Cantorial Program Advance Preparation

The ALEPH Cantorial Program is designed to train renewal-minded Jews who are passionate about prayer and Torah to be inspiring baaley t’fillah (masters of Jewish prayer) and davvenen’ leaders. Our program expects serious musicianship, dedicated Jewish scholarship, a love for the legacy of tradition coupled with a progressive, imaginative spirit. We expect hazzanim to be self-aware and sensitive Jewish spiritual teachers, just as we expect of our rabbis and rabbinic pastors, while recognizing that the role of hazzan has its special focus.

As you progress in the Cantorial Program you will achieve a range of competencies in hazzanut, nusach, trop for all megillot, music, voice, davvenen skills, clergy pastoral skills, and renewal-style Jewish leadership and teaching skills, plus a broad background in Jewish studies and Jewish spiritual practice.

Prior Education

We are human beings as well as Jews. The legacy of primal communities, the humanistic heritage of the West, and the spiritual heritage of the East all reveal key turning points in the human journey. Rabbis, hazzanim, pastors, chaplains and counselors today require this broader perspective on the spiritual and human quest toward meaning and divinity. Also, the student of Jewish studies cannot really grasp the fullness of Jewish spirituality, culture and history without knowing the broader contexts in which Jewish creativity took place.

Thus, while not a hard requirement (there are special individuals with unique life-trajectories which have not included completing a B.A.) a presumed prerequisite for entrance into the ALEPH Rabbinic Program is a liberal arts bachelor’s degree, preferably with a major and a minor in two of the following fields: history, comparative religion, anthropology, literature, the arts, music, science, psychology, ecology, etc.

If your prior education did not include these studies, including comprehensive survey courses in Western civilization and thought or Jewish studies, or these studies are in the distant past of your college years, you can obtain these and similar audio-visual college courses from THE TEACHING COMPANY  (

Also valuable:

Preparation for Acceptance into the Cantorial Program

There are diverse skills and areas of background learning in which we expect students to have developed competencies by the end of the first year of the Cantorial Program.

ALEPH offers courses in each of these areas that are specifically designed for prospective and first-year students.
Natrually, some applicants already have prior learning and skill competence in these areas. You will have the opportunity to document and demonstrate your prior learning as part of the application process.


The first-year requirement is the equivalent of a year of college-level basic music theory and ear training. As there are several ways to achieve this competence (private study, local or online courses, etc) your Director of Studies will work with you to help you find the best way to achieve the appropriate level.

Jewish Renewal

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is a growing extended family of passionate students and teachers who are  rediscovering and revitalizing the power of Jewish spirituality and practice.  Have you studied with any of the teachers in Jewish Renewal? Have you been to the ALEPH Kallah, Ruach HaAretz, or a Jewish Renewal retreat? Have you been a participant in a Jewish Renewal community? Have you read some of the books and booklets of Jewish Renewal teachers such as Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, R’ Marcia Prager, R’ Arthur Waskow and others?

If you are new to Jewish Renewal, a required course in the Cantorial Program that you can take now if you wish is: ALEPH course: Introduction to Jewish Renewal and Reb Zalman’s Thought

Jewish Knowledge and Skills

These are categories of Jewish knowledge you will need, for which ALEPH offers basic courses. Recommended readings for self-study are included.

I. Biblical Hebrew: By the end of your first year in the program, at the latest, you will be expected to have a working knowledge of classical Hebrew syntax and grammar, as well as a basic Chumash vocabulary. If you need work in this area, enroll in

ALEPH Course: Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Grammar 101 & 102.

II. Jewish Traditions

An entering cantorial student should have a basic knowledge of Jewish Traditions in these areas:

A. Siddur/ Language and Content

You should be able to open a traditional Siddur to a section of basic prayer text and read and translate reasonably and comfortably, with a sense of the spiritual underpinnings of the words. Do you understand the structure of the various services, which prayers are said every day and which are the prayers for special occasions? Do you know when the full Hallel is recited and when the half Hallel? What are the options for reciting the Amidah? A preparatory course you can take now is: ALEPH Course: A Walk Through the Siddur: An Introduction to the Liturgy

Recommended resources:

My People’s Prayerbook: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries, L. Hoffman, ed (Jewish Lights)

A Guide to Jewish Prayer, Adin Steinzaltz (Schocken)

Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, Barry Holtz

Quest for God, Part I Abraham Joshua Heschel,

The World of Prayer, Vols. 1 and 2,  Elie Munk,

The full article on Prayer in the Encyclopedia Judaica

The Path of Blessing, (Bell Tower ’98/ Jewish Lights 2003) by Rabbi Marcia Prager

Recommended personal practice: You should be regularly involved in communal worship, somewhere, somehow. If you can, attend a weekday minyan to absorb the sounds and rhythms of daily prayer. Tsei ul’mad (go forth, and learn!) — Sample diverse synagogues regularly to gain a sense of the range of styles and approaches to liturgy and communal prayer. Learn what works well, and develop your sense for what you think is needed.

B. The Cycle of the Jewish Year

Do you know the deep structure of the cycle of the Jewish year, including Shabbat, the major holidays, the fast days, the minor holidays? Have you studied the shalosh regalim and yamim noraim, paying attention to the ways that seasons give way to seasons and moods and foci shift through time?

Do you understand the patterns and moods of the Jewish calendar as they express agricultural, mythic-historical, halakhic, and mystical points of view?

Are you familiar with the particular practices and liturgies associated with each of the festivals and their seasons? A required course in the Cantorial Program that you can take now if you wish is:

ALEPH Course: Jewish Traditions of Sacred Time

Read: Seasons of our Joy, by R’ Arthur Waskow (Beacon 1982)

C. The Fundamentals of Jewish Practice

Are you familiar with the basic underlying principles of Jewish practice, including the divisions of mitzvot into positive and negative categories as well as mitzvot between practitioner and God and those which are between human beings? What does it mean to be chayav and patur? What are the fundamentals of classical kashrut and what does the concept of eco-kashrut add? How do we learn to understand what melachah is in relationship to Shabbat? A required course in the Cantorial Program that you can take now if you wish is:

ALEPH Course: Fundamentals of Jewish Practice

D. Introduction to Jewish History

Have you been introduced to the rich panorama of Jewish history and thought ?

Recommended resources:

Jacob Neusner, The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism (Wadsworth, 1988)

Chaim Potak, Wanderings  (Knopf, 1978)

Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?

Counseling, Personal Growth and Therapy

The work of a rabbi, hazzan, or rabbinic pastor places many challenges and stresses before us that are amplified by the nature of our position as clergy, counselors, teachers and spiritual mentors. Success in this work requires sensitivity and exceptional self-awareness, good emotional boundaries, and the ability to work with many different kinds of people. The ALEPH Cantorial Program includes coursework in, and values practical experience in counseling, counseling education, relationship and family therapy, group work, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), Social Work etc. It is always recommended that you have been in therapy yourself in order to work through unresolved issues of your own, and in order to be familiar with the therapeutic process.

We welcome your interest in the ALEPH Cantorial Program. We look forward to future conversations and working with you on your application.

If you are interested in enrolling in any of the available ALEPH courses that are open to prospective students, or wish more information about the application process, contact our ALEPH Administrator at or call 215-247-9700 x 21