Rebecca Pohl is not the only one in her family to attend school at The Jewish Theological Seminary, but she is the first whose future was predicted long before she arrived at JTS: "People always told me that I should be a cantor," she reveals.
Rebecca's father, Rabbi Philip Pohl, an alumnus of both the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies and The Rabbinical School of JTS, raised Rebecca and her siblings in a musical household that had a profound influence on her. "I have always loved music—I've been singing since I was two and playing piano since I was eight," says Rebecca.
After Jewish day school, where she was part of an a cappella choir, Rebecca followed her father's footsteps to 3080 Broadway, enrolling in List College. With her love of singing growing stronger than ever, Rebecca tried out for Pizmon, the premiere Jewish a cappella group at Columbia University. "A few of my friends in the double-degree program—Shoshi Rosenbaum, Rachel Hilker, and Ariel Schwartz—started S'madar, an a cappella group that performs both English and Hebrew music. I joined, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me," Rebecca recalls.
In addition to branching out musically during her time at List College, where she majored in Midrash, Rebecca also took on a leadership role at Saturday morning services for Koach, the Jewish outreach program of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, at the Columbia University Hillel. Rebecca recalls that she often couldn't find people to read Torah and would take on the responsibility. During her sophomore year, Rebecca says, "I had to assign Parashat Ki Tavo (with 62 verses), and I could not find people to lead it. It took me two weeks to learn, and after I finished it, I was moved to tears—and that had never happened to me before." It was at this moment that Rebecca realized the cantorate was the perfect outlet for her.
"The H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music was the obvious choice," says Rebecca, "because you get to learn what the job is like from people who have experience in the pulpit. They want you to learn how to create your own service."
In addition to the engaging classes at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School, Rebecca enjoys the camaraderie of her fellow students: "We are all learning from each other in this small community—my roommates in the Horace W. Goldsmith Residence Hall represent three of the four graduate schools at JTS. You feel that everyone has a voice and everyone contributes," she says.
Though Rebecca heard its melodies most of her life, the cantorate did indeed turn out to be the best avenue for her musical and scholarly proclivities. Says Rebecca, "The prophecy came true, and I couldn't be happier.
Rebecca Pohl discusses the sense of community at JTS: