In becoming the 37th president of the Cantors Assembly earlier this week, Hazzan Joanna Dulkin of Adath Jeshurun Congregation believes that it marks a historic moment: the first time the sitting presidents of the Conservative movement’s professional associations for cantors and rabbis come from the same synagogue.
Dulkin is the third female-identifying cantor and the 37th overall to lead the Cantors Assembly, officially an arm of the Conservative movement but with a membership that serves congregations of other denominations. Adath’s Rabbi Emeritus Harold Kravitz is the president of the Rabbinic Assembly.
“I like to have the RA right down the hall,” Dulkin said. “And actually, now that Rabbi Kravitz moved into his new office, we share a wall.”
Dulkin now leads the board of the largest organization of cantors in the world, a leadership pipeline that started nearly a decade ago.
“You ride through the ranks of the officers doing all of the jobs: secretary, treasurer, administration,” she said. “So you see all the sides of the organization, and you’re mentored by your fellow officers who have done that job before you and you mentor the officers who are coming up after you.”
That collegiality is part of what drives Dulkin in her work.
“We have built an organization on a foundation of collegiality and chevruta (partnership learning), that our CA is overflowing with wisdom, experience, talent, innovation,” she said. “This is what inspires me and my work both as a volunteer and professional.”
Dulkin said the work she and her colleagues do has evolved significantly since the CA was founded 75 years ago.
“Now we are overwhelmingly seen as full clergy partners to our rabbinic partners,” she said. “And some of my colleagues are spiritual leaders of their own congregations, or working in day schools.
“I have incredible colleagues. And they’re the most creative and talented and innovative people. And what we do in the world is so important that more people need to know,” she said. “That’s sort of why I do what I do: I believe in the cantorate, and I believe in my colleagues.”