Community Blog Meet Our New Cantors-in-Training
The School of Jewish Music welcomed six new students to its cutting-edge Cantorial Ordination for Spiritual and Educational Leadership (COSEL) program; each will earn a Master of Jewish Education degree in addition to cantorial ordination. Students come from Boston, Maryland and Pennsylvania, with diverse backgrounds and portfolios, ranging from classical musicians to Jewish educators to software engineers. Three completed their undergraduate work in music conservatories. The best way to introduce them is through their own words.
David Wolff was a professional musician and music educator who taught elementary music, gave private lessons, directed choirs and sang in operas, concerts and synagogues. David was greatly influenced by his grandparents journey from Germany to Israel and his early experiences in the Jewish Community in Washington D.C.
“I love using music to create a moving spiritual experience for a congregation. Being a cantor resonates with my Jewish identity, my family’s rich Jewish history, my love for music, and my desire to serve others. When I sing in shul, I work to create the most meaningful and beautiful music, but not to glorify myself. I sing to glorify our God-given capacity for feeling, for beauty, for music, and for togetherness.”
Jana Schachter comes from a life of being a “shul-goer”. From her earliest memories (her mother began taking her to Shabbat services when she was just a few weeks old) to being a Gabbai for her Hebrew School’s Student Council to leyning Torah at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, Jana has always been involved in leading services and teaching others.
“To this day, my grandparents remain my Jewish heroes. They are the ones who taught me the importance of Jewish continuity and of belonging to a Jewish community. They could see the Jewish spark inside of me and did all they could to nurture it. As a cantor, especially with a dual degree in Jewish education, I hope to engage students, young and old, in the Jewish community and help them fill the void experienced by many modern Jews who have not fully explored the different realms of Jewish life.”
Jessica Woolf grew up her in a small town in Oregon and made her way to the Oberlin Conservatory, where she studied oboe and musicology and became involved in the Oberlin Hillel. After college she moved to Maryland, where she eventually worked for Cantor Hinda Eisen Labovitz, an alumna of Hebrew College’s Cantorial Ordination program. Cantor Eisen Labovitz became her mentor and helped her to find her way to Hebrew College.
“I realized that the reason I wanted to go into music in the first place was so I could give back to the world that gave me so much. Music is what brought me into the fold of Judaism, and Judaism is how I returned to the music. Through music, I receive Torah.”
Marc Stober was a Jewish and Near Eastern Studies major in college and, after earning a master’s degree in computer information systems, became a software developer. But his path was suffused with Judaism, as a lay prayer leader, Jewish educator and a Jewish community member. Now he is committing himself full time to combine his love of Judaism and Jewish prayer with his desire to serve the Jewish community.
“In seventh grade, I convinced my parents to buy a new computer. Computers couldn’t do much then, but this model had a synthesizer chip and built-in BASIC programming language. For fun , I taught it to play ‘I Have a Little Dreidel’ and ‘Adon Olam.’”
He continues: “The only thing keeping me from continuing my Jewish learning and teaching, was time—I needed a way to make this a full-time endeavor. Then I saw an article in the Boston Globe about the accelerated three-year COSEL program. Eureka! The cantorate was the profession that combined Jewish prayer, education, creativity—and the school was right down the street.”
A recent graduate of The Boston Conservatory, where she studied vocal performance. Rachel Slusky was inspired by her childhood experiences in her synagogue and her family’s involvement with Teen Israel Ambassadors and Birthright. Rachel later discovered her passion for Judaism through her experience at Hillel and by talking to cantors and cantorial soloists. Rachel hopes combine her love of music with her search for a meaningful life of Jewish practice and leadership.
“I have been telling stories and interpreting music by great composers for over half of my life. The love I have for choral music brings me closer to discovering my own spirituality.”
Jacob Harris recently graduated from the Longy School of Music of Bard College, where he studied voice and composition. He has been involved with Jewish music and prayer through his synagogue and has found his spiritual path in his search for meaning and justice. Now he is nourishing those passions by becoming a cantor.
“Being a cantor will fulfill me in a way that no other career could….I have a deep passion for singing as well as music composition….I want nothing else than to use the gifts that I have been given to serve God, the people of Israel and beyond.”
Cantor Lynn Torgove is Head of Vocal Arts at the School of Jewish Music at Hebrew College, where she also received her cantorial ordination in 2012 and MAJS in 2011.