Rabbi Debra S. Cantor
Rabbi Debra Cantor is the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, CT. Previously, 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 Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School class to include women, Rabbi Cantor was ordained by JTS 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. In 2017, Rabbi Cantor founded the Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning. Neshama invites people from all backgrounds to engage in inspiring, creative, joyful Jewish learning. Neshama is sponsored by B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in collaboration with a range of community organizations, including the Mandell JCC, the Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford Seminary and others.
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 presented 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 Rabbinical Assembly's 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 in the Building Abrahamic Partnerships program at Hartford Seminary; she currently serves on the Hartford Seminary Board of Directors and chairs their Academic Affairs Committee. 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 three years, beginning in 2016, Rabbi Cantor joined with local interfaith clergy to spearhead the creation of a large-scale faith-based organization designed to make positive changes in Greater Hartford, which resulted in the formation of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA).
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 adult children, Max and Penina.