Cantor Alexandra S. Fox, 31, brings the prayer book to life through her music. After receiving a Bachelor of Science from Hofstra University in vocal music and a Master of Sacred Music from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), Cantor Fox became ordained in May of 2018 from HUC-JIR.
Now, Cantor Fox works as the inaugural cantor at Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation (HSOSC). Prior to moving to Baltimore and beginning her work at HSOSC, Cantor Fox served a congregation in the Bay Area as their cantor. Cantor Fox has also brought the HSOSC band back to life.
Cantor Fox and her partner Joe Marcus live in Baltimore City.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a cantor?
Yes. Becoming a cantor has been my dream since I was about 8 years old. I was lucky enough to be inspired by my childhood mentor, Cantor Stephen Dubov. He planted the idea of becoming a cantor when I joined his youth choir in third grade, and there has never been anything else I wanted more.
What do you love about your job?
I love that I get to help people of all ages connect to and discover their own Jewish identities. I especially love that a lot of the work I do is centered around music. As the most universal language, music speaks to everyone in different ways, and I feel so lucky that I get to use that as a tool to help shape Jewish experiences and moments for our congregants. Among my favorite parts of my job is accompanying families through death, trauma and sickness. Holding families during such times and helping to bring meaning through music during such trying times is one of the greatest honors.
Why do you feel it is important to bring the HSOSC band back?
The HSOSC band is currently comprised of nine congregants who play instruments. They are so enthusiastic about bringing our sacred music to life, which is every cantor’s dream. Giving our congregants the opportunity to play during services is one of the many ways we, HSOSC, can fulfill our mission of helping our congregants connect to their Jewish identities. We were all set to have our first service back in mid-January, but unfortunately, had to postpone with the arrival of the omicron variant. If all goes as planned, the band’s first service back will be June 18 at 10 a.m. This service will be a part of our community’s Festival of Installation and we are all so excited to be back in action.
Why is the band special to you?
One of the reasons I took the job at HSOSC was because of this incredible band. My musical philosophy is grounded in varying the execution style of our liturgical music. When we sing the same words in the prayerbook week after week, changing the instrumentation is perhaps the most efficient way to shift the musical texture, which leads to a variety of access points for our community. This is how we keep the music alive and interesting week after week and what I hope will make people want to come back to pray with us. I am so grateful to have a group of congregants dedicated to helping me fulfill this mission.
What does being a cantor mean to you?
When I was a little girl, I was so inspired by the idea of being able to use my voice to bring the words of our liturgy to life. As I got older, I realized that being a cantor is this plus so much more. My number one hope as a cantor is that I will help people find, connect with and explore their personal Jewish identities, often using music as a vessel for doing so. It is not my job to tell them how they should connect or what Jewish things they should be doing. Rather, my job is to provide the space for them to explore and grow themselves, hopefully inspiring them to continually dig more deeply and find new crevasses of their Jewish identities at every turn of life.