Cantor Dulkin excited to join community


After a two-year hiatus, Shaare Zedek Synagogue has a cantor once again.

Hazzan Joanna Selznick Dulkin, who received her investiture and master’s degree in sacred music from the Jewish Theological Seminary’s H.L. Miller Cantorial School, started with the synagogue Aug. 1, and she said she “just fell in love with the community.”

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Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Dulkin lived in New York for the last seven years and said she interviewed all over the country before choosing St. Louis.

“I’m from California and we thought we might go there,” Dulkin said, “but for whatever reason the community and I clicked in a way that had not happened with any other community. I feel like the shul is moving in the kind of direction I would like to take a congregation. They are already on their way, and I think the people there are genuine lifelong learners. There are a lot of musicians and a lot of intellectuals. It is just a nice mix of people, and it was just a great shidduch.”

Dulkin said she was excited by the fact that the synagogue has a growing number of bar and bat mitzvah students and a growing number of families joining, and she was impressed with the lay leadership and with Rabbi Mark Fasman’s musical background, and the fact that Fasman has already implemented exciting programs she will be able to take on.

“Especially for a congregation that has been going a few years without a cantor, you always wonder how the transition will be from cantor to no cantor and back to a new cantor,” she said.

Prior to Dulkin, Cantor Paul DuBro had been a cantor part-time with Shaare Zedek for more than 20 years. Harriet Shanas, president of Shaare Zedek, said DuBro is a trained and beautiful cantor practicing traditional chazanut. She said the parting was completely amicable as DuBro and the synagogue the two were looking for different things and the congregation wanted to hire a full-time cantor and move toward a more contemporary, participatory style.

“Shaare Zedek was very interested in not only hiring a new cantor but in really providing a new musical direction for ourselves as a congregation,” Shanas said.

Some of the new music programs that Shaare Zedek has instituted include Friday night Live by Craig Taubman — a service and Saturday night concert; Pit Chu Li Shaare Zedek — an original melody commissioned by Shaare Zedek and written by Craig Taubman; Shabbat Unplugged — a Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat led by Andrew Rehfeld on acoustic guitar; Mincha/maariv services at the CAJE Afternoon Hebrew School led by Andrew Rehfeld on acoustic guitar; and Junior Congregation services on Shabbat morning led by Michael Raileanu.

Along with her cantorial leadership for weekly Shabbat services, Dulkin will also be coordinating bar/bat mitzvah training, involved in family life programming, early childhood center and educational programs.

Dulkin graduated with honors from Stanford University in 1996, and has served as program director for Stanford Hillel, as well as music director at Brooklyn’s Kane Street Synagogue, High Holiday cantor at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco, and a b’nai mitzvah tutor at B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan. Dulkin’s music has taken her to Hawaii, Israel, England, and Singapore. She is also a published writer and composer, and appears on several CD recordings. She recently had three of her compositions selected by Shalshelet, the foundation for new Jewish liturgical music, to be performed at their annual June festival.

Dulkin is married to Rabbi Ryan Dulkin, a doctoral candidate at JTS, and they have two children, Zac and Jesse. The family moved into a house on Cornell and Midland several weeks ago, and Dulkin said she can already tell they are going to love it here.

Keren Douek is an assistant editor and can be reached at [email protected]