In the spring of 1947, a small group of Hazzanim joined together to lay the foundation for a cantorial association designed to address the immediate and anticipated future concerns of practicing cantors in North America. Their most pressing objective was to professionalize the Cantorate. In doing so, they had to establish the Cantor as a bona fide clergyperson (requiring three landmark legal decisions), create a cantorial school (which they did in collaboration with the Jewish Theological Seminary), provide scholarships for cantorial students, establish dignified placement procedures, setup ethical standards for practitioners of this sacred calling, and improve job security. At the same time, they never lost sight of their primary mission – to inspire devotion to God through the beauty and wonder of the singing voice.
As the Cantors Assembly approaches its 75th anniversary, with a membership of approximately 600, it looks back with pride over its many accomplishments that include:
- Establishing and maintaining a professional and compassionate placement service
- Convening acclaimed annual international conventions that provide camaraderie and continuing education
- The welcoming of women as cherished and equal colleagues
- Providing retirement plan eligibility and disability insurance
- Operating a flourishing publications department
- Publishing the Journal of Synagogue Music, a scholarly periodical
- Creating partnerships with all arms of the Conservative Movement, Klal Yisrael and the greater community
Specific projects of note were:
- Two films on the Cantorate – More Than a Singer and 100 Voices, the second of which was screened in movie theaters throughout the country
- The publication of the book, Chosen Voices, a history of the American Cantorate
- A jubilee anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall
- Missions to Israel, Poland, Germany and Spain
So long as Jews yearn for God, and though musical tastes may change, there will be a need for the voice of a Hazzan to touch Jewish hearts and souls in times of both joy and sadness. The Cantors Assembly looks forward to a bright future, utilizing creativity, intellect and technology as we both respect our past and plan for the future.