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September 26, 1980
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Proponents of admitting women
to the Conservative movement's
Cantors Assembly outpolled tra-
ditionalists 108-82 last week, but
fell 19 votes short of the two-thirds
required to admit women.
Last year, the vote to admit quali-
fied women cantors failed 95-97.
"This has been an ongoing debate
for two to three years," said Cantor
Chaim Najman of Southfield's
Congregation Shaarey Zedek and a
member of the Cantors Assembly
executive council. "There are some
deeply felt emotional concerns here.
"We want to protect those mem-
bers who feel strongly about changes
in the profession. And there is an
overriding concern about the women
who have worked hard and gradu-
ated from the Jewish Theological
Fellow executive council member
Cantor Larry Vieder of Adat Shalom
Synagogue said traditionalists
oppose women cantors because as
shlichim tsibor — messengers of the
congregation — they would occupy
a different role as prayer leaders than
women rabbis do as speakers.
Other local cantors who attended
the Cantors Assembly meetings in
the Catskills include Max Shimansky
of Congregation Beth Achim,
Samuel Greenbaum of Congregation
Beth Shalom and Sidney Rube of
Shaarey Zedek. None of those con-
tacted would discuss their vote on
Representatives of the two oppos-
ing factions within the Conservative
cantorate will meet this year in an
effort to resolve their differences,
said Cantor Samuel Rosenbaum of
Buffalo, N.Y., executive vice presi-
dent of the Cantors Assembly. "It
will be harmful if we vote on this
issue year after year."
Cantor Rosenbaum said six women
qualify for membership under Cantor
Assembly rules requiring a bachelor
of sacred music degree with a JTS
diploma of hazzan.
A Cantors Assembly committee
studied the admission of women two
years ago and split evenly on the
issue, Rosenbaum said. This year, the
Committee on Law and Standards
of the Rabbinical Assembly, headed
by former Detroiter Rabbi Joel Roth,
declined to review the issue because
its minority and majority opinions on
women clergy are still in force.
Cantor Shimansky, president of
the Cantors Council of Detroit, said
last week's vote "surprised a lot
of people who thought the cantors
would fall in line with the rest of the
He predicted some of the 425
members of the Cantors Assembly
would leave the organization if
women are admitted. "There are
those who are very traditional and
many members still have strong
objections," he said. The assembly
includes members of Orthodox back-
ground who serve Conservative con-
Shimansky foresees no problem if
Temple Beth El's new cantor, Gail
Hirschenfang, seeks admission to the
local cantors council. The council
has both Reform and Conservative