Cantor Nancy Ginsberg uses God’s instrument

Cantor Nancy Ginsberg
Cantor Nancy Ginsberg serves as manager of pastoral ministries at Oak Crest. (Scott Schechter)

Cantor Nancy Ginsberg has decades of experience working at synagogues up and down the East Coast, including Har Sinai (now Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation). She volunteers as a chaplain for Baltimore County Police and Fire departments and has worked as a chaplain at Carroll Hospital. She has led choirs, taught classes and done interfaith work.

Her current job as manager of pastoral ministries at Oak Crest in Parkville brings all of those experiences together. At Oak Crest Village, she leads services and programs for the Jewish community and supports the different faith communities there.

Ginsberg lives in Owings Mills with her husband, Scott Schechter, and is involved with Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom. They have two sons, David, 20, and Michael, 16, who go to Loyola University and Archbishop Curley High School, respectively.

Ginsberg grew up in New York and has been singing since she was a child. She attended Indiana University, where she studied music. She was an opera singer, had a Fulbright Scholarship and sang in Italy.

“The voice is the only instrument made by God,” she said.

While at Indiana University, Ginsberg got involved in the Hillel, and the rabbi there convinced her to pursue a career as a cantor. She attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for her cantorial ordination. She also has a master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.

She worked as a cantor in Philadelphia, Rhode Island and New Jersey. In 1999, she moved to Baltimore to work at Har Sinai.

“It’s not always about the services,” Ginsberg said. “It’s everything we do during the week. I was very involved with the youth group, and I was the supervisor for our youth director, so I was very involved in that. It depends on the congregation and what their needs are. Different congregations have different things. Some congregations, I did more teaching; some congregations, I ran several choirs.”

In 2008, she left Har Sinai and became a chaplain. She worked at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, Johns Hopkins Hospital and several hospices.

In June of 2020, she joined Oak Crest.

“This job here is really a culmination of everything I’ve done because my thesis for seminary was music for interfaith worship, and everywhere I went, everywhere I served, it always had a large component of working with the interfaith community,” Ginsberg said.

Interfaith work is something that has long interested Ginsberg. “You cut us, we all bleed red,” she said.

Some of her previous interfaith work has been in partnering with African-American churches and working with Positive Voices, a choir of men who are HIV-positive.

Recently at Oak Crest, she had to balance both Passover and Easter celebrations. It was a busy week for her. She participated in both Protestant and Catholic services for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and she experienced the Stations of the Cross, in addition to Passover seders.

“Sometimes, it’s about being present, and it’s about showing up, and it’s about relationships,” Ginsberg said. “Several residents said to me that they were just very pleased that I was so involved in coming to all these services.”

More than 90% of the residents and about 60% of the staff have been vaccinated, so Oak Crest was able to have these services in person with masks. Ginsberg has started doing in-person programs, like a meditation class, and she is looking forward to more.

Outside of her work, Ginsberg volunteers as a chaplain for the Baltimore County Police and Fire departments and at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She also belongs to the JCC of Greater Baltimore.

“My Jewish identity is everything to me,” Ginsberg said. “It’s who I am. It’s at my core. It informs everything I do.”

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