“No pressure, right?” joked Lois Kittner, about her opportunity to serve as the first female cantor in B’nai Israel Synagogue’s history.
The Wilmington conservative Jewish congregation traces its beginnings to the B’nai Israel Society founded in 1898.
Kittner will perform during the congregation’s Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services beginning with the eve service at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the synagogue, 2601 Chestnut St.
She is a cantorial student at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, N.Y., pursuing her ordination as cantor and a dual masters in Jewish studies.
A former professional cabaret singer who has led Jewish prayer services for more than 20 years, Kittner has tutored adult and preteen b'nai mitzvah students. Plus, she calls herself the Torah Lady.
Leading Rosh Hashana services at the conservative congregation will be a welcome challenge, she said.
“I used to be at a Reconstructionist congregation, and their liturgy is slightly different so I had to learn some new-to-me material, and that’s been thrilling because this is what I love to do,” Kittner said in a phone interview.
Kittner said the melodies of the High Holy Days, the Jewish New Year, “are just so much a part of my history, they’re in my DNA.”
But learning she would be the first woman serving as cantor at the synagogue was surprising, Kittner added.
“It takes years of preparation in leading services and every year you learn yet something else and yet something else. I do chant from the Torah, and this time around I’ll be the Torah reader for the first day of Rosh Hashana,” she said. “This is a very exciting kind of turning of a corner, and I look forward to sharing the holidays with everyone.”
For more information about High Holy Days services, call 910-762-1117.