Admissions & Costs:
Become a Cantor
Jewish Engagement and Identity
As a pluralistic school, we do not have prescriptions for how you should live as a Jew. Rather, we support each other in a search for a meaningful and authentic engagement with Jewish tradition. For prospective students, a cantorial program should not be the beginning of your Jewish learning but a continuation. The time before cantorial school is an opportunity to deepen your Jewish knowledge and practice. We expect our students to be in an ever-deepening relationship with Jewish life, and to have spent some time involved in the Jewish community. (See “What We Ask of Ourselves and of Each Other: Guiding Principles for Admission and Ordination at Hebrew College.”)
Applicants to the cantorial program must be Jewish by birth as recognized by at least one major rabbinic body, or by a conversion process that is recognized by at least one major rabbinic body. Hebrew College admits qualified students without regard to age, sex, disability, race, color, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/orientation, genetic information, military or veteran status.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a competitive GPA. We do not require applicants to have taken the GRE.
Candidates for cantorial ordination must have previous music training. All applicants will be required to take a musicianship test which will assess proficiency in reading music, sight-singing and music theory.
At Hebrew College, we seek the wisdom that emerges when we deeply engage sacred Jewish sources in the original text. Your authentic interaction with the text demands significant study of the Hebrew language to enable you to discover the layers of wisdom within. Generally, applicants must have completed at least two years of college-level Hebrew to start the program.
What We Ask of Ourselves and of Each Other:
Guiding Principles for Admission and Ordination at Hebrew College
Reimagining Jewish learning and leadership for an interconnected world – making our lives more meaningful, our communities more vibrant, and our world more whole.
— Hebrew College Mission Statement
At Hebrew College, we view rabbis and cantors as both learners and leaders. We are committed to a vision of Jewish spiritual leadership that is rooted in a life of Torah, and to learning that is animated by a sense of responsibility to the world.
Throughout their years of study in our program, our students learn to ground themselves in the faithful creativity of the beit midrash, to deepen their relationship with the Divine, and to walk in the ways of Torah, as they prepare for a life of service to the Jewish people.
We expect our students to take upon themselves the following commitments as they walk this path. We ask the same of ourselves as teachers, as we too are lifelong learners and leaders.
Our relationships — with Torah, with each other, and with God — begin with listening. Our beit midrash is where we expect students to develop their capacity to listen – to the voices on the pages of our sacred texts, to the voices of the people around the table, and to the eternal within and between us. This process of learning to listen deeply and well is essential to our understanding of what it means to become a responsible Jewish spiritual and communal leader.
Our commitment to listening to the voices on the pages of our sacred texts flows from an abiding awareness that we are blessed to stand within a vast, multi-vocal interpretive tradition that has been carried on across generations for millennia. We expect our students to become full, active, and passionate participants in this conversation, making decisions about their own lives in serious and sustained dialogue with our inherited tradition.
Our commitment to listening to one another across difference flows from our conviction that every human soul is a unique reflection of the divine image. This foundation gives rise to another core value of our beit midrash — the belief that every human being has something meaningful to contribute. We seek to elicit the contributions of everyone in the room — not only as an act of hospitality, but because each person’s voice is needed for the fullness of the community and of Torah to emerge.
These commitments also lead to our embrace of mahloket le-shem shamayim — the encounter with differing and even challenging perspectives, for the sake of heaven. We expect each other to listen with an open heart, to assume good intentions, to remember that the views we reject may include wisdom we need. We strive to address interpersonal conflict respectfully and responsibly, and to make these encounters locations for personal and communal growth.
We see the cultivation of middot as essential to walking in the ways of Torah. These personal qualities are fundamental to building the capacity for ethical and skillful leadership. It is incumbent upon each of us to strive to develop them be-khol halev — in all domains of one’s life, and over the course of a lifetime.
These middot include:
חֶשְׁבּוֹן נֶפֶשׁ/ Self-awareness and Accountability
יֹשֶׁר/ Honesty and Integrity
נְדִיבוּת לֵב/ Generosity
ְּבְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ
In Your Home and On Your Way
We see the performance of mitzvot as another essential expression of walking in the ways of Torah. Mitzvot are the embodied actions through which we translate Torah’s words into our own lives.
Through the study of sifrei kodesh (our sacred Jewish texts), the creation of a Jewish home, and engagement in Jewish communal life, our students are expected to build a meaningful practice of mitzvot. We welcome diverse expressions of this commitment and understand that the specific contours of personal practice will look different for each student, depending on their own relationship with our tradition and their search for the transcendent within it.
The process of forming a life shaped by mitzvot is an ongoing endeavor. We expect our students to pursue a life of mitzvot that finds expression both in the public sphere and in their own homes — the more intimate, inhabited spaces that define and inscribe our deepest social, cultural, and religious commitments.
These mitzvot include:
הַכְנָסַת אוֹרְחִים/ Welcoming Guests
גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים/ Acts of Lovingkindness
שַׁבָּת וְיוֹם טֹוב/ Shabbat and Holidays
תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה/ Torah Study
This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to offer concrete examples of what we mean by forming a life shaped by mitzvot. Students in our program will regularly be expected to articulate and reflect on these and other aspects of their personal practice with teachers, mentors, and peers. As faculty members, we will support and participate in this process both inside and outside of the classroom, including by modeling honest and reflective conversation with students about how our own lives of mitzvot are unfolding.
Walking in the ways of Torah also calls us to acts of communal responsibility, outside the bounds of our own homes, within the gates of our cities and beyond.
We expect our students to cultivate a particular sense of responsibility to and for the Jewish people. As an expression of this commitment, we expect our students to spend a year of study in Israel, and to cultivate a connection to Israel that is rooted in a love of the Jewish people, a deep understanding of Jewish history and contemporary Israeli society, and a commitment to democracy, pluralism, and human rights.
We expect our students to cultivate a sense of responsibility to and for the dignity and wellbeing of all human beings as reflections of the divine image.
As spiritual leaders in a time of environmental crisis, we expect our students to cultivate a sense of reverence for all of God’s creation and a sense of responsibility for the future of our planet.
Growth and Accountability
Walking in the ways of Torah requires a lifelong process of learning and growth. As a school, we are committed to ongoing reflection upon and refinement of our educational efforts. We will continually seek to strengthen structures of support and accountability, as we build a beloved and diverse community and prepare our students for a life of leadership and sacred service.
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university
- Application and fee
- Official transcripts
- Three letters of recommendation (electronic or printable)
- Written personal statement and essay
- Hebrew placement test
- Personal interview
- Vocal audition
|Priority application due date||January 15|
|Audition and Interview dates||Rolling through early March|
|Financial aid application (including 2020 taxes) and FAFSA due date||March 1|
|Admissions decisions||Within two weeks of interview|
|Financial aid award date||April 1|
|Accepted student response due date||April 15|
If you would like to discuss the possibility of an extended deadline, please contact Admissions Director Rabbi Gita Karasov. We are able to make accommodations on an individual basis, though financial-aid awards may be more limited for late applications.
All applicants must submit the following materials:
- A completed application form
- Two essays as described below
- Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate studies from accredited academic institutions. Please have official copies of transcripts forwarded directly from the issuing institution. Electronic copies should be sent to email@example.com and hard copies to the Office of Admissions, Hebrew College, 160 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459.
- Three or four letters of recommendation; see below for requirements (electronic or printable).
- A completed Hebrew placement exam. Please contact Admissions Director Rabbi Gita Karasov to request a copy of the exam.
- An official score report from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for all foreign students whose native language is not English and who have not received a degree from an accredited United States college or university.
- A non-refundable application fee of $60 paid by credit card as part of the online application.
Audition and Interview
The interview is an essential and required part of the application process for all Hebrew College graduate degree programs. This is an opportunity for us to get to know you better; for you to visit the campus, sit in on classes and meet students; and to learn more about the College and the cantorial program. During your visit to Hebrew College, you will also participate in a vocal audition, and take a musicianship assessment test. Candidates will be contacted to schedule a date once a completed application is received. For details of audition requirements, please contact Admissions Director Rabbi Gita Karasov.
Letters of Reference
We strive to consider our applicants as holistically as possible. Recommendations are a crucial part of this process. We want to hear from individuals who know you well and who can offer a view into your academic qualifications, intellectual capacities, personal qualities, Jewish background and/or spiritual journey.
Please include at least one reference from a cantor or other Jewish professional well-acquainted with your musical and Jewish background, and one, preferably, from an academic instructor.
If possible, please have people writing references fill out the electronic reference form. They may instead send in a hard copy, which can be found here, if they prefer.
Your responses to the application essay questions allow us to get to know you as an individual, a student, a Jew and a future cantor. In addition, these essays give you an opportunity to articulate your views on a variety of topics in a relaxed manner. We want you to be yourself and be honest in your essays.
Please submit two essays, of approximately 1,000-1,500 words each, in response to the following:
- Why have you chosen to become a cantor? Discuss your intellectual, personal and spiritual development, as well as life experiences, specific events and significant relationships that have led you to make this decision. Please include reflections on:
- Your conception of and relationship with God
- The evolution of your current Jewish practice
- Your relationship to the Jewish people and Jewish history, including your relationship with Israel
- Read “The Vocation of the Cantor,” Chapter 16 in “The Insecurity of Freedom” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Respond to Heschel’s views on the cantorate, prayer and Jewish music. In what ways do you agree or disagree with his assessment?
You may fill out the application by clicking here. Applicants are given access to an online portal after completing the online application form and will upload supporting documents there.
You are responsible to ensure that all of your application materials are received; we welcome calls or emails from candidates regarding the status of their applications.
Admissions Timeline for Rav-Hazzan Ordination Program
|Priority application due date||January 15|
|Interview dates||Mid-January to late March|
|Financial aid application (including 2015 taxes) and FAFSA due date||Feb. 15|
|Admissions decisions||Within two weeks of interview|
|Financial aid award date||Mid April|
|Accepted student response due date||May 2|
Hebrew College’s rabbinical and cantorial programs award up to eight multi-year merit fellowships to incoming students each year. We are dedicated to removing financial barriers so we can enable people to fulfill their dreams and serve the Jewish people as rabbis and cantors. We are grateful to our generous supporters who have made these awards and all of our student financial support possible.
Awards are made based on academic achievement, leadership potential and demonstrated commitment to the core values of Hebrew College and our rabbinical and cantorial programs.
>> LEARN MORE
Hebrew College is committed to helping you finance your cantorial education through the awarding of merit scholarships, donor-funded fellowships and need-based grants. The vast majority of students receive some form of financial aid covering a significant percentage of their costs.
Information about our financial aid policies may be found here. An application for financial aid does not in any way affect a candidate’s application for admission. Read a description of Hebrew College’s financial aid process.
Cantorial Program: January 15
Rabbi Gita Karasov `20
Director of Admissions & Student Life