Cantor Deborah Bletstein becomes the first full-time female cantor of a Conservative synagogue in Metro Detroit’s history.
History has been made in Metro Detroit. Congregation B’nai Moshe of West Bloomfield has hired Cantor Deborah Bletstein, who becomes the first full-time female cantor of a Conservative synagogue in Metro Detroit’s history.
Cantor Earl G. Berris retired from the pulpit after 24 years as cantor of CBM following the 2020 High Holidays.
Then-President Mark Roth initiated a task force to explore hiring a cantor. Longtime choir member and Ritual Chair Marc Sussman chaired the Cantor Search Committee. “The committee overwhelmingly recommended Cantor Bletstein be hired. We couldn’t have been more emphatic,” Sussman said.
While Bletstein has led services several times as a guest cantor for B’nai Moshe, she stepped to the bimah for the first time as cantor of B’nai Moshe on Shabbat morning, July 10.
“We are gratified to be a part of the congregation that is the first Conservative synagogue in Metro Detroit to hire a female cantor,” new President Alan Levenson said. “I think it says a lot about our board being leaders in our community. We are delighted that being female was neither a positive nor a negative. She was recommended and hired because she is a talented cantor.”
Bletstein was born and raised in Michigan and holds a master’s of music from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and earned cantorial investiture and a master of sacred music degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2007.
She has held full-time pulpits in Conservative synagogues in Des Moines, Iowa, and Portland, Ore., and has served as guest cantor at numerous congregations throughout the United States. She is a member of the Cantors Assembly and the American Conference of Cantors and holds an Actors Equity Association card. In July 2021, she graduated with a master of social work degree from the University of Michigan where she was a National Health Service Corps’ HRSA Scholar and completed a clinical internship with teens at the Guidance Center in Southgate.
The cantor grew up in this area, and her family still lives in Southfield. She knows how big of an event this is for herself and the community.
“It’s really amazing as a woman that I could be experiencing this moment,” Bletstein said. “Prior to all my travels and school and jobs in other states, I grew up in the Conservative Movement in Detroit, and I had no female clergy role models in the movement in the area. So, after all this time, to come back home, I just hope I have opened the door to what we will see more of in this area, that women are vitally and equally important in these roles.
“The congregation has been very warm and welcoming and after a very long tradition of having males in the role, to be welcoming me in this way has been really fantastic,” Bletstein said. “I’m excited for the High Holidays, to work with Rabbi Shalom Kantor and to just open the door to new possibilities for the congregation.”