Are There Female Cantors?

Yes, there are female Cantors. Up until the 1970s, becoming a Cantor was still deemed a male privilege. However by the end of 19th century, Jewish women had taken on important roles in the rapidly developing cultural phenomena. Not only did they start participating in a wide assortment of dramatic productions, but also sing liturgical chants and religious hymns of spiritual significance.

Sally J. Preisand was the first female to be ordained as Rabbi in 1972 from the HUC-JIR. Till that time, women were only educated in liturgical music in order to serve congregations as choral leaders and music teachers. The Reform Movement began accrediting female music students for formal Cantorial studies, following the ordination of female Rabbi. The first woman to be ordained as a female Cantor was Barbara Ostfeld-Horowitz in 1975. It was just around this time when women started gaining elevated positions in religious institutions to carry out spiritual activities.

Till this day, Barbara remains an active role model to those women who aspire to be a dedicated Jewish musician. After achieving the feat, a number of woman Cantors have graduated from that school, with most of them holding full-time duties or part time positions. Not only do female Cantors exist in good numbers, but they have also changed the way in which prayer is offered, received or heard. Modern-day Cantors hold an elevated position in synagogue and temple, literally breaking the gender stereotype.

Amid all the arguments that continue revolving around female Cantorial profession, leading voices have increasingly come forth from the Jewish women leaders in observances of the faith. They present dedicated Jewish music programs, compose and arrange liturgical works, train choirs and fulfill vital duties as music educators, which includes training of both boys and girls.

JSLI provides a complete online Cantorial training with four musical modules of study; festivals, weekdays, Shabbat and High Holidays. Talk to us to learn more.