The ethnomusicologist Judah M. Cohen spent two years with cantorial students at HUC-JIR’s School of Sacred Music and studied how a 21st century Jew with a good voice—and a great deal of training and dedication—can become a musical leader in the Jewish community. In his book, The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor: Musical Authority, Cultural Investment, he examines the cantor’s role in American Jewish religious life. Accompanying the book is a CD of recordings by the HUC-JIR faculty and students during services, classes, practica, and senior recitals.
Cohen aims to discover how one attains musical authority within modern Reform Judaism, investigating this idea through practical, social, and cultural perspectives. Jewish musical training, undoubtedly connected to tradition and historical understanding, must concurrently relate to contemporary views within today’s American congregation. Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit of Tufts University explains that Cohen’s text “makes a significant contribution to our understanding of contemporary religious life, professional development, and the construction and negotiation of cultural/religious identity.” Cohen explores this relationship with insights into issues of musical tradition, identity, gender, community, and high and low musical culture.
Dr. Bruce Ruben, Director of the School of Sacred Music, said, “The College-Institute would like to thank Judah M. Cohen for his insightful look into the field of cantorial studies. Cohen has graciously donated his royalties to the college’s School of Sacred Music.”
Judah M. Cohen is the Lou and Sybil Mervis Professor of Jewish Culture and Assistant Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington. He is author of Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Published by Indiana University Press, the book is available by: