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Alumni Spotlight

Jenna Pearsall

Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Judaic Studies, 2017
Cantor, Central Synagogue in New York, New York

Describe your job responsibilities:

As a cantor, every day of my job is different, which I love! A large part of my role is crafting worship for Shabbat and holidays with our incredible senior cantor and musical team. I get to have music in my life every day, singing, playing guitar, and collaborating with professional musicians as we craft meaningful worship for our community in person as well as our community of thousands of livestreamers. Pastoral care is a huge part of what it means to be a cantor as well, making sure our congregants have a listening ear in their hardest moments and also their most joyous. I officiate all lifecycles for our members, including baby namings, b’nai mitzvah, weddings, and funerals, and work as a team with our fabulous other clergy to make sure we are living our Jewish values and being there for our members.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

I feel blessed every day to get to blend my two passions of music and Judaism, and it is incredible to use these passions to do tikkun olam and to do it as my job! I love being there for our members through the twists and turns of life and making a difference in our community.


Tell us about studying at the Frankel Center:

I loved my time at the Frankel Center and learned so much through its many offerings. Some of my favorites included the Jewish Film course and the Jewish Graphic Novel course taught by Professor Maya Barzilai. I learned so much about so many different facets of Judaism in these courses and I was actually excited to attend class. I also loved having Hebrew three days a week and have used those skills frequently throughout my cantorial school experience and my year of living in Israel.

How did your education prepare you for your current job?

The diverse education that the Frankel Center provided was invaluable as I continued my studies in higher education. It provided a solid foundation for my knowledge of Judaism, Talmud, Hebrew, literature, film, art, and everything to do with Jewish culture. I was able to feel confident in cantorial school because of the knowledge I gained from the classes I took during undergraduate.

What advice would you give to students who are considering studying Judaic Studies?

Studying Judaic Studies at the Frankel Center changed my life and put me on a path to accomplishing my dreams of the cantorate. If you are considering a career as a rabbi or cantor, a degree in Judaic Studies can be the solid foundation that gets you to your dream. The professors are kind, warm, and extremely knowledgeable; you will learn about diverse topics and deepen your understanding of Judaism.