Leadership Transition for the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music

In a transition of leadership for the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music (DFSSM) for the 2022-23 academic year, Cantor Richard Cohn will be refocusing his role, completing his term as DFSSM Director and assuming the title of Senior Advisor as a part-time appointment effective July 1, 2022.  Cantor Cohn will be based in the Chicago area and continue to be active in several important DFSSM initiatives.

Jill AbramsonCantor Jill Abramson, currently DFSSM Program Associate, will become Interim Director, leading the cantorial program in the 2022-23 academic year, effective July 1, 2022. Cantor Abramson brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this role, as a highly respected cantor and a seasoned leader with nearly a decade of impact on HUC’s New York campus.

Rabbi David Adelson, Dean of HUC-JIR/New York, stated, “There will be no way to thank Cantor Richard Cohn sufficiently for his leadership. He worked tirelessly, with rigor and compassion, on behalf of his students. He advanced his vision of integrating both musical liturgical modalities and the many roles of the cantor. I will miss working closely with him, but am so grateful that Cantor Cohn will be supporting Cantor Jill Abramson to make a smooth transition into leadership.”

Cantor Richard Cohn noted, “The students and faculty of the DFSSM are its lifeblood, and their engagement with one another during these seven years has given rise to one inspirational highpoint after the next.  I have been privileged to witness ever-present growth and transformation, which has been a great blessing.  As the program continues next year under Cantor Jill Abramson’s able guidance, I am confident that HUC’s leadership in the fields of spiritual artistry and clergy formation will continue to sustain an innovative and heartfelt progressive cantorate.”
Cantor Jill Abramson added, “I am honored to follow in the footsteps of Cantor Richard Cohn, whose spirit and tenacity have strengthened our profession and elevated our craft. As we continue forward, I am passionate about a cantorate that energizes contemporary Jewish life, centers a commitment to justice, and interconnects music, text, and community in relationship to an Eternal Source.”

Cantor Richard CohnUnder Cantor Cohn’s dedicated leadership over the past seven years, the DFSSM team’s academic accomplishments have been extensive, including ongoing curricular development; integrative learning, increased student creativity, and engagement of faculty members representing diverse disciplines and musical-liturgical styles;  developing new courses emphasizing contrasting areas of repertoire, while innovating cantorial skills for contemporary worship; and diversifying the senior capstone research and performance platforms.

Important faculty and administrative advances have included restoring the tenure-track position in Musicology; establishing the Dr. Jack Gottlieb Jewish Music Studies Endowment Fund, including the appointment of its first Scholar, Dr. Gordon Dale; establishing Professor of Practice positions for leading members of the full-time faculty, Merri Lovinger Arian and Joyce Rosenzweig; and establishing a Program Associate position to deepen recruitment, curricular integration, and alumni engagement.

Alliance of the DFSSM in New York and cantorial studies in Jerusalem has been achieved through ongoing reinterpretation of the Year-in-Israel Program, including collaborative development of a Center for the Study of Sacred Music benefitting DFSSM cantorial students and Israeli rabbinical students, and curating the educational program of the first Israeli cantorial-rabbinical student to be simultaneously ordained in both vocations.

DFSSM students have benefited from the restructuring of student advisement and mentorship; providing experiential learning for students in spiritual practice, collaboratively with the New York campus faculty t’fillah team; building on the clergy-formation partnership between cantorial and rabbinical education; innovating online education, communal worship, and DFSSM programmatic presentations for the Covid-19 pandemic environment; and strengthening the close bond between the DFSSM and the American Conference of Cantors.

The DFSSM is poised for a new era of achievement, as it prepares inspiring cantorial leadership for communities throughout North America, Israel, and around the globe.