AJR cantors serve as spiritual leaders.

The goal of the Cantorial Program is to train the future leaders of Jewish prayer in the ancient and traditional musical chant forms, to learn the art of building community through the gifts of music, to raise the cantorial voice in the service of peace and harmony, and to enliven a personal love for the Jewish people.


Recognizing the evolving role of the cantor or hazzan, who functions as a spiritual leader of the Jewish people, AJR pioneered the full ordination (semikha) of cantorial students as Hazzan uMoreh/Morah b’Yisrael (Cantor and Teacher in Israel).

Our vision is for the cantor (hazzan) to be a living resource of all aspects of Jewish musical tradition with a profound mastery of the melodies and chants for all approaches to Jewish prayer, have proficiency in chanting Torah, Haftarah, and the Megillot (Scrolls) and knowledge of all aspects of Jewish musical tradition as well as contemporary Jewish music repertoire. The contemporary cantor is also charged with leadership and responsibility in many other areas, and must be familiar with classical Jewish texts, Biblical traditions, contemporary Judaic scholarship, education, and the skills of working with individuals and communities in times of joy and sorrow. The Cantorial Program goals are listed here.

Distance Learning

AJR offers the opportunity for people from around the world to pursue their dream of becoming Jewish clergy without needing to uproot themselves. All required classes are offered via Zoom and ordination students are only required to gather in person at an offsite location twice a year for our multiday communal events in the fall and spring trimesters. For those who wish to take some courses in person at the AJR campus, we regularly offer an onsite intersession course option, together with an online option, in between each of the three terms.

Program Requirements

Below is summary of the Cantorial Program requirements. A full description can be found in the Academic Catalog.

A total of 140 credits plus four trimesters of Fieldwork Support Seminar and four trimesters of Core Concepts Seminar are required.

Now that AJR is running on a trimester system, students who want to study full-time all year round can finish the program in three years (provided they enter with a high level of Hebrew). Others will choose to study at a more measured pace, finishing the program in five years or longer, when completed through part time study. Click here to see a listing of the Course Requirements.

Vocal and Musical Training and Coaching

Vocal instruction is an integral part of the professional training of a cantor. All students are encouraged to take voice lessons throughout their Academy cantorial studies. This instruction is arranged privately by students who are responsible for all associated costs. Advisers are available for guidance and will periodically discuss with students their vocal progress.

Every matriculated cantorial student is required to be coached by a cantorial instructor each trimester that they are enrolled at AJR. Students are required to study Musical Skills until they reach the required standard in the areas of harmony, conducting, sight-singing, and ear training. An intermediate level of keyboard proficiency will be required; an alternate instrument may be approved. The required standards are described in the Academic Catalog, and may be demonstrated by completing specified levels of study in another approved program. Students with advanced training (preferably at the graduate school or conservatory level), may be exempted from all or part of these requirements. In any case of doubt, students seeking exemption will demonstrate their abilities through an AJR Music Competency Examination.

The Cantorial Practicum

A practicum is expected of all matriculating students during the course of each year. Every student, regardless of Advanced or Accelerated Standing, shall present at least two practica during the course of their studies. The topic for each practicum will be assigned by the Director of Cantorial Studies in consultation with the student.

Comprehensive Examination

All cantorial students must pass a series of Comprehensive Examinations: two in Hebrew, one in Nusah, one in Catillation, one in World Jewish Repertoire, and one in Life Cycle. All the examinations must be completed by the beginning of the fall trimester of the student’s senior year.