Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park will host the 29th Annual Women Cantors' Network Conference from June 12th to 15th. Approximately 90 cantors and cantorial soloists from California to Maine will gather to sing, learn, and share their stories and issues.
The Women Cantors' Network (WCN) was formed in 1982 as a supportive and nurturing environment for women cantors to share music, knowledge, and experiences in the field. In 1981, WCN founder Debbie Katchko became the second woman in a traditional Jewish conservative pulpit. At the time, there was little opportunity to discuss issues unique to females in a male profession. Questions like "What about maternity leave?" "How do you manage with your growing family?" "What is the role of your spouse?", and even the seemingly mundane, but professionally crucial... "What do you wear on the pulpit?" were yet to be answered. Katchko found twelve women serving congregations who were interested in networking, and the group has held annual conferences ever since. From that original twelve, the WCN has grown to over 300 women and men from the United States, Canada, Israel, the UK, France, and Germany.
Since that time, of course, women cantors have been recognized and accepted into all liberal cantorial schools and organizations. The growth of the WCN membership over the years included their regular publication of a newsletter, writing of a constitution, commissioning of new Jewish music, and the creation of a very active online listserv and Facebook page.
This year's conference theme is "Loving God, Torah, and Ourselves". It has many highlights, including speaker Dr. Dan Gottlieb (What Opens and Closes a Loving Heart?), the music of Rebecca Schwartz, Cantorial Soloist at Kol Ami, a workshop with Mitch Chanin (Dialogue About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict), Hazzan Charles Davidson (Tradition vs. Modernity in synagogue music), composer Joe Myerov's music, Dr. Marsha Bryan Edelman (Songs of Love in Many Voices), and performers Peter and Allen Allard (Love is Music, Music is Love). On Tuesday afternoon, 6/14, the group will visit the National Museum of American Jewish History and perform the 2011 commissioned piece of music for all those touring the museum.
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