Special Research

The Writings of Cantor William Sharlin: An Annotated Bibliography

Jonathan L. Friedmann, Ph.D.


Cantor William Sharlin’s (1920-2012) career is in some ways the story of the professionalization of the American cantorate. He was a member of the first graduating class of the first cantorial school in America, the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College (HUC, 1951), and a founding member of the American Conference of Cantors (1953). He is recognized as the first professional Jewish camp song leader, and the first to play a guitar in the synagogue. He was one of only a handful of cantors with an advanced degree in composition (Manhattan School of Music, 1949). He developed the Department of Sacred Music at HUC in Los Angeles, and taught there for forty years (1954-1994). He raised the profile of the cantorate and Jewish music in California—two areas historically dominated by the East Coast establishment. He trained women to be cantors before they were allowed into the seminary. His thirty-plus years at Leo Baeck Temple (1954-1988) were among the most musically inventive in the history of the synagogue.

Sharlin was grateful for his mixed background of Orthodox and secular. Born into an insular religious family in New York in 1920, he spent his early years immersed in Judaic study. In the mid-1930s his family settled in Jerusalem, where he entered the Jerusalem Conservatory to study piano. This initiated a chain of events that would lead him further into the world of general music, away from parochial tribalism, into the rarified realms of composition and musicology, and on an idiosyncratic pursuit of the sacred. Although he led worship services, internalized the language of the prayer book, and was fully committed to the Reform cantorate, he almost never spoke of God or piety in the conventional sense. He found holiness in intense musical experiences. His devotion was to song.

Sharlin is best known as a composer, cantor and teacher of cantors; but he also had a philosophical side. He wrote a number of insightful and challenging essays over the course of some fifty years. I had the great honor of collecting and co-editing (with Brad Stetson) many of his essays for Jewish Sacred Music and Jewish Identity: Continuity and Fragmentation (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2008). This book is listed below as JSMJI.

When Cantor Sharlin passed away in 2012 at the age of 92, I was granted full access to his papers. As if predicting that he would someday be the subject of research, he preserved a remarkably detailed (if disorganized) record of himself. Stored away in cluttered drawers were school transcripts, fan mail, correspondences with colleagues, letters from publishers, lecture notes, musical manuscripts, article outlines, travel diaries, concert programs, bulletins, clippings, and more. There were also a number of essays and papers that had not previously come to light.

This annotated bibliography includes 52 entries, 18 of which remain unpublished. Viewed as a whole, they touch upon ten philosophical tensions: (1) Active and Passive Assimilation; (2) Davening and Congregational Singing; (3) Privacy and Performance; (4) Insiders and Outsiders; (5) Listening and Singing; (6) Diversity and Mainstream; (7) Secular and Sacred; (8) Cantor and Rabbi; (9) Static and Dynamic (text and music); and (10) Past and Present.

Items listed in this bibliography are available as PDFs. Requests can be made through the Contact Page on this website.

Annotated bibliography

[1] “Active and Passive Assimilation.” JSMJI. 59-62.

Discusses the “heterogeneous accumulation” of musical styles in the American synagogue. Builds on a theory first proposed by Eric Werner (after Hermann Cohen), which claims that synagogues guided by a mainstream—“a reasonably steady body of music”—tend to absorb outside elements without compromising the musical character of a service (active assimilation). In contrast, many modern synagogues surrender to outside musical influences and incorporate them as they are, due to an absence of a stabilizing mainstream (passive assimilation). Departs from Werner in proposing that passive assimilation can achieve an active quality when the foreign elements are “assimilated experimentally—by the sheer energy of a living worship entity” (e.g., Hasidic niggunim).

[2] “The American Synagogue in Search of Its Musical Idiom.” Shalshelet: The Chain 2:2 (1976): 6-8. [Abridged version reprinted in JSMJI. 92-93.]

Contrasts musical instability in contemporary worship with the “stable entity” of the past, and proposes that synagogue music achieves a defined character (“tradition” or “custom”) only when worshipers are comfortable with the concept of worship itself. Cites three primary and sometimes conflicting needs driving the current search for meaningful prayer-music: (1) The needs of today’s congregations; (2) The needs of individual functionaries (cantor, composer, choir director); (3) The need to preserve a sense of continuity with the musical culture of the past.

[3] “The Artist and the Sacred.” Unpublished, n.d.

Contends that artists are rarely drawn to the usual aspects of religious life: regulated rituals, group affiliation, and formalistic prayers. Posits that utterly artistic people—those who exist in an almost perpetual state of inward reflection and inspired invention—live the ideals that religion strives to impart through texts and structured practices. The artist is intimately familiar with transformation and elevation, making religion’s attempt to manufacture these qualities superfluous or even disruptive.

[4] “Ashkenazi Tradition.” JSMJI. 64-66.

Discusses biases and obstacles composers bring to settings of liturgical prayers, including varied levels of familiarity with Jewish worship, the Hebrew language, and the heritage of synagogue music. Also addresses the built-in limitations of older chant formulas, known as nusach ha-tefillah, which can obscure textual meanings through the imposition of specific chant patterns on blocks of prayers—a practice that often ignores the multiple moods and themes that are present in the prayers.

[5] “An Autobiographical Sketch.” JSMJI. 35-38.

Offers brief reflections on Sharlin’s life and work, including his Orthodox upbringing in New York and Palestine, the loss of his mother at age sixteen, his education at yeshivas, Manhattan School of Music, and Hebrew Union College, his gradual embrace of universalism, and insights about the cantorate, composition, teaching, and singing.

[6] “The Born Believer.” JSMJI. 75.

Looks nostalgically at the faith and rituals of Orthodox Jews, who are “almost literally born in a state of belief” and “live in the context of three thousand years.” The subtext is Sharlin’s own movement away from the simple faith of his father and the fixed system of practice that supported it.

[7] “Cantor as Link.” Unpublished, n.d.

Portrays the Reform cantorate as an embodiment of stability in a landscape permeated with doubt. Cantors are held up as a model of faith, tradition, and commitment for those who are alienated from the Jewish past. Their singing forges a more tangible and immediate link to Jewish heritage than the largely intellectual work of the rabbi.

[8] “Chasidism.” Unpublished, n.d.

Frames the rabbi-centric model of Chasidism as a necessary strategy. Because the movement represented a radical break from the academic rabbinism of the time, it required an intellectual-spiritual leader to take center stage. This forced the cantor into a secondary (and sometimes invisible) role in liturgical worship. A similar phenomenon occurred when Reform Judaism developed in Central Europe. The charismatic “thought leader” took control of the synagogue service, forcing the cantor to a diminished status, and in some cases out of a job.

[9] “‘The Commandment’—Discipline and the Artist.” Unpublished, n.d.

Connects the discipline required of the observant Jew to that of the creative artist. Both are in pursuit of the “sacred”: an essence and awareness transcending the ordinary. Maintaining Jewish continuity requires “performing it, searching it for new meanings, preserving it.” Likewise, the artist is both rooted in and expands upon the heritage of his/her art.

[10] “Comments Made to the Cantor.” Unpublished, n.d.

Quotes contradictory remarks overheard after Friday evening services, illustrating a diversity of opinions in liberal Judaism regarding the nature and sentiments of the prayer service. Locates the source of conflicting reactions to a lack of unity within the Jewish community and the complicating forces of modernity and individualism.

[11] “Composers of Synagogue Music.” JSMJI. 51-53.

Attributes the increase of divergent musical styles in the synagogue to a general breakdown of the inner need for prayer, and the perception that music can stimulate a resurgence of spiritual-religious connection. In contrast to the hazzanim of Eastern Europe and their congregations, who were “insiders” intimately involved in the liturgical-musical experience, many composers and congregants today are “outsiders” (or “partial outsiders”), who grope for an emotional entryway into worship.

[12] “Congregational Singing Past and Present: Continuity and Fragmentation.” Central Conference of American Rabbis Journal (Spring 1994): 31-41. [Reprinted in JSMJI. 19-32.]

Compares the davening atmosphere of pre-Enlightenment Central European synagogues with the choral and eventually congregational singing that would come to define the Reform aesthetic. Gives attention to the dialogical quality of hazzan and daveners, and its erosion in the cantor (or song leader)/singing congregation model of the present Reform movement. Despite a somewhat critical tone, it cautions that musical changes occur for legitimate and complex sociological reasons, and that different musical forms address different needs.

[13] “A Conversation with Cantor William Sharlin,” with Jonathan L. Friedmann. JSMJI. 39-48.

Touches on a range of subjects, including the challenge of American secularism to the preservation of Jewish identity, the (misguided) use of music to compensate for a lack of inward devotion, the need to balance the old with the new in synagogue compositions, and the insufficiency of “just” singing in the synagogue (i.e., superficial engagement in congregational song).

[14] “Davening and Congregational Song.” In Emotions in Jewish Music: Personal and Scholarly Reflections, ed. Jonathan L. Friedmann. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2012. 45-53. [Originally delivered at the Pacific Area Reform Rabbis Convention, Los Angeles, January, 1973.]

Examines nusach ha-tefillah as an organic outgrowth of a socio-religious experience situated in a particular time and place. Argues that it is both difficult and somewhat artificial to reinstitute nusach in modern liberal synagogues, where the link to the past is broken and external congregational song is favored over the discipline required of modal chant.

[15] “Environment of the Sacred.” Unpublished, 2000.

Seeks to reframe song leading as an integrated part of the sacred experience, rather than an activity with its own function. Twelve questions are considered: (1) Does the cantor’s (or rabbi’s) personal experience drive congregational singing? (2) Does instrumental accompaniment support or detract from the experience? (3) What is the role of hand clapping? (4) Do congregations engage in mindless repetition of simple and well-known melodies? (5) Do congregations effectively utilize responsive singing? (6) What roles do tempo and dynamics play? (7) Do congregations corrupt the experience by over-borrowing from secular or “ordinary” sources? (8) Do congregations avoid melodies that require longer exposure to learn? (9) Does the use of hand gestures invite participation? (10) Is transliteration a deterrent to internalization? (11) Does the split pulpit (cantor-rabbi) present the danger of fragmentation? (12) What can synagogues learn from the camp phenomenon?

[16] “The Experience of Listening in Worship.” Unpublished, n.d.

Paper delivered to cantors and rabbis explaining the difficulties of stimulating prayerful listening when clergy partners themselves struggle to navigate the uneven format of song and spoken word. Without unity on the pulpit, congregants will not be at one with the experience. Congregational singing becomes the sole point of entry (superficial though it often is), and active listening becomes a relic of an older time.

[17] “From Sinai.” JSMJI. 57.

Meditation on the traditional idea of the reception and transmission of Torah, and how each generation—and each individual—is responsible for continuing the line of transmission. It concludes: “And so may we learn that what we teach does not come from us but through us.”

[18] “Future Models of Worship.” In Toward New Models of Future Worship; Papers Delivered at the Centennial Biennial Assembly of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, November 12, 1973. New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1974. 9-11 [Response to paper, “New Models of Worship,” by Rabbi Herbert Bronstein, North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, Illinois. Reprinted in JSMJI. 88-90.]

Cautions against making predictions for the future of Reform ritual, as such predictions can impede the natural course of development. Articulates a view of authenticity as “the by-product of a long development of discovering, digesting, performing, and assimilating, and not a fixed, idealized beginning.” This “building process” requires an expanded foundation in the Hebrew language, as well as patience with melodies that are not immediately accessible.

[19] “Gates of Prayer.” Central Conference of American Rabbis 1976 Year Book (1976): 123-126. [Reprinted in JSMJI. 97-102.]

Presents reactions to the publication of the Reform prayer book, Gates of Prayer (1975). Proposes that the revised prayer book was created “artificially” to provide solutions to perceived problems of worship, and posits that for any siddur to reach its highest potential, it must be integrated through an “unconscious inner process.” Otherwise, it will remain an externalized support system for an uncertain and fragile identity. The process of creating new prayer books, like Gates of Prayer, is further complicated by the involvement of rabbinic personalities, who infuse services with their own ideologies and proclivities, thereby giving it a clearer stamp of individuality than the more-or-less folk-developed traditional siddur.

[20] “High Holiday Music.” Unpublished, n.d.

Discusses two broad sources of synagogue music: the “content” school and the “spiritual Judaism” school (or “prophetic humanistic” school). The content school expresses its need for withdrawal and isolation (nationalism or chauvinism), while the spiritual Judaism school favors universalism, progress, and a generalized ethical message. Reform High Holiday music is drawn from these two schools, typified by so-called “Mi-Sinai tunes” on one hand, and compositions from Ernest Bloch and Sharlin himself on the other.

[21] “In Search of Relevance.” JSMJI. 81-83.

Argues that when the sacred and secular aspects of life are in reasonable balance, healthy dialogue occurs between the music of the synagogue and that of the outside world. However, when the secular—the desire to “preserve an ethnic link”—overshadows the sacred—a deep motivation to “connect with the divine”—communities turn to all sorts of musical idioms in order to preserve the otherwise remote language of the synagogue service.

[22] “Israel’s Influence on American Liberal Synagogue Music.” In Gates of Understanding, edited by Lawrence A. Hoffman. New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1977. 122-128. [Paper delivered at the International Conference on Jewish Music, New York, November 1975. Reprinted in JSMJI. 66-73.]

Examines the eagerness with which American congregations have embraced music originating from the Hasidic Song Festivals and other Israeli secular and quasi-secular contexts. Assesses the phenomenon as a consequence of two factors: a surge of pride in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, and the general secularization of the American “worship entity.” Notes: “The secular always contributes to the sacred, but when the sacred diminishes, the secular is not only allowed to retain its own character, but also participates in the further weakening of spiritual energies.”

[23] “Israeli Music at 37: Those Were the Days.” The Jewish Newspaper, April 27, 1985, 6.

Looks nostalgically at the idealistic songs of the chalutzim and critiques the comparative superficiality of contemporary musical fads in the state of Israel. Suggests that the inspired songs of the earlier period will survive as historical-cultural symbols, while the pop songs will “fade away as fast as they give immediate satisfaction.”

[24] “Jewish Identity.” JSMJI. 51.

Reflects on the often fragile link between the individual Jew and his/her Jewish identity. Cites multiple possible sources of connection, including familial, a sense of common struggle, and romantic ties to biblical narratives. Alludes to the dilemma of “surface Jews”: those who want to remain Jews, but are unsure how to foster deep connections.

[25] “L’dor V’dor: From Generation to Generation.” JSMJI. 87-88.

Recounts when Sharlin told his Orthodox father that he had entered the Reform movement. His father kept his disappointment to himself in an effort to keep peace in an already strained relationship.

[26] “Listening to the Pulpit.” In Koleinu B’Yachad: Our Voices as One, Envisioning Jewish Music for the 21st Century, edited by John H. Planer and Howard M. Stahl. New York: American Conference of Cantors/Guild of Temple Musicians, 1999. 24-25. [Reprinted in JSMJI. 53-55.]

Advocates for the spiritual value of listening to artistic music in the synagogue, juxtaposing it with the “externalized” activity of congregational song. Identifies the root causes of the decline of active listening as a distancing from the words and rituals of the service, and the fragmentation of the pulpit, which has the cantor and rabbi vying for pieces of the service and leaves the congregation passively awaiting instructions. The more unified the atmosphere of the service, the more listening is an integral part of worship.

[27] “Mozart Mounts the Bimah – What a Mass!” The Jewish Newspaper, March 14, 1985, 6.

Depicts a fictional conversation between two bewildered synagogue-goers. They are dismayed to learn that some of their favorite synagogue melodies were borrowed from outside sources and reset to Hebrew prayers (contrafaction). Three lessons are drawn: (1) It is sometimes best not to know the origins of cherished synagogue songs; (2) The passage of time obscures musical origins; (3) Text and context determine a song’s identity.

[28] “Myth.” Unpublished, n.d.

Contends that, while biblical and liturgical texts may not be historically or scientifically “true,” they help make sense of reality and point to greater lessons. Compares worship to mythic theater: “Ritual is also a myth. We are expected to act out a role—to read and listen to words and ideas that someone else has written—to pray those words as if they were our own, even when some of it or much of it is rationally problematic.”

[29] “Nothing and Everything.” Unpublished, n.d.

Explains that synagogue music has always been influenced by music of surrounding cultures. While there is probably nothing exclusively Jewish in the music of the Jews, any type of music can potentially be used for Jewish ends. Cites three reasons for this historical openness: (1) No controlling or standardizing institution (“the Church had the priest; the synagogue had the layman and hazzan”); (2) The synagogue was a holistic cultural experience, blending together the secular and sacred; (3) There was a need for a dynamic force (music) to counterbalance the static liturgy.

[30] “On Nusach.” Unpublished, n.d.

Argues that nusach ha-tefillah tends to direct the text for which it is used, rather than the reverse. Two reasons are given: (1) Formulaic patterns are imposed on blocks of text containing varied sentiments and ideas; (2) The distinct musical qualities (color, mood, texture) seem to have evolved from conditions outside of the literal content of the liturgical passages. Nusach can thus be thought of as having a life and purpose of its own.

[31] “On Turning Around; Or, Can You Achieve Privacy in Public?”Leo Baeck Temple College Bulletin 1:2 (Winter 1967): 3. [Reprinted as “Can You Achieve Privacy in Public?” JSMJI. 90-91.]

Asks whether the Reform cantor, who is expected to face the congregation and “perform” sacred songs, can achieve the same level of inwardness and spontaneity as the “old model” cantor, who faced the ark and turned his back toward the congregation. Explains that hazzanut (originally an improvisatory art) emerged organically from a state of aloneness that a front-facing cantor cannot easily replicate, if at all. [Note: This essay reworks ideas in Sharlin’s more well-known essay, “When the Chazzan Turned Around.”]

[32] “Problems of Jewish Music.” Unpublished, n.d.

Explains that the Diaspora experience does not allow for a pure culture to develop. Perpetual wandering and adaptation does not afford the same degree of nationalistic culture as exists among land-centered ethnic groups. This is described as a blessing and a curse, allowing for freedom/creativity yet inducing insecurity/angst. Uniqueness in Jewish music is not found in the music itself, but in elements such as the Hebrew language, specific functions that the music serves, and the manner of performance (e.g., stylistic/idiomatic signifiers in klezmer and hazzanut).

[33] “The Purim Theme in Jewish Music.” The Jewish Newspaper, February 28, 1985, 7. [Reprinted as “Midrash and Music in the Scroll of Esther,” Koleinu: A Publication of the American Conference of Cantors 5:4 (March 1997): 2-3.]

Discusses the interpretive role of musical departures in the cantillation of Esther. Rabbinic literature contains imaginative readings of Esther, much of which seeks out God’s presence where it is not explicitly found in the text. Several of these midrashic passages are recalled through associative melodies during the public chanting of Esther on Purim.

[34] “Remembering Leonard Bernstein.” Unpublished, 1990.

Acknowledges the tendency among Jews to locate a “Jewish something” in the lives and careers of prominent celebrities of Jewish birth. Bernstein is an easier case than many, as a number of his works deal with Jewish themes or subjects, bear titles connected to Jewish life, and utilize the Hebrew language. Cites the Jeremiah Symphony as the “one exception” in which Bernstein went beyond language and theme to utilize elements of Haftarah cantillation and other folk-liturgical motifs, albeit “disguised in a typical Bernsteinian rhythmically agitated way.”

[35] “Renewing the Old and Sanctifying the New.” In 20th Century Synagogue Music: Essential Readings, edited by Jonathan L. Friedmann. Los Angeles: Isaac Nathan, 2010. 173-177.

Offers a critique of the conventional attitude that musical change can counteract disengagement with the Jewish prayer service. If treated carelessly, the pluralistic tapestry can create further distancing and fragmentation. Recommends looking to the past as a potential source of reinvigoration, citing Rav Kook’s famous phrase: “The old must be renewed and the new must be sanctified.”

[36] “Review of Biblical Chant by A. W. Binder.” Central Conference of American Rabbis Journal (June 1960): 65-66.

Reviews Abraham W. Binder’s handbook of musical illustrations for the six systems of scriptural chant in Ashkenazi communities. Applauds the author’s success in organizing the systems of chant in a logical and practical order, but criticizes his failure to acknowledge older publications on the topic from which much of his material is derived.

[37] “The Role of the Cantor.” Unpublished, 1965.

Compares the role of the Reform cantor as pulpit “officiant” with the “old synagogue” cantor, whose being was interwoven with the congregation. The physical and mental separation between cantor and worshipers in Reform services is compounded by the involvement of formal choirs, which struggle to simulate the organic folk essence of “old synagogue” song. Expresses hope that the revival of the Hebrew language and decline of choir-dominated services will create space for the restoration of unity between pulpit and congregation.

[38] “The Search.” Unpublished, n.d.

Observes that the search for relevance in worship can lead to a musical open-door policy, inviting all that is current and disregarding all that is “outdated.” While exploring the full spectrum of musical possibilities is a modern-day reality, doing so can create an environment in which the internalizing process of exposure over time cannot take root.

[39] “The Search for Answers.” Unpublished, 1972.

Discusses the experiential separation between cantor and congregation, cantor and rabbi, and individual and liturgy. Frames this disjointedness as a carry-over from the Classical Reform period, where emphasis on decorum, pulpit presentation, and a “leader-follower” ethos turned the congregation into a passive audience. The search for new modes of participation will fall short if cohesion between pulpit and pews is not first achieved.

[40] “The ‘Secular’ Side of the Jew.” JSMJI. 77-79.

Discusses the slow pace of musical change in congregations that intensely engage in prayer, versus the rapid change where religious motivations are weakened. Jewish religious life exhibits a constant tension between preservation and innovation. Those communities that are secure in their devotional obligations and Jewish way of life tend to maintain a musical mainstream that keeps the tension in balance.

[41] “The Seeking of God and Knowledge of God’s Existence.” JSMJI. 75-77.

Surveys divergent approaches to Jewish theology and prayer, from simple piety to ethnic identification to nostalgia. Offers more questions than answers to the complex issue of an individual’s motivation to pray.

[42] “The State of Music in the Reform Temple.” Unpublished, n.d.

Relates the heterogeneous nature of Reform service music to the diversity of the congregations: “We now have congregations that are introverted, extroverted, sophisticated, lowbrow, large, small, rich, poor.” Notes that most service music composed during the first half of the twentieth century is either outdated (e.g., The Union Hymnal) or devised for “cathedral” temples with substantial budgets and a full complement of music director, organist, choristers, and (sometimes) cantor.

[43] “The Static and Dynamic in Synagogue Song.” JSMJI. 57-59.

Outlines the constant interaction of two forces in synagogue song: static words of the prayer book, and the dynamic musical “play on words.” The stability and continuity of the liturgical script owes to the vitalizing power of its musical presentation. Without the animating musical settings, the words themselves would need to be changed.

[44] “Text and Context.” Unpublished, n.d.

Explores the question of what makes synagogue music sound “Jewish.” Identifies the Hebrew language, “ethnic” colorations (e.g., hazzanut), and the location of exposure (e.g., Jewish services) as the determining factors.

[45] “Training for a Future in Doubt.” JSMJI. 102-105.

Discusses diverse issues in cantorial education, including the insufficiency of the curriculum to address challenges faced on the job, the false impressions that can come from student pulpits, and the tendency to set the educational bar according to the literacy of the general community (“The less knowledgeable the layman, the less knowledgeable the professional must be”).

[46] “Trust the Process: My Life in Sacred Song,” transcribed and edited by Jonathan L. Friedmann. In Perspectives on Jewish Music: Secular and Sacred, edited by Jonathan L. Friedmann. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2009. 97-136.

Memoir of Sharlin’s experiences growing up in an Orthodox family in New York and pre-state Israel, his embrace of universal music and liberal Judaism, and his eventual rise to prominence as one of his generation’s most well-regarded composers and teachers of synagogue song. Gives insights into the nature of the cantorate and changes in American synagogue music over the twentieth century.

[47] “The Union Prayer Book.” Unpublished, n.d.

Examines the Reform Union Prayer Book (1940) as both a departure from the Orthodox siddur—especially in terms of its brevity and free translations—and a preservation of the older prayer book’s form and theology.

[48] “The Unmovable Anchor.” JSMJI. 62-63.

Examines the interplay between the fixed texts (“anchors”) of Torah and liturgy and the creative treatments of music and midrash. The freedom of interpretation accelerates depending on the relative stability or instability of the mainstream. Although engagement with new musical styles is characteristic of contemporary synagogues, the article also cites historical examples, such as early modern rabbinic concerns about cantors appropriating operatic material for the synagogue.

[49] “What Kind of Music is Conducive to Worship?” JSMJI. 83-85.

Shifts the focus from musical style, per se, to questions of motivation. When a musical setting is felt to be out of sync with worship, it can be an issue of “essence”: a palpable extra-musical quality that is detected in the presentation, but hard to pinpoint or quantify. Music is not conducive to prayer when it submits the sacred to more secular needs: “It is our very loss of touch with the sacred, the transcendent, the essence that has opened the doors for the secular, the ordinary, the anything.”

[50] “When Religious Music Turns ‘Cultural.’” The Jewish Newspaper, April 11, 1985, 7. [Reprinted as “Sacred Music as ‘Culture.’” JSMJI. 79-81.]

Maps the transition of hazzanut and choral compositions from the synagogue, where they addressed immediate experiential needs, to the more remote and antiseptic concert stage. When the passion and pathos of prayer give way to communal-ethnic concerns, simple and non-threatening tunes become the norm, and the higher art of synagogue music is relegated to the cultural sphere.

[51] “When the Chazzan Turned Around.” Central Conference of American Rabbis Journal (January 1962): 43-44. [Reprinted in 20th Century Synagogue Music: Essential Readings, edited by Jonathan L. Friedmann. Los Angeles: Isaac Nathan, 2010. 92-94.]

Proposes that the phenomenon that most affected the inner character of worship during the early Reform movement was the turning of the cantor to face the congregation. When the cantor had his back to the daveners, he achieved a state of spiritual abandon in which the “primitive and expressive characteristics of Chazzanuth” were born. But when the cantor turned to face the congregation, privacy was replaced with self-consciousness and inward expression with outward performance. Recommends that the cantor “reconsider ‘turning around’ but not in a physical sense. Perhaps the challenge is to find seclusion and true prayer by turning around without moving at all.”

[52] “Why Can’t a Woman Chant Like a Man?” The Jewish Newspaper, n.d. [Reprinted in JSMJI. 93-97.]

Foreshadows the eventual acceptance of women cantors in the Conservative movement, which occurred in 1987. Notes underlying financial motivations for opening the cantorate to women—namely, the decreasing interest and availability of male candidates, the desire among women to explore new professions, and the willingness of women (especially mothers) to accept part-time positions. Explains that because Reform congregants were not immersed in the “old cantorial culture,” there was less shock when women began singing the music of the movement, which was essentially a mixture of classical and popular-folk. The aesthetic did not discriminate between male and female voices in the same way as Eastern European hazzanut—a genre prominent in Conservative circles.

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