Application Instructions - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Application Instructions

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At the current time, no further Certification applications are being accepted.


1. Preliminary Consultation

As part of your application process to becoming a cantor at HUC-JIR, we require that you to speak with Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Coordinator of the Cantorial Certification Program of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. This informal, preliminary consultation is a way for us to get to know you better, for you to ask your questions and be sure now is the right time for you to apply to HUC-JIR. Simply email to set a date and time.

2. Application Part One - Click here to start.

 The first part of your application includes a few simple questions about your contact information and educational background.  

3. Recommendation Letters

Good references come from individuals who know you well enough to give the Admissions Committee input on your candidacy and reflect on specific experiences you have had that make you a strong candidate. Please use the Reference Letter Request Form to submit the names and contact information of your references. HUC-JIR will not accept more than four letters of reference. The individuals you list as references will receive an email from HUC Admissions informing them that you have requested they write a letter of reference on your behalf. It is recommended that you are in touch with your chosen references prior to filling out this online form to alert them that they will receive this emailed request.

Please allow each reference enough time (at least one month) to complete his or her letter of reference. If you wish to substitute, delete, or add references after you have submitted their names in the online Reference Letter Request Form, you must report this in writing to the National Office of Admissions by emailing

References Required for Applying to the Cantorial Certification Program

  • One Academic Reference: College professors or instructors with whom you have engaged in serious academic study should write the academic references. If you have been out of college more than five years you may obtain academic references from adult or informal education instructors.

  • One Judaic Reference: Of the remaining two references, HUC-JIR encourages you to submit a Judaic reference from a colleague (rabbi, cantor, or educator) with whom you are currently working.

  • One Professional Reference: In addition, please request a professional reference from a supervisor of your work, paid or volunteer, preferably in a Jewish setting.

Confidentiality of References

The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, as amended, provides students the right to inspect their records. This includes letters of recommendation submitted in the application process. HUC-JIR carefully reviews all letters of reference. However, we find that letters written in confidence are most useful in assessing a candidate’s qualifications and promise. By using the Reference Letter Request Form, you are automatically waiving your right. Please contact with any questions or concerns.

4. Transcripts

Please request transcripts 60 days before the application deadline. Transcripts need to be received in order to schedule an interview.

Please provide us with one copy of an official transcript from all of the following:

    • The college from which you graduated as well as any other colleges you attended. (This includes any school at which you took a college-level course for transfer credit.)
    • Any graduate schools where you have been enrolled, as well as schools where you have taken graduate-level classes.
    • Any “Year Abroad” programs or other foreign study. (If grades from international programs are recorded on your college transcript you do not need to submit a separate transcript.)

Have your schools mail the transcripts directly to:

National Office of Recruitment and Admissions
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
3101 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45220
For international applicants: year-by-year records from colleges and universities attended are required. The record must indicate the number of hours per week devoted to each course, grades received for each course, and degrees awarded, with dates the degrees were conferred. This information must be provided in English. If this information is not available in English, it is the applicant’s responsibility to have it professionally translated and certified before it is sent to HUC-JIR. If grades are not determined on a 4.0 scale system please include guidelines in English from the school that explain the grading system.

5. Application Part Two

We will send you access to Part 2 after your Preliminary Interview is complete. Part Two will include more in depth, program-specific questions.

6. Personal Statement

In no more than six double-spaced, typed pages, and respond to the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to be a Cantor? Discuss your intellectual, musical, religious and spiritual development as well as the life experiences that have led you to make this decision.
  2. Give evidence that you are a self-motivated, pro-active and disciplined learner and how this is reflected in your educational background and life experiences.
  3. How many years have you worked as a soloist in your congregation (and any other congregations)? Please describe your current position.
  4. Explain the circumstances that make it impossible for you to enroll as a full-time student at HUC-JIR.

7. Short Essays:

Please respond to each of the following questions separately. Limit your response to the two questions to a total of six double-spaced, typed pages.

  1. Reflect on a Torah portion or prayer that you have found meaningful or challenging. You may include classical or contemporary commentary that has been helpful to you in understanding the text.
  2. What do you find most compelling and what do you find most challenging about Reform Judaism? In your opinion, what are the most significant issues facing the Reform Movement today, and what is the role of the cantor/clergy and the Movement in addressing these?

8. Resume:

A standard C.V. or resume.

9. Letter of Congregational Support

One clergy member, as well as the president of your current congregation, will need to sign this letter in support of your candidacy.  Please click to download and print this letter:  Letter of Congregational Support

The letter of congregational support should be mailed, emailed or faxed at the same time you are completing Part II of the application, and demonstrates that your congregation understands the time that you will need to devote to your studies and the various aspects of the cantorate which you will be asked to develop, refine, or take on as a part of the Certification Program. These aspects may include Adult Education, Religious School teaching, Committee facilitation, as well as Life Cycle counseling and officiation at various life cycle rituals.

The letter of support should be mailed or emailed directly to:

National Office of Recruitment and Admissions
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
3101 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45220
Please share this letter with your rabbi and president in time to allow it to be signed and returned by the application deadline.

10. The Hebrew Proficiency Requirement:

The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music requires a Hebrew language proficiency equivalent to two years of college-level Modern Hebrew, as demonstrated by performance on the Hebrew Proficiency Examination.

Admissions decisions are reached independently of the results of this exam. Admitted applicants who do not demonstrate sufficient proficiency in Modern Hebrew may be required retake the exam, or defer enrollment to improve their language skill. Learn more here.