Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller

Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman Professor of Liturgy, Worship and Ritual; Professor of Cantorial Arts

Contact Information

school/program: Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music
academic field: Sacred Music/Jewish Musicology
campus: New York

Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller serves as the Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman Professor of Liturgy, Worship, and Ritual and Professor of Cantorial Arts at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, and as cantor of Bet Am Shalom Synagogue in White Plains, New York with her husband, Rabbi Lester Bronstein. Her compositions include “Halleluhu,” a multi-rhythmic setting of Psalm 150, “Lamdeini,” “U’kratem D’ror- Proclaim Liberty,” an American/Jewish response to 9/11, and various commissioned works for choirs, synagogues and interfaith liturgical groups. “A World Fulfilled,” a solo recording of her compositions, was released in 2002. A collection of her synagogue compositions, “Azamrah, Songs of Benjie Ellen Schiller” was published in 2019 by Transcontinental Music. In 2019, Cantor Schiller received the “Hallel v’zimrah” award from the Jewish Choral Foundation for her compositions of Jewish choral music. Cantor Schiller has served on the faculty of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality rabbinic and cantorial programs and the North American Jewish Choral Festival. She is certified by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality as a Jewish mindfulness meditation teacher. 

The Torah of Musical Prayer: The magic and mystery of Jewish sacred melody.

How music speaks – The prayer within the song: An figation of the relationship between a liturgical text and its corresponding musical expression.

Shavat vayinafash – The ordinary yet wondrous gift of Shabbat, through the lens of the Shabbat prayer and Biblical text: “V’sham’ru.”

Azam’ra L’elohai b’odee – Singing to God with one’s full self, from the broken and empty to the whole and complete.

“Practice makes imperfect:” An exploration of daily spiritual practice and mindfulness.

Liturgical gems from the contemporary idiom: What makes a modern piece of synagogue music “work?” How does it speak to us? How might it withstand the test of time?

Tradition: A time and place. What is nusach? How does it function within the contemporary liturgical idiom?

Mindful Prayer Leading: Becoming a vessel to give and receive. An exploration of the art and science of prayer leadership.

Five places of awareness: How does Jewish tradition define what it means to live a life of sacred awareness? We will examine five rabbinic paradigms of mindful living.

Joining the dots to make it whole: creating cohesion within the service. A study of prayer “in time.”

Living in tune – The poet Leah Goldberg asks: “Teach me, O God, a blessing, a prayer, on the mystery of a withered leaf…” An appreciation of daily life through the lens of rabbinic and musical tradition.

Filling the room: Prayer leading as invitation. A course for Sh’lichei Tsibor, leaders of prayer.

Mindful singing: From self-consciousness to self-awareness. The inward focus of the performer.

Returning to life: “Ani y’sheina v’libi eyr – I was asleep, but my heart was awake” – Texts and musical settings from our tradition providing insight into the meaning of teshuvah/return.

Shabbat contemporary workshop: An in-depth study of the repertoire and performance style of contemporary liturgical music for Shabbat.

Life Cycle workshop: An in-depth study of the repertoire, performance style and cantorial role in life cycle ceremonies.

The Prayer Leader and the Congregational Voice, co-taught with Merri Lovinger Arian: the artistry and technique in leading congregational singing in the synagogue.

Advanced Cantillation: Study of the trope systems of the Five Megillot and High Holy Day cantillation.

Life Cycle Music for the Rabbi: Repertoire and performance study of Shabbat, Festivals, and life cycle liturgical music, designed for the rabbi.

Advanced Recitative, co-taught with Cantor Israel Goldstein, z”l, and Pedro D’Aquino: Repertoire and performance study of advanced cantorial compositions.

Director of Cantorial Practica: curriculum planning and leading critique session following student presentation.

Cantorial Coach: Individual instruction in cantorial style on a weekly basis.

Faculty Advisor: Ongoing advisement of students throughout their DFSSM program.

Tefillah advisor, co-led with Merri Lovinger Arian: Individualized mentorship to all HUC-JIR student prayer leaders.

Master’s Recital Advisor: Individualized coaching and repertoire planning for students’ Masters recitals.

Co-chair of HUC-JIR-NY Worship Working group.

Recipient of the “Hallel v’zimrah” award from the North American Jewish Choral Foundation as a composer of Jewish choral music, 2019

Certification by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality as a Jewish mindfulness meditation teacher, 2016

M.S.M., HUC-JIR, 1987

Cantorial Ordination, HUC-JIR, 1987

B.M. in Theory and Composition, Boston University School for the Arts, 1980

Graduate Studies in Vocal Performance, Boston University School for the Arts, 1982

Graduate Choral Conducting Seminar, New England Conservatory of Music, 1980