The Shul Sisters
The Shul Sisters

These three already-distinguished cantors have individually contributed to liturgical music in their own rights.

How unlikely is it to find three female cantors on the bimah of the prestigious Orthodox Hampton Synagogue in New York?

Surprisingly, it was one of many distinguished appearances for these three cantors — the Shul Sisters — who are coming to Congregation Shaarey Zedek on Thursday, June 9, at 7 p.m. The concert is free, but registration is required.

The Shul Sisters are three of the leading female cantors in the country: Cantor Laurie Akers of Congregation Or Shalom in Chicago, Cantor Rachel Brook of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago and Cantor Rachel Goldman of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Los Angeles.

The three cantors met through separate shared relationships with acclaimed performer Neshama Carlebach. Cantors Akers and Brook were each invited to work with Carlebach on one of her albums in February 2018. Later, when Brook was being installed at the Park Avenue Synagogue, Akers was commissioned to write a song for the occasion, which cultivated their relationship. 

The relationship they shared with Carlebach led them to meet at a cantorial convention. It all came together in February 2019, at a song-leading convention in St. Louis called Songleader Bootcamp, the brainchild of Jewish music singer Rick Recht. Cantor Rachel Goldman pulled the other two aside to introduce them to a beautiful song called “Price of a Woman.” At that moment, when they started to sing together, they felt a magical connection. They realized that they had something special, and the Shul Sisters were born.

The Shul Sisters have been appearing together since 2019 at venues such as Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City and the International Lion of Judah Conference, both in 2020, and the Jewish United Fund of Chicago Women’s Gala with Diane von Furstenberg and the Neranenan/Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, both in 2021. 

Accomplished Cantors

These three already-distinguished cantors have individually contributed to liturgical music in their own rights. 

Akers is a celebrated Jewish Rock Radio artist whose compositions have received national acclaim. She serves as the host of Jewish Rock Radio Chicago Sings, a concert series that brings together cantors and musicians from 20-plus congregations to create and share new Jewish music. In addition, she hosts the monthly Cantors Assembly program, Shir Chadash, and frequently serves as a guest artist and commissioned composer at congregations around the country. Her compositions can be found in numerous Jewish liturgical anthologies. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brad, and their three sons, Isaac, Levi and Ashton. 

Brook, senior cantor of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, was the first female cantor in its 150-year history. Previously, she served as cantor at Park Avenue Synagogue in New York. Her first solo album, L’chayim Ul’shalom: Songs of Life and Peace, was released in December 2020, and she is a featured soloist on several Park Avenue Synagogue albums. Brook has served as the conductor of Shir Chadash: The Brooklyn Jewish Community Chorus and the Westchester chapter of HaZamir: the International Jewish High School Choir. She has been a service leader and educator at synagogues throughout New York City and at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where she curated and taught the yeshivah’s first course on building singing communities. She was ordained at the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in May 2016. 

Goldman currently serves as Cantor at Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Los Angeles. Beginning in July 2022, she will become the senior cantor at Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston, Texas. As a concert soloist, Goldman has been heard in venues such as the Hollywood Ford Theatre, the Houston Hobby Center and the Hollywood Bowl, with ensembles such as the Houston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. She was ordained at the Academy of Jewish Religion-California and holds a master’s degree from the same institution. 

She has spearheaded multiple cantorial collaborative projects on both the national and international levels. Goldman has cofounded two cantorial collaborative groups, Shul Sisters and Guys and Meidels, a Los Angeles-based quartet that infuses classical Jewish and Cantorial music with millennial energy.

The Irving and Beverly Laker Concert Series adds important voices to the cultural offerings of CSZ. The series recently brought the musical revue L’Chaim: The Miracle of Fiddler in Yiddish to the shul. 

Other upcoming events at CSZ include Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of the Park Avenue Synagogue and a leader in contemporary Conservative Jewish thought, on June 23 at 7 p.m. His appearance is part of the Rabbi Irwin Groner Memorial Lecture series, funded in memory of A. Alfred Taubman; also, Dara Horn, acclaimed author of People Love Dead Jews, will be in town Nov. 4-5 for a scholar-in-residence weekend. Her appearance is funded by the Morris and Beverly Baker Foundation. 

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