Elana Cohen was destined to perform in front of appreciative audiences. Growing up in Scarsdale, New York, Elana remembers her time in high school as being marked by a love of musical theater and choreography. In college at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, she specialized in creating solo works where she oversaw all aspects of the show, from set and costume design to her own onstage performance.
Deciding to substitute the bimah for Broadway was a choice Elana made midway through college, but the selection reflected a long-term influence. “When I was younger, I was very much inspired by a great cantor; I’d come home and imitate him. During college, I felt the need to be grounded in a stronger way. I wanted Judaism to be a huge part of me,” she remembers.
Elana’s experience going back to shul and to Hillel while in college was “a reawakening” and eventually led her to the
H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music. Elana says, “I wanted to live in a community that believes in living a traditional Jewish lifestyle, but is also open to change.”
Now in her fourth year, concentrating in Sacred Music, Elana has embraced the balance of Jewish education with learning the melodies and songs integral to becoming a cantor. “My favorite class has been Jewish Folk and Art Song, where we learn and present Yiddish and Hebrew songs.”
Ever the true performer, Elana also participated in Nightwords, an interactive theater commemoration of the Holocaust presented at JTS, in which she got to tap into her theatrical background.
During the little free time she has, Elana can be found in Brush Hall with her friends watching television or strumming her guitar. After graduation, Elana plans to take a cantorial position where she can use her soaring and harmonious voice to impact her audience both musically and spiritually.