Click here if you have trouble reading the content below 05/25/2010


...for SSM alumni

  1. We host ShirFun social events. 
  2. We present webinars.
  3. We plan the alumni breakfast at the ACC convention. 
  4. We recommend Honorary Doctorate candidates to the HUC-JIR Committee on Honors. 


...for SSM students

  1. We sponsor a lunch for graduating seniors.
  2. We host an event for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students.
  3. We work with SSM staff on a madrich program for students. 
  4. We buddy up NY students with Year-In-Israel students via skype and email.
  5. We give the Year-in-Israel students the Ish Matzliach Tikkun.


...for the SSM and HUC-JIR

  1. We work closely with HUC-JIR’s admissions/recruitment staff.
  2. We make presentations at Hava Nashira, the Jewish Choral Festival and other venues. 
  3. We recommend alumni to be recruitment ambassadors for the SSM and HUC-JIR.
  4. We are creating a recruitment resource guide for our ambassadors. 


Finally, we have launched Invest in a Student, a campaign to raise money for SSM scholarships.



School of Sacred Music Alumni Association Breakfast
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 9:00AM

Join together with our fellow alumni for a delicious, hot breakfast, as we take the class roll call and hear the exciting news of the SSM and the Alumni Association.  We will hear from SSM Director Bruce Ruben, say goodbye and thank you to outgoing Chair Claire Franco and watch a special video greeting featuring incoming Chair Lee Coopersmith.  We will be honoring an esteemed fellow alumna, colleague, teacher and mentor who has touched many of us in significant ways - Benjie-Ellen Schiller.  And, as always, everyone will receive a special gift.  Members of our Leadership Council look forward to greeting you and sharing with you the ShirFun of getting together and catching up.  See you there! 



ShirFun - The Name Speaks for Itself
by Programming Working Group Co-Chair Jacqueline Shuchat-Marx

ShirFun is what happens when you take anywhere from a handful to a gross ephah of cantors, put them in a place that serves great food, stand back and watch.  ShirFun serves the purpose of allowing us to socialize and let our hair down over two of the greatest common denominators cantors have:  food and fun.   Music?   Not so much in this venue.  We're not here to sing or do business in any conventional way whatsoever.

I was privileged to be on hand for ShirFun New York last spring and ShirFun New Jersey last October.  The New York event was hosted in Manhattan at Water Moon by Judi Rowland and Meredith Stone; New Jersey was hosted by me at Namaste Organic Juice Bar in New Brunswick.  Both events featured an ice breaker that highlighted fun facts about all guests present.

The New York event had approximately two dozen guests, so its personality hallmark was a bubbling brew of bombasticity minus the singing.  The New Jersey gathering had fewer than ten, most of whom didn't know each other well.  This factor actually lit the event as everyone immediately warmed up to the unique dynamic of bridging the pylons between 1960s SSM graduates and year-2000-and-later graduates.

The hardest part of making ShirFun happen is probably the same as the hardest part of working out or exercising - just getting there and making it happen.  Food, geography, sitting down with colleagues both familiar and new, and the luxury of pure down-time will fuel your ShirFun occasion wherever you happen to be!



Alumni Association Hosts Events for SSM Students
by Outreach to Students Working Group Co-Chair Joanna Alexander and member Shayna Peavey

The Outreach to Students Working Group hosted two on-campus events this year.  For our 2nd-4th year students we organized a “State of the Cantorate” meeting with guest speaker Lanie Katzew to discuss her alternate path in the cantorate.  She spoke to the students about her non-pulpit job, imparting lots of information about what is available for cantors at the URJ.   She talked about her work putting music and cantorial information online for all to use.   She spoke about the wide variety of things she does with her cantorate in her present job.   The students were very interested and asked questions about her experiences.   Shayna was also present to answer questions about pulpit work.  It is clear that students want connection with cantors in the field and information about life after HUC.  

We also hosted our annual 5th year SSMAA lunch, welcoming the soon-to-be graduates into the Alumni Association and presenting them with a gift.  We discussed their best experiences over the last five years, as well as their fears of the upcoming transition out of school and we asked them what the SSMAA can do to help students in the future.

The Outreach to Students Working Group is engaged in enhancing the connection between SSM students and the SSM alumni association through these and other projects.



Tifani Heather Coyot
Galit Dadoun-Cohen
Maria Dubinsky
Leah Ellie Holland
Jason Ryan Kaufman
Donna R. Mashadi Azu
Rollin Richmond Simmons
Raina Siroty Flowers
Star Alexandra Trompeter



Deborah Bard
Amy Daniels
Rita F. Glassman
Bruce Halev
Lilia Kazansky
Sharon Ruth Kohn
Barbara Gay Margulis
Amy Brenner Mitz
Donn R. Rosensweig
Kevin Wartell
Elena Zarkh

Please click on this link 2010 HD Citations.pdf    to read the citations of our esteemed fellow alumni.




This week I found myself trying to come up with a topic for this newsletter article.   Like you, at this time of year, I find myself pulled in so many directions.  Confirmation, Shavuot, end of year school activities for my children, concerts, recitals, camp paperwork and shopping - and my list, like yours continues.  Short on inspiration, my brain was dry. During an unrelated Google search for quotes for a journal ad, this quote from John Lennon caught my eye.

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream.  A dream you dream together is a reality.”

I like this quote.  I like dreams.  I like the vision that this quote creates for me of vibrant, dedicated people coming together for a common purpose.  And I really like that this is the vision I have when I think about the leaders of our Alumni Association.

As I prepare to become the Immediate Past Chair of the Alumni Association, I am delighted to reflect on the growth of our organization over the past three years.  Under the experienced and thoughtful direction of Joy Wasserman, the National Director of Alumni Affairs, and through the dedication of Adelle Nicholson, our SSMAA coordinator, our team has grown, evolved and taken a real, concrete shape with identifiable goals.  We have solid working groups in the areas of Programming, Recruitment and Outreach to Students lead by Jacqueline Shuchat-Marx and Kerith Spencer-Shapiro, David Reinwald and Ross Wolman, Joanna Alexander and Elizabeth Sacks respectively.  Vicki Axe led the process of recommending candidates for honorary doctorates this year.   While I will report in more detail at the alumni breakfast in Memphis, I can say here that we can be very proud of our Alumni Association.

We have recently launched our Invest in a Student campaign with the Class of 1996 leading the way in current pledges.  Our goal is to raise a full five-year SSM scholarship per decade of classes. We have the opportunity to directly impact the future.  In the next weeks, many of you will be contacted to be class captains and to lead the way in this important endeavor.  “A dream you dream alone is only a dream.  A dream you dream together is a reality.” It is my hope that you will help us make this dream a reality.

Cantor Claire Franco



First, I want to thank those SSM Alumni who graciously gave their time and talent to participate in the very successful "Debbie and Friends" concert on November 12 to sing in the alumni choir, organized by Judi Rowland.  They added greatly to what was a remarkable evening.  Please know that the concert garnered over $300,000 for the school.  We are able to subsidize voice lessons, hire additional faculty, and host master classes for our students.

I welcome this opportunity to share some of the exciting developments in the evolving core curriculum of the SSM.  We are creating a new integrated liturgical core.  The second year students are studying Shabbat in this way. They take simultaneous courses in Traditional and Contemporary Shabbat repertoire, Shabbat liturgy, and modes.  This model will be continued in the third year with the High Holy Days and in the fourth with the Festivals and Life Cycle.  So, for instance, while the second year students were studying Kabbalat Shabbat nusach with Faith Steinsnyder, they were also learning the Contemporary repertoire with Benjie Ellen Schiller.  Mark Kligman was explaining the characteristics of Hashem Malakh mode and I was discussing the structure, history, and theological themes of the Kabbalat Shabbat liturgy.

A couple of vignettes from this semester will hopefully give you some sense of this exciting new approach. One second year student gave a presentation on the cosmology implicit in the Maariv Aravim prayer, creating a diagram of the world as understood by its creators.  Then another student discussed the problem of how we can still find relevance in the text in a post-Copernican world.  One student in class exclaimed that the discussion transformed her understanding of the prayer.  Another student gave a detailed musical analysis of various settings of V'shamru, noting the mode employed, its characteristic motifs, the harmonic implications of the melody as it moved to different tonal centers, and the choices that each composer made to highlight words in the text.

We require the students to teach in class because they will ultimately be teachers of liturgy and nusach in their congregations.  We also ask them to give an introduction to their practica to orient the audience to the liturgical music that they will be performing.  Of course, they take a year of education courses and music education as well.  As we move more and more towards the model of cantor as co-clergy, we expect our students to be able to teach as well as learn the vast cantorial corpus.

If you feel that you would like to have experienced this approach to cantorial education, to freshen or sharpen your skills, please know that it is possible for you, as alumni, to do so at a minimal cost. If you live in the Tri-state area, you are welcomed to take a course on your day off. Those further away can plan a sabbatical and use that time to immerse yourselves in some of the new offerings of the school. Beyond the liturgical core, you can take orchestration with Jonathan Comisar, Technology for Clergy with Erik Contzius, or composition with Gerald Cohen. In fact, Erik will be teaching a three week Technology intensive starting May 24. This course is available for alumni. Please contact me if you are interested in finding out about this opportunity.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Memphis.

Best wishes, Bruce



Claire Franco, Chair and Invest in a Student Co-Chair
Emilie Coopersmith, Vice Chair
Charles Romalis, Immediate Past Chair 
Fredda Mendelson, Secretary and Council of Alumni Associations Representative
Dana Anesi, Council of Alumni Associations Chair and Board of Governors Representative
Joanna Alexander, Council of Alumni Associations Representative and Invest in a Student Co-Chair

Programming Working Group:
Kerith Spencer Shapiro, Co-chair
Jacqueline Shuchat-Marx, Co-chair
Sandy Sherry Pilatsky
Jon Haddon
Gabriella Arad
Katie Oringel
Marla Goldberg

Recruitment Working Group:                                               
Ross Wolman, Co-chair
David Reinwald, Co-chair
David Berger
Tanya Tamarkin
Sally Neff

Outreach to Students Working Group:
Joanna Alexander, Co-Chair
Elizabeth Sacks, Acting Co-chair        
Samantha Natov, Co-chair on leave
Sarah Zemel
Mia Davidson
Shayna Peavey

Honorary Doctorate Advisory Working Group:           
Vicki Axe, Chair
Murray Simon
Rhoda Silverman

HUC-JIR Staff:
Bruce Ruben, SSM Director - Executive and Recruitment Working Group
Benjie-Ellen Schiller, SSM Faculty - Honorary Doctorate Advisory Working Group
Faith Joy Dantowitz, NY Regional Director of Admissions and Recruitment - Recruitment Working Group
Joy Wasserman, National Director of Alumni Affairs
Adelle Nicholson, Coordinator



Our working groups welcome your involvement. There are many projects that we can do if we have your help. For example - we can enhance the SSM music library, we can organize more ShirFun events, we can increase our continuing education options, and the list goes on. Please consider serving the SSM Alumni Association. If you are interested, please contact coordinator Adelle Nicholson at 954-456-4312 or Here are some of the areas of our work:

The Programming Working Group takes on projects to benefit the alumni.  The PWG plans the alumni breakfast at the ACC convention, arranges opportunities for continuing alumni education and organizes ShirFun social events in our various regional areas.  

The Recruitment Working Group works very closely with the College-Institute.  Admissions and Recruitment staff and the SSM Director attend our meetings.  We brainstorm ideas and support the SSM and the College-Institute in recruitment efforts.  We have recommended alumni as recruitment ambassadors and are creating an online manual to assist them in their work.  We make presentations at Hava Nashira and other Jewish musical and Reform venues. 

The Outreach to Students Working Group serves the SSM students, and is generally comprised of NYC metropolitan area alumni.  This group reaches out to students in many different ways:  events, letters, gifts, and other worthy projects that benefit the students and connect them to the Alumni Association. 

The Honorary Doctorate Working Group discusses the candidacies of those coming up for their honorary doctorates in the following year and makes recommendations to the College-Institute’s Committee on Honors.

The Nominations Working Group meets once every two years to make recommendations to the Executive for the positions of Chair and Vice-Chair.



Looking for an old friend or lost classmate? You can find any HUC alum in the online directory. Simply go to  Since the directory is password protected, please contact Adelle Nicholson at  for the username and password.  

Have you moved, changed jobs, married, or had children?   Please check your contact data, to make sure that it is current and up to date. 



The Jordan Schnitzer Book Award Committee has designated Dr. Mark Kligman's Maqam and Liturgy: Ritual, Music, and Aesthetics of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn as a 2009 Notable Selection in the category of Jews and the Arts.  To read more, go to:

To read more in depth about Dr. Kligman’s book, go to:



The SSM is grateful to Indiana University Professor of Jewish Culture Judah M. Cohen, who is donating all royalties of his book The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor: Musical Authority, Cultural Investment to the SSM.  To read a review of the book, go to:

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