The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor

The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor

Musical Authority, Cultural Investment
Judah M. Cohen
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/20/2019
Format: Paperback 3 b&w illus., 14 musical exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-04549-2
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The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor provides an unprecedented look into the meaning of attaining musical authority among American Reform Jews at the turn of the 21st century. How do aspiring cantors adapt traditional musical forms to the practices of contemporary American congregations? What is the cantor's role in American Jewish religious life today? Cohen follows cantorial students at the School of Sacred Music, Hebrew Union College, over the course of their training, as they prepare to become modern Jewish musical leaders. Opening a window on the practical, social, and cultural aspects of aspiring to musical authority, this book provides unusual insights into issues of musical tradition, identity, gender, community, and high and low musical culture.

Author Bio

Judah M. Cohen is the Lou and Sybil Mervis Professor of Jewish Culture and Assistant Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington. He is author of Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.


"A unique study focusing on the training and transformation of Reform cantorial students into invested cantors.... Informative and interesting."

Mark Kligman

"An important, richly detailed work, the first comprehensive study of the training and professional enculturation of this central liturgical/musical leader.... As Cohen examines how individuals and institutions negotiate the balance between tradition and modernity, he makes a significant contribution to our understanding of contemporary religious life, professional development, and the construction and negotiation of cultural/religious identity."

Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments and Attributions
Note on Transliteration
Introduction: A Moment of Transformation
1. To Fashion a Cantor
2. Seeking the Tradition
3. Constructing a Tradition
4. Through the Prism of the Practicum
5. A Prism of Cantorial Sound
6. A Prism of Cantorial Identity
Conclusion: Cantors in Israel and the Structure of Musical Authority
Appendix A: Ashkenazic and Sephardic Pronunciation Table
Appendix B: URJ Transliteration Guidelines and Master Word List
List of Selections on Compact Disc