Silverman Chair in Cantorial Arts and Composition Established - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

Silverman Chair in Cantorial Arts and Composition Established

Main Content
Thursday, May 1, 1997



Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, has announced the establishment of the Deborah and Russell Silverman Chair in Cantorial Arts and Composition at the College-Institute's School of Sacred Music. Endowed by Deborah and Russell Silverman, this is the first Chair in the history of the cantorial program, established in 1948.

"Debbie and Russell Silverman's generous gift to the College-Institute of an endowed Chair will strengthen the work and vision of our School of Sacred Music. This is the first endowed Chair in the School of Sacred Music and reflects the College-Institute's commitment to liturgical and cantorial arts, and to the future growth and development of our cantorial program," stated Rabbi Zimmerman. "Debbie and Russell Silverman join us as partners and leaders in the endeavor to add our creative contribution to the history and future of the cantorial and Jewish liturgical music."

"Our new cantors from the College-Institute need to be viewed as partners by our rabbis in our quest for the sacred," stated Deborah Silverman in presenting her and her husband's gift to the College-Institute's Board of Governors. "It is our hope that our gift will enhance the visibility of the School of Sacred Music both within the College-Institute and to all congregations in the Reform Movement."

The College-Institute's School of Sacred Music was established in 1948 as the Reform Movement's only institution for the training of cantors. Today, its 328 graduates serve in congregations throughout the world. Created at a time when the Holocaust threatened to sever the continuity of the Jewish people's cultural heritage, the School of Sacred Music dedicated itself as a guarantor that the musical traditions of generations past would survive and be enhanced by the creativity of new generations. The rigorous four-year program, leading to the degree of Master of Sacred Music, includes a mandatory first year of study at the College-Institute's Jerusalem School followed by three years at the New York campus featuring intensive Judaic, Hebrew, music, musicology, and liturgy studies, vocal and professional skills training, internships and pastoral care and counseling course and fieldwork, and performance. Upon investiture as cantors, alumni are eligible for membership in the American Conference of Cantors, an affiliate of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC). The College-Institute invested Barbara Ostfeld Horowitz as the first woman cantor in America in 1975; a total of 121 women have been invested as cantors to date.

Deborah Silverman has served since 1994 on the Board of Overseers of the College-Institute's New York School, its School of Sacred Music Advisory Council, UAHC Outreach Committee, Regional Affairs Committee and Student Welfare Committee. She is a member of the UAHC's Joint Commission on Synagogue Music and Biennial Program Committee, the UAHC's Southeast Council's Regional Board, and serves on the Board of Trustees of Temple Judea of Coral Gables. She received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Boston University (1969) and Accredited Medical Records Technician Certification in 1976. Her mother, Florence Goldstein, established the annual Florence and Max Minsky Memorial Concert, in memory of her father, Max Minsky, at the College-Institute's New York School in 1994.

Russell Silverman is the Treasurer and past Vice-Chairman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the umbrella organization linking 860 Reform congregations in North America. He also serves as Chair of the UAHC's Joint Commission on Synagogue Music and as Chair of the Fund for Reform Judaism. His extensive service as a leader of the Reform movement includes Chairman of the UAHC's Committee on Older Adults, Audit Committee, Dues Policy Review Committee, Budget Committee, MUM Committee, National Committee on Cantorial and Congregational Relations, Resolutions Committee, National Camp Committee and membership on the Board of the UAHC's Southeast Region. Mr. Silverman is past president of Temple Judea, Coral Gables, Florida. He received his B.S. of Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 and his public policy activities include service on the Board of Health Systems Agency of South Florida (1977-1984), Statewide Health Coordinating Council (1981-83) and South Florida Health Council Aids Task Force (1985-86).

Mr. and Mrs. Silverman's interests include ownership and management of Green Briar Nursing Center, Miami (1971-92), Skilled Rehabilitative Services, Inc., Miami (1984 to present), Tamiami Tile and Plumbing Supplies, Miami and Del Ray Beach (1992 to present), Medical Services Consortium, Inc., Miami (1993-97), and QES Medical Services, Inc., Miami (1996 to present). They are the parents of Aaron and Shira.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.