Cantorial Ordination

Our Vision

Jewish communal life in the 21st century requires talented, knowledgeable and innovative spiritual leadership. We need cantors who are thoroughly trained in the liturgical history of the Jewish people, and who can, at the same time, address the needs of an increasingly complex and diverse Jewish world.

Cantors sing, but are not only singers. They teach, but are not only teachers. Hebrew College ordains cantors who can represent a Judaism that is both authentic and accessible, and can create vibrant and inclusive spiritual communities.

Our students come from diverse Jewish communities across North America, as well as from Israel, England, South Africa and South America. They are actively encouraged to explore their own and each other’s beliefs and practices in an atmosphere of open inquiry and honest conversation. Our students graduate with an appreciation for the diversity of contemporary Jewish life and they act as role models for shared learning and friendship among Jews with different backgrounds and beliefs.

Our graduates serve as members of the clergy in affiliated and independent congregations, in hospitals and private educational settings, and in Jewish communal organizations across the country.

An Innovative Curriculum

Hebrew College's Cantorial Ordination for Spiritual and Educational Leadership program combines academic rigor and spiritual depth. In the first year, our innovative thematic curriculum combines the best elements of the university and the yeshiva, enabling students to examine the sources of Judaism both in historical context and from personal religious perspectives. Cantorial and rabbinic students learn together in class and in our beit midrash. Cantorial students also begin their study of Jewish music history and their individualized work in vocal arts and performance during this first year.

In the second and third years, students delve deeper into the theory and practice of Jewish liturgical music. All cantorial coursework is structured so that classes build on each other. Faculty members communicate closely with each other, facilitating topical connections across the curriculum.

The Hebrew College approach to teaching cantillation and nusach ha-tefillah is both unique and rigorous. Cantillation classes (Torah, Haftarah and holiday trope) are based on grammatical analysis of the sacred Hebrew texts. An enhanced understanding of the text informs the musical application of the traditional chants. Using historical sources, our nusach curriculum encourages personal improvisation and expression. Our classes utilize the hevruta model, allowing for collaborative and peer learning.

Musical Exploration and Expectation

Cantorial students have ample opportunity to perform and participate in musical programming at Hebrew College and in Greater Boston. Students sing with the Hebrew College chamber choir, Kol Arev; participate in regular voice recitals; and are eligible to sing with Hebrew College’s choir-in-residence, the internationally recognized Zamir Chorale of Boston.

All cantorial students enter with a basic knowledge of music theory and study privately on campus with renowned voice teachers from the Boston area. Voice lessons are an integral part of our vocal-arts curriculum; lessons are included at no additional cost.

The Jewish music history curriculum will immerse students in the music of the Jewish people. Students will study and perform repertoire in Jewish art song, folk song, Jewish musical theater and hazzanut.

Each student is assigned a cantorial coach, and coaching sessions are crafted to meet the needs of the individual student. Coaching focuses on leading tefillah, lifecycle officiating, songs for the Jewish year and guitar proficiency.


Marcia Spellman
Administrator, School of Jewish Music

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