A hazzan (/ˈhɑːzən/; Hebrew: [χaˈzan]) or chazzan
(Hebrew: חַזָּן ḥazzān, plural ḥazzānim;
Ladino hassan) is a
Jewish musician or precentor trained in the vocal
arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer. In English,
this prayer leader is often referred to as cantor, a term also used in
1 The shaliaḥ tzibbur and the evolution of the hazzan
3 Professional status
4 Female cantors in non-Orthodox Judaism
5 Golden age
6 See also
8 External links
The shaliaḥ tzibbur and the evolution of the hazzan
The person leading the congregation in public prayers is called the
shaliaḥ tzibbur (Hebrew for "emissary of the congregation"). Jewish
law restricts this role to adult Jews. In theory, any lay person
can be a shaliaḥ tzibbur; most synagogue-attending
Jews will serve
in this role every now and again. Someone with good Hebrew
pronunciation is preferred. In practice, those with the best voice and
the most knowledge of the prayers serve most often. As public worship
was developed in the Geonic period and as the knowledge of the Hebrew
language declined, singing gradually superseded the didactic and
hortatory element in the worship in the synagogue. Thus, while the
idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical
rabbinic sources, the office of the hazzan increased in importance
with the centuries, evolving a specialized skill set and becoming a
career in itself.
Even in the earliest times the chief qualifications demanded of the
hazzan, in addition to knowledge of Biblical and liturgical literature
as well as the prayer motifs (known as steiger), were a pleasant voice
and an artistic delivery; for the sake of these, many faults were
willingly overlooked. The hazzan was required to possess a pleasing
appearance, to be married, and to have a flowing beard. Sometimes,
according to Isaac of Vienna (13th century), a young hazzan having
only a slight growth of beard was tolerated.
Maimonides decided that
the hazzan who recited the prayers on an ordinary Sabbath and on
weekdays need not possess an appearance pleasing to everybody; he
might even have a reputation not wholly spotless, provided he was
living a life morally free from reproach at the time of his
But all these moderations of the rule disappeared on holidays; then an
especially worthy hazzan was demanded, one whose life was absolutely
irreproachable, who was generally popular, and who was endowed with an
expressive delivery. Even a person who had ever litigated in a
Jewish court, instead of a
Jewish court, could not act as hazzan
on those days, unless he had previously done penance. However many
authorities were lenient in this regard, and as long as a cantor was
"merutzeh l'kehal," desired by the congregation, he was permitted to
lead the prayers even on the holiest of days.
Today, a hazzan, particularly in more formal (usually not Orthodox)
synagogues, is likely to have academic credentials—most often a
degree in music or in sacred music, sometimes a degree in music
education or in
Jewish religious education or a related discipline.
The doctor of music degree is sometimes awarded to honour a hazzan.
The role of hazzanim as a respected full-time profession has become a
reality in recent centuries. In the last two centuries
Jews in a
number of European communities, notably Germany and Britain, came to
view professionally trained hazzanim as clergy and the hazzan as the
deputy rabbi. After the enlightenment, when European nations gave full
citizenship and civil rights to Jews, professionally trained hazzanim
were accepted by the secular governments as clergy in the same way as
In a paradoxical turn of events, the United States government
recognized cantors as the first
Jewish clergy, even before rabbis were
recognized: as a congregation could be organized and led by a
Jewish laypersons, who would not have the expertise in
liturgy a hazzan would have, newly forming congregations in the late
19th and early 20th centuries sometimes hired a hazzan for a synagogue
(and made sure that a kosher butcher was established in the
neighborhood) for some time before setting about hiring a rabbi,
seeing the hazzan (and the butcher) as a more immediate need. The
hazzan therefore solemnized marriages and otherwise represented the
congregation in the eyes of civil authorities.
In the United States, many hazzanim supplement their ministry by also
earning certification as and working as mohels, for bris ceremonies.
In the United States there are three main organizations for
professionally trained hazzanim, one from each of the major Jewish
American Conference of Cantors—Reform Judaism
Cantors Assembly—Conservative Judaism
Cantorial Council of America—Orthodox Judaism
Many members of the
Cantors Assembly are trained at the H. L. Miller
Cantorial School and College of
Jewish Music at the
Seminary of America. Many members of the American Conference of
Cantors are trained at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at
Hebrew Union College—
Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred
Music (New York) Reform. Both of these programs offer a five-year
training program. Members of the Cantorial Council can train at the
Philip and Sarah Belz School of
Jewish Music at
Yeshiva University in
New York City.
ALEPH, the movement for
Jewish Renewal, includes a cantorial training
program as part of its ordination program.
Full cantorial training is also offered by the Cantorial School of the
Jewish Religion (California) in Los Angeles, the Cantorial
Program at the similarly named Academy for
Jewish Religion in New
York, and the School of
Jewish Music at Hebrew College. These
institutions are unaffiliated with any particular
The curricula for students in these programs generally include, but
are not limited to:
Hebrew: modern, Biblical (Torah), and liturgical (siddur)
Nusach (liturgical tradition)
Laws and traditions pertaining to
Jewish prayer service
History and content of the siddur
Music theory, sight-reading
Playing an instrument, usually a piano or guitar
Cantillation—tropes for the liturgical chanting of biblical books
Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)
Jewish music history
Pastoral care and counseling
Female cantors in non-Orthodox Judaism
Although traditionally a hazzan was always a man, today a woman can be
a hazzan (also called a cantor) in most streams of non-Orthodox
Judaism. Julie Rosewald, called “
Cantor Soprano” by her
congregation, was America’s first female cantor (though she was born
in Germany), serving San Francisco’s Temple Emanu-El from 1884 until
1893, although she was not ordained.
Barbara Ostfeld became
the first female cantor to be ordained in Reform
Judaism in 1975,
Erica Lippitz and
Marla Rosenfeld Barugel became the first female
cantors in Conservative
Judaism in 1987. The Cantors Assembly, a
professional organization of cantors associated with Conservative
Judaism, did not allow women to join until 1990. Sharon Hordes
became the first cantor (female or otherwise) in Reconstructionist
Judaism in 2002. Avitall Gerstetter, who lived in Germany, became
the first female cantor in
Jewish Renewal (and the first female cantor
in Germany) in 2002.
Susan Wehle became the first American female
Jewish Renewal in 2006, serving until her death in
2009. The first American women to be ordained as cantors in Jewish
Renewal after Susan Wehle's ordination were Michal Rubin and Abbe
Lyons, both ordained on January 10, 2010. In 2001 Deborah Davis
became the first cantor (female or otherwise) in Humanistic Judaism;
Judaism has since stopped graduating cantors.
In 2009 Tannoz Bahremand Foruzanfar, who was born in Iran, became the
first Persian woman to be ordained as a cantor in the United
As of 2011, the Hebrew Union College-
Jewish Institute of Religion, the
main seminary for Reform Judaism, has ordained 208 women cantors.
The period between the two world wars is often referred to as the
"golden age" of hazzanut (cantorial performance). The greats include
Zavel Kwartin (1874–1953),
Moritz Henle (1850–1925), Joseph
"Yossele" Rosenblatt (1882–1933),
Gershon Sirota (1874–1943), and
In the post–World War II period, prominent cantors were Moshe
Koussevitzky, David Werdyger, Frank Birnbaum,
Richard Tucker and
Abraham Lopes Cardozo (1914–2006). Operatic tenor Jan Peerce, whose
cantorial recordings were highly regarded, was never a cantor by
profession but often served as one during the high holidays.
Popular contemporary cantors include Shmuel Barzilai, Naftali
Hershtik, Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Chazzan Avraham Aharon Weingarten,
Ari Klein, Yaakov Lemmer, Joseph Malovany, Benzion Miller, Jacob
(Jack) Mendelson, Aaron Bensoussan, Aaron Aderet, Alberto Mizrahi,
Yaakov Yoseph Stark, Jochen (Yaacov) Fahlenkamp, and Eli Weinberg.
History of religious
Cantor in Reform Judaism.
Jewish Religion (California)
Jewish Religion (New York)
Jewish Cantorate during the 19th Century
Look up hazzan in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
^ "hazzan". Collins English Dictionary.
^ Geoffrey Wigoder; Fred Skolnik; Shmuel Himelstein, eds. (2002).
Cantor and cantorial music". The New Encyclopedia of Judaism. New
York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-9388-6.
^ a b "The Cantor". My
Jewish Learning. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ Shulkhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim, 581
^ American Conference of Cantors
^ Cantors Assembly
^ Belz School of
^ a b Julie Rosewald: America's first woman cantor
^ The Forgotten Woman Cantor:
Julie Rosewald Now Getting Her Due
^ a b "Cantors: American
Jewish Women's Archive".
Jwa.org. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ Goldman, Ari L. (September 19, 1990). "A Bar to Women as Cantors Is
Lifted". The New York Times.
Cantor Sharon Hordes". Kenesethisrael.com. Archived from the
original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ "Cantorial/Hazzanut/Liturgical - CD
Susan Wehle OB"M Songs of
Healing & Hope J. Levine Books & Judaica ".
Levinejudaica.com. 2005-07-26. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ Haughney, Christine (February 15, 2009). "'It's Not Even Six Degrees
of Separation. It's One.'". The New York Times.
^ "Tikkun v'Or, Ithaca, NY - Celebration in honor of
Lyons". Tikkunvor.org. 2010-02-07. Archived from the original on
2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ "Contributions of
Jewish Women to Music and Women to
JMWC. Archived from the original on 2016-05-12. Retrieved
Cantor Tannoz Bahremand Forunzanfar; Academy for
California". Ajrca.org. Archived from the original on March 20, 2013.
Retrieved August 10, 2013.
^ "HUC-JIR: Statistics".
Hebrew Union College
Hebrew Union College --
Jewish Institute of
Religion. Archived from the original on 2013-06-01. Retrieved
Jewish Encyclopedia: Hazzan
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