she or her husband, who serves as the Director of Prayer and Spirituality at B’nai Jeshurun?
“We alternate,” she said.
Shabbat in the Big Easy: Sacks Mintz has attended many parades, but her favorite memory is of Shabbati Gras. That’s a Friday evening program that New Orleans’ historic Touro Synagogue — where her husband worked — holds during a Mardi Gras parade down St. Charles Avenue. Members of the congregation and anyone interested share a Shabbat meal in the street-side courtyard, watching the Krewes passing crews.