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

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 1. Application Part One

The first part of your application includes a few simple questions about your contact information and educational background. The application for 2021 will be available in the summer. If you have any questions please contact

2. Preliminary Consultation

As part of your application process to becoming a cantor at HUC-JIR, we require that you to speak with a professional in the Department of Admissions and Recruitment and/or Cantor Richard Cohn, Director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. This informal, preliminary consultation and audition 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.

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. 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. It is also highly recommended that one of your four references be able to speak from a musical perspective

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 Recruitment and Admissions by emailing

References for Applying to the Cantorial Ordination Program

  • Two 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 cantor ordained/invested by HUC-JIR.

  • 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:

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.


Graduate Record Examination (GRE): All applicants with English proficiency are required to take the GRE General Test. When registering for the GRE, please use the school code number 1291, which directs the results to the National Office of Admissions and Recruitment on the HUC-JIR Cincinnati campus. For GRE information, please see

We recommend that the test be taken at least four weeks before the application is due to allow time for the scores to be sent to HUC-JIR. Scores need to be received in order to schedule an interview. GRE scores are only valid for five years. Candidates with a prior degree from HUC-JIR, Ph.D. or Masters degree (post-Bachelor) from an accredited institution that required a GRE score for admission may be exempt from submitting a current GRE score. Please email with a request to exempt from this requirement.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): International applicants for whom English is not the first language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The TOEFL is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in approximately 100 centers outside the United States. See the information available at: Please note that the TOEFL exam is not a substitute for the GRE.  The TOEFL school code for HUC-JIR is 1291.

6. Part 2 of the application

We will send you access to Part 2 after your Part 1 is complete and processed. Part 2 contains more in depth and program specific questions.  All application materials, including Part 2 of your application, letters of references, transcripts and test results, must be received by the deadline in order to be offered an admissions interview. Part 2 of your application will ask for a first and second choice for your interview location.

7. Personal Statement:

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

  1. Why have you chosen to become 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. In addition, in this personal statement, please include reflection on one of the following:
    • the evolution of your current Jewish practice;
    • your relationship with Israel;
    • your conception of and relationship with God; and
    • the role of peoplehood and community in Jewish life today

8. 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 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. How do you express your Judaism in relation to Reform Judaism? What do you find most compelling and what do you find most challenging about Reform Judaism?

9. Resume:

A standard C.V. or resume.