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An Historic First: Ordaining Our Cantors

An Historic First: Ordaining Our Cantors

Next month may mark the 40th anniversary of women in the American rabbinate, but another historic event is taking place this weekend: On Sunday, six graduates of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion will make history when they become the first class of cantorial students to be ordained rather than invested. JTA covers it in a story this week titled "What’s in a word? For ‘ordained’ rather than ‘invested’ cantors, a lot."

What’s the difference between investiture and ordination? Plenty, say officials at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which has announced that for the first time since establishing its cantorial school in 1948, it will ordain rather than invest its graduating class of cantors. Six graduates will be ordained Sunday in ceremonies at Temple Emanu-El in New York. The change has been several years in the making. Reform movement officials say it both recognizes the elevated role that cantors have in modern times and eliminates some barriers they have faced in their clergy work.

One thing this story doesn't do is speak with any of the students who will be among the first to be ordained. Michelle Rubel, one of the six who will become an ordained cantor this weekend, is a NFTY and Kutz Camp alumna who has served as a cantorial intern at Hebrew Tabernacle Congregationin Washington Heights, N.Y. On being a part of the first class of ordained cantors, Rubel writes,

Our ordination as cantors, in my opinion, truly reflects the professional, spiritual, and scholarly work we will be undertaking in our future congregations. Over the last five years, my classmates and I have engaged in rigorous study, not only in the realm of sacred music, but in sacred text and the sacred work of building congregational communities. We have enriched our studies not only in synagogues, but in hospitals, in summer camps, in non-profit organizations, and beyond. I feel honored to have been a part of this dedicated, talented and passionate class. I feel proud that the work of our class represents the changing vision for the role of the Cantor. And I feel a great sense of humility and gratitude being a part of this historic moment in the history of the American Cantorate.

Rubel will be ordained this weekend in New York City along with fellow cantorial students Tracy Fishbein, Victoria Glikin, Luke Hawley, Julia Katz, and Elana Rosen-Brown. A hearty mazel tov to all of them!

Published: 5/03/2012

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