‘Prayer Leader,’ Not ‘Cantor’
Tue, 09/07/2010
Huntington, L.I.

As a fully-invested female cantor from the Jewish Theological Seminary, I certainly support the inclusion of women acting as shaliach tzibbur (leader of a religious service) in all prayer settings, and I applaud the courage of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in giving Lamelle Ryman the opportunity to lead [a portion of the] Friday night services (“Weiss Moves Beyond ‘Rabba,’” Aug. 6).

I do object, however, to your newspaper’s use of the term “cantor.” A cantor is an individual specially trained in all the nuances and intricacies of davening, nusach, Jewish musical traditions, scriptural chanting and many other subjects. Cantors complete five years of study at an accredited seminary or study for years under the tutelage of a master cantor. Your paper used the terms “cantor” and “shaliach tzibbur” (which should have been translated as ‘prayer leader’) interchangeably. They are most certainly not. This would be akin to calling any learned teacher “rabbi,” obviously an error.

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