Cantor Sarah J. Sager, October 20, 2012.
Cantor Sager has served the community of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple since 1980, and was the first ordained Cantor in that synagogue’s history. She recently transitioned to the position of Cantor Laureate of the congregation. Serving three generations of congregants, Cantor Sager has built enduring relationships with Anshe Chesed families, with whom she has shared life cycle events and shared her gifts as a teacher to learners of all ages. Many congregations across North America have sought Cantor Sager as a visiting lecturer or scholar-in-residence, where she shares insights on Judaism and feminism, Jewish music, and Torah learning.
A native of Illinois, Cantor Sager received Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude honors in English Literature as an undergraduate at Brown University (1970), and a Master’s Degree from the New England Conservatory of Music (1975). At the time of her ordination by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion – School of Sacred Music (1978), she was one of the first women in the world to hold the title of Cantor.
Her stirring charge to the 1993 Biennial Convention of the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) in San Francisco, “Sarah’s Hidden Voice: Recovering and Discovering Women’s Spirituality,” resulted in WRJ undertaking the project of a transformative publication, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (published in 2007), which has engendered feminist commentary and a growth in interpretations and scholarship. Cantor Sager “charged” the women of our Reform movement in these words:
“If we are really serious about women’s spirituality, about re-claiming our history and our voices, about liberating the concepts of God and community, of integrating the Torah of our tradition into the Torah of our lives, then there is something very concrete that we can do. We can commission the creation of the first women’s commentary to the Torah!”
Cantor Sager has been honored for her contributions to the Jewish community and for her spiritual leadership by the State of Israel Bonds and the Commission for Women’s Equality of the American Jewish Congress.
She served for many years as a Board member and officer of the American Conference of Cantors. She was one of the first Co-chairs of the Joint Commission on Synagogue Music of the UAHC and has served movement-wide commissions on Synagogue Music and on Worship, Music, and Religious Life.
At the time of her 25th year in the Cantorate, she received her Doctor of Music degree, honoris causa, with distinction, from the Hebrew Union College.
As part of her involvement with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Cantor Sager is trained as a facilitator and teacher of Wise Aging groups, activities and initiatives.
Cantor Sager proudly serves on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. In that capacity and in the aftermath of the tragic loss of President Aaron Panken, she had the privilege and thrill of serving on the Presidential Search Committee that chose Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., as the 13th president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Cantor Sager also proudly serves on the board of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College and the Mandel Jewish Community Center of Cleveland.
She is the proud mother of Rabbi Jennifer Hartman (Michael), HUC ’09, and Jonathan Gertman (Zoe Weitzman), and is the ecstatic grandmother of Fred, Jonah, and Bess Hartman.