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Over the past two years, our congregation has been working to hire an assistant cantor. Our Search Committee co-chairs spoke to many candidates both in the field and those graduating from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Our committee read many resumes and personal statements and listened to numerous recordings. We found that our Reform Movement is blessed to have so many wonderful and talented cantors serving our people.
For us, one candidate stood out from the rest. We are thrilled to share that in July, Cantor Suzanne Hamstra will be joining our Washington Hebrew Congregation clergy team. Suzanne shares our vision for welcoming all people into our home, our passion for social justice work, and our desire to make Judaism accessible to all.
“I am over the moon about joining the WHC family – I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!” Suzanne says.
The daughter of folk musicians and bagel bakers, Suzanne grew up in Santa Cruz, California, playing violin, singing, dancing, doing theater; effectively participating in every aspect of the performing arts that she could. Any time she didn’t spend in the arts, she spent at the beach or hiking in the redwoods. She made her way to The Boston Conservatory for her bachelor’s degree and then to San Francisco Conservatory of Music for her master’s degree, both in classical voice performance, and spent several years as a freelance opera singer. Eventually, however, she realized opera was not her true calling, and applied to HUC-JIR where she is now about to complete her cantorial studies.
“I feel like the Met just called and I won the jackpot!”
She has served as a cantorial soloist at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco, cantorial intern at Kehillat YOZMA in Modi’in, Israel, student cantor at Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, CT, and for the last two years has been the student cantor at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, NJ. After ordination this coming May, Suzanne says she cannot wait to relocate to the Washington, DC area and begin the next chapter of her life with Washington Hebrew Congregation.
“Back in my opera days, my friends and I used to play a daydreaming game of ‘When the Met calls’ (as in Metropolitan Opera) that was in our version of ‘if I won the lottery.’ Well, I feel like the Met just called and I won the jackpot!”
With her glorious voice and warm soul, Suzanne will be a wonderful addition to our leadership team. We are excited to welcome Suzanne to WHC this summer!
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