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Frances T. Goldman

Frances T. Goldman,
Cantor Emerita

“Music is an intrinsic part of Jewish liturgy,” Fran Goldman says.

Despite her recognition of the critical role of music in the worship experience, being a cantor wasn’t initially a career path she considered. When she graduated from college, women in the clergy were generally unheard of. Just a few years later, however, the tide began to change and Goldman took a job as a cantorial soloist with Congregation Or Ami in Richmond.

It wasn’t until she was hired by Beth Ahabah in the early ’80s that she became involved in professional cantorial organizations. She initially followed the movement of women cantors and served on a committee to review certification programs, but ultimately used the synagogue’s support to pursue her own certification in the early ’90s.

“It was a long process, but it was a perfect melding of my music, my art and my spirit,” she says. “It was a neat circumstance that I was able to pursue it and that Beth Ahabah supported it with their stipend for conventions and education. And then Jack Spiro actually invested me as the full-time cantor of the congregation.”

In her nearly 25-year career at Beth Ahabah, she counts bringing guest composers and musical programming, training bar and bat mitzvah students, and raising funds for a grand piano in the sanctuary among her favorite moments.

Through it all, Goldman witnessed a great deal of change—the growth of the synagogue, the role of women in clergy, even the evolution of music. She describes how congregations have shifted from ancient music and traditional chants, to classically composed pieces for choir and cantor, to the folk tunes that dominate modern liturgy.

“People now are singing much more folk style, and that’s fun,” she says. “But I would still like to see us maintain a connection with not only our ancient traditions, but also our more recent traditions, which are very rich.”

In the end, no matter the style, she says, music is at the heart of worship. “It allows people to participate and to connect, not only with their faith, but maybe even have a more personal relationship with God and their fellow congregants.”

Goldman earned a bachelor’s degree in voice performances from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, and a master’s degree in speech and theater, with an emphasis in opera production. She was certified and invested by the American Conference of Cantors and the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1994. She retired from her position as Beth Ahabah’s cantor in 2004, at which time she assumed the cantor emerita designation. She is also a chaplain at Beth Sholom Life Care Community.

Tue, April 16 2024 8 Nisan 5784