AJR Appoints New Directors

October 8, 2007 | Filed in: News

Hazzan Ramon Tasat-Director of Cantorial Studies and Rabbi Jill Hammer-Director of Spiritual Education.

Dr. Ora Horn Prouser, Executive Vice President and Academic Dean announced that Hazzan Ram’n Tasat and Rabbi Jill Hammer have joined the administrative team at The Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR). Hazzan Tasat has been named Director of Cantorial Studies and Rabbi Hammer has been named Director of Spiritual Education at the pluralistic seminary.

‘We are thrilled with the appointment of these two dynamic and creative figures in the contemporary rabbinate and cantorate,’ said Rabbi David Greenstein, Rosh HaYeshivah. ‘Hazzan Tasat is a brilliant, innovative and inspirational teacher and mentor. Rabbi Hammer is a leader in spiritual exploration and creative uses of ritual, and has been a beloved member of AJR’s faculty.’

Hazzan Ramon TasatHazzan Ram’n Tasat, PhD was trained at the Manuel de Falla Conservatory and the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, in Argentina, and earned a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.

Tasat has been the recipient of numerous awards, such as First Place at the Montpellier Cultural Arts Center’s Recital Competition in 1994-95 and a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in 1995-96. He has performed in international festivals both in Europe and America and has appeared live on television and radio. In addition to his recordings, he has published two books on Jewish subjects and offers lectures, concerts, and workshops throughout the year on Jewish musical traditions.

Tasat serves as Cantor of Temple Shalom in Washington, DC, is the President of Shalshelet: The foundation for New Jewish Liturgical Music, the musical advisor of the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Music Festival, and a board member of the American Friends of Neot Kedumim. ‘To come to work at AJR is both a great honor and an immense challenge. AJR is a pluralistic organization that strives for excellence, so do I. I’m so excited!’ said Tasat.

‘AJR’s Cantorial Program is unique in its embrace of serious Judaic study and its inclusive approach to the Jewish musical tradition. Our cantorial faculty is an outstanding team of world renowned cantors and composers who are wonderful teachers devoted to our students and dedicated to the AJR vision,’ said Prouser. ‘We are very excited to welcome Hazzan Tasat to our community. His creativity, spiritual nature, musical talent, and charismatic personality will add new dimensions and excitement to an already exceptional cantorial program.’

Rabbi Jill HammerRabbi Jill Hammer, PhD holds a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Connecticut, and was ordained as Rabbi by JTS. She is the co-founder of Kohenet: The Hebrew Priestess Institute, and the director of Tel Shemesh, a website and community celebrating and creating Jewish earth-based traditions.

Greenstein says, ‘Rabbi Hammer has vast experience teaching in a wide range of venues including formal and informal settings. Her interests in ecology, feminist studies, and creative midrash have led to her holding a leadership position in Maayan, The Jewish Women’s Project of the JCC.’ Hammer’s books, The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons (JPS 2006), a collection of legends and meditations for every day of the Jewish year, and Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women (JPS 2001), original midrashim based on biblical and rabbinic texts and legends, bring together Rabbi Hammer’s various interests and areas of expertise, and have been widely praised for their scholarship, creativity, and spiritual insights. Her various articles and curricula are true contributions to Jewish life and learning. Rabbi Hammer is thrilled to be joining the AJR community. ‘Coming to the Academy means working in a pluralistic environment with students who are dedicated, open-minded, and inquisitive. No one has to fit into a box’people are here to develop their spiritual leadership and discover powerful approaches to Jewish tradition. As the new Director of Spiritual Education, I am excited to be learning and creating with the students and faculty of AJR. I look forward to being a part of shaping a diverse and energetic Jewish future.’

‘We are very excited to be creating this position as this focus on spiritual education, both as a separate discipline, and as an essential element in all areas of rabbinic training, will deepen AJR’s curriculum, and expand our students’ understanding of Jewish thought,’ said Prouser.

The Academy for Jewish Religion, established in 1956, is located in Riverdale, New York, and trains rabbis and cantors to serve the Jewish community. AJR provides a pluralistic learning environment for both recent college graduates and ‘second-career’ students. Tasat and Hammer will be active participants in creating the new vision necessary for training the next spiritual leaders of the Jewish community.