Cantor Jill Abramson Appointed Director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Jill AbramsonHebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is pleased to announce that Cantor Jill Abramson has been appointed Director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, after acting as Interim Director since July 1, 2022. Cantor Abramson previously served as the senior cantor at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY, cantor and director of education at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in suburban Chicago, IL, and sole clergy leader at Congregation Shir Ami in Greenwich, CT. Additionally, she has been teaching and supporting the DFSSM as part of the administration for 10 years. She is universally admired among faculty, students, and alumni across the College-Institute as an attentive administrator, excellent instructor, strong leader, and superlative cantor, who fluidly integrates musical styles and clergy roles.

Cantor Abramson has articulated a clear vision for DFSSM of the 21st century, which includes a more nimble and eclectic curriculum that fuses legacy and innovation, continued faculty excellence, expanded external partnerships, and increased enrollment through a wider pipeline of promising applicants.

In her vision statement for the School, Cantor Abramson explains that she “is driven to oversee the cultivation of cantors who are trained to interpret text through music, express that connection in relationship to a Source, and embody that sacred work in a community of practice.” She seeks to shine a light on the tremendous creativity of our students and faculty as well as on the successes of our talented alumni.

President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. remarked, “HUC-JIR is privileged to have Cantor Abramson continuing to lead our cantorial school, modeling and carrying out its vision. Her creativity, commitment, and passion for the cantorate will strengthen our students’ education and have a reverberating impact on the broader Jewish community.”

Provost Andrea Weiss celebrated this appointment, noting that Cantor Abramson will become the first female-identified director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. She observed, “Cantor Abramson is a gifted cantor and astute administrator who will enrich the distinguished legacy of the DFSSM established by her predecessors as she works with the faculty and College-Institute leadership to revamp the curriculum and actualize a compelling vision for the school and the cantorate.”

Cantor Abramson holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Grinnell College and a Master of Sacred Music and was ordained a cantor by HUC-JIR. She brings a strong commitment to international social justice work, having lived in Cameroon, West Africa, taught English in Indonesia, and conceived an Israeli and Arab teenage choir as part of the international peace program, Building Bridges for Peace. In her cantorate, she has been a passionate teacher, with specializations in the intersection of the arts and Jewish life, as well as in women’s leadership and learning. Her article, “Wrestling with the Gender Politics in Mi Sheberach,” was published by Lilith in 2018.

Cantor Abramson has sung at Merkin Concert Hall and with the Canadian Chamber Orchestra of New York. She is a featured soloist on Shirei Teshuvah, a collection of music for the Days of Awe. Cantor Abramson has also served as Hebrew coach to the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

Please join us in congratulating Cantor Abramson as she helps us achieve our strategic goals and transform our clergy programs to meet the needs of the contemporary world and ensure a vibrant Jewish future.