The First Cantor?
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, a cantor is a choir leader, someone who is employed by a synagogue to sing or chant liturgical music and lead the congregation in prayer.
Though it would be tough to determine who the first known cantor in the world was, there were many interesting firsts in the cantorial world.
• Born in 1874, Gershon Sirota of Warsaw was one of the first, if not the first cantor to be recorded. He was referred to as “the lion’s voice.” He died in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943.
• In 1955, Betty Robbins became the world’s first female cantor. (Hebrew Union College ordained its first woman cantor in 1975.)
• In 1999, Angela Warnick Buchdahl became America’s only Asian-American cantor.
• Marisa James became the first openly gay cantorial student accepted by the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary. She is currently finishing her studies at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.