Rabbi Debra Cantor is the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, CT. She served as rabbi of the historic Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, and Congregation Tifereth Israel in Andover, Massachusetts.
A member of the first JTS Rabbinical School class to include women, Rabbi Cantor was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1988, where she was also awarded an MA. She graduated from Brandeis University cum laude with a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.
Rabbi Cantor loves to teach! Her classes are engaging and always laced with humor and insight. This past year, Rabbi Cantor founded the Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning. Neshama is a joint collaboration between B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom and the Mandell JCC, and invites people from all backgrounds to engage in inspiring, creative, joyful Jewish learning.
Rabbi Cantor has an extensive background in Jewish education, with particular expertise in adult learning, teacher training, synagogue change, leadership development and Jewish outreach. Earlier, she served as Executive Director of Camp Ramah in New England and as an Education and Synagogue Consultant for the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Boston and Adjunct Lecturer at Hebrew College.
In 1993, Rabbi Cantor was honored with the NYC Comptroller’s Award for Outstanding Women. In 2018, the Charter Oak Cultural Center will present her with the Jewish Heritage Award at their Annual Vision Awards Gala. Rabbi Cantor has been an active member of the Rabbinical Assembly, serving on numerous committees, and was the founding Chair of the RA Task Force on Women. She has served for many years on the Rabbinical Assembly’s Va’ad HaKavod (Ethics Committee).
For many years, Rabbi Cantor was an Adjunct Lecturer for Hartford Seminary’s “Building Abrahamic Partnerships” program; she currently serves on the Hartford Seminary Board of Directors. She was a long-time member of the board of the CT Council for Interreligious Understanding. Beginning in 2009, Rabbi Cantor worked with Christian and Muslim colleagues to develop and teach a model religion curriculum at the Covenant Preparatory School in Hartford.
She is a member of the Steering Committee of an area interfaith organization called the League of Light. For the past year, Rabbi Cantor has joined with local interfaith clergy in spearheading a large-scale faith-based organization designed to make positive changes in Greater Hartford. She is an active board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s Jewish Community Relations Council, particularly in the areas of interfaith understanding and social justice.
Rabbi Cantor has lectured widely and has contributed articles to many publications and several books. She is also an accomplished artist who enjoys exploring Torah and Jewish ideas through collage and mixed media art. She is currently working on a picture book about her father’s adventures growing up on a chicken farm in Ellington, CT.
She is married to James Beede (a nurse); they have two children, Max and Penina.