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Title: Hazzan  
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Cantor-concert in the Vienna Stadttempel synagogue
Cantor Meyer Kanewsky's 1919 performance of a traditional setting of the last passage of Berakhot, a passage often read as part of the Sunday Morning Service in Judaism.

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A hazzan or chazzan (Hebrew: חַזָּןħazzān, Yiddish khazn Ladino hassan) is a Jewish musician, or precentor, trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer.[1] In English, this prayer-leader is often referred to as cantor, a term also used in Christianity.


  • Shaliah tzibbur: the role of the hazzan 1
  • Growing importance 2
  • Qualifications 3
  • Female cantors in non-Orthodox Judaism 4
  • Professional status 5
    • Training 5.1
  • Golden age 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Shaliah tzibbur: the role of the hazzan

The person leading the congregation in public prayers is called the shaliach tzibbur (Hebrew for "emissary of the congregation"), a ħazzān or cantor. Jewish law restricts the role to adult Jews.[2] See also: Cantor in Reform Judaism. In theory, any lay person can be a sheliach tzibbur; most synagogue-attending Jews will serve in this role every now and again. In practice, those with the best voice and the most knowledge of the prayers serve much more often. Ashkenazic hazzanim (Hebrew plural of hazzan) are known to repeat words during prayer;[3][4] Yemenite sh'luchei tzibbur, on the other hand, will never repeat words.

There are many rules relating to how a cantor should lead services, but the idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical rabbinic sources. Jewish prayer services are collected in a prayerbook known as the siddur.

Growing importance

The office of the hazzan increased in importance with the centuries. 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worship was developed in the Geonic period, and as the knowledge of the Hebrew language declined, singing gradually superseded the didactic and hortatory element in the worship in the synagogue.


Even in the oldest 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 week-days 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 appointment.

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 once litigated in a non-Jewish court, instead of to a Jewish court, in a disputed question could not act as hazzan on those days, unless he had previously done penance.[5] 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.

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 all types of Judaism except for Orthodox Judaism.[2]

  • Jewish Encyclopedia article "Hazzan"

External links

  1. ^ Geoffrey Wigoder; Fred Skolnik; Shmuel Himelstein, eds. (2002). "Cantor and cantorial music". The New Encyclopedia of Judaism. New York University Press.  
  2. ^ a b "The Cantor". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  3. ^ To Accompany A Chazzan: Choirs and Soloists - Past and Present, Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz, Hamodia Inyan, September 23, 2014 (vol. xvii no. 828), p. 16-17: As an adult of 21, Reb Naftali Blaivas was the baal tefillah in a shul for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Two years later, he began a forty-two-year stint as the baal tefillah for the Yamim Noraim in the shul of Rabbi Pinchos Mordechai Teitz, z"l, Chief Rabbi of Elizabeth, New Jersey. "I was not a chazzan. My style was chazzanishe baal tefillah. Tefillah was paramount for Rav Teitz, not music. I remember him telling me firmly at the beginning, 'M'zogt nisht iber ken verter' [Don't repeat words]."
  4. ^ As can be heard in the audio file accompanying this page.
  5. ^ Shulkhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim, 581
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "Cantors: American Jewish Women | Jewish Women's Archive". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  9. ^ Goldman, Ari L. (September 19, 1990). "A Bar to Women as Cantors Is Lifted". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ "Cantor Sharon Hordes". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Cantorial/Hazzanut/Liturgical - CD Cantor Susan Wehle OB"M Songs of Healing & Hope | J. Levine Books & Judaica |". 2005-07-26. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  12. ^ Haughney, Christine (February 15, 2009). "'It's Not Even Six Degrees of Separation. It's One.'". The New York Times. 
  13. ^ "Tikkun v'Or, Ithaca, NY - Celebration in honor of Cantor Abbe Lyons". 2010-02-07. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  14. ^ "Contributions of Jewish Women to Music and Women to Jewish Music". JMWC. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  15. ^ "Cantor Tannoz Bahremand Forunzanfar; Academy for Jewish Religion, California". Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  16. ^ "HUC-JIR: Statistics". Hebrew Union College -- Jewish Institute of Religion. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  17. ^ American Conference of Cantors
  18. ^ Cantors Assembly
  19. ^ Belz School of Jewish Music


See also

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, Alberto Mizrahi, Yaakov Yoseph Stark, Jochen (Yaacov) Fahlenkamp, and Eli Weinberg.

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 he often cantored during the high holidays.

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 Leib Glantz.

Golden age

  • 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 sheet music
  • Playing an instrument, usually a piano or guitar
  • Singing technique
  • Cantillation—tropes for the liturgical chanting of biblical books
  • Choral conducting
  • Jewish history
  • Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament)
  • Jewish music history
  • Pastoral care and counseling
  • Theology

The curriculum for students in these programs generally include, but are not limited to:

Full cantorial training is also offered by the Cantorial School of the Academy for 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 Jewish denomination.

ALEPH, the movement for Jewish Renewal, includes a cantorial training program as part of its ordination program.

Many members of the Cantors Assembly are trained at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music at the Jewish Theological 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.


In the United States there are three major organizations for professionally trained hazzanim, one from each of the major Jewish denominations.

In the United States, many hazzanim supplement their ministry by also earning certification as and working as mohels, for bris ceremonies.

In an interesting turn of events, the United States government recognized cantors as the first Jewish clergy, even before

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 that rabbis were accepted as clergy.

Professional status

As of 2011, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the main seminary for Reform Judaism, has ordained 208 women cantors.[16]

In 2009 Tannoz Bahremand Foruzanfar, who was born in Iran, became the first Persian woman to be ordained as a cantor in the United States.[15]

[14] became the first cantor (female or otherwise) in Humanistic Judaism; however, Humanistic Judaism has since stopped graduating cantors.Deborah Davis In 2001 [13], both ordained on January 10, 2010.Abbe Lyons and Michal Rubin The first American women to be ordained as cantors in Jewish Renewal after Susan Wehle's ordination were [12] however she died in 2009.[11] became the first American female cantor in Jewish Renewal in 2006;Susan Wehle, who lived in Germany, became the first female cantor in Jewish Renewal (and the first female cantor in Germany) in 2002. Avitall Gerstetter [10] became the first cantor (female or otherwise) in Reconstructionist Judaism in 2002.Sharon Hordes [9]

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