(BS, Music, ’13)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite memory from Hofstra is going on tour with Chamber Singers. Traveling around the East Coast with a group of incredibly talented singers and musicians, under the direction of Dr. David Fryling, was such a treat. Performing the same pieces night after night really allowed us to home in on precision as a group in a way that rehearsing once a week throughout the rest of the year did not.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing learned in that position?
Directly after graduating from Hofstra, I attended cantorial school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which is the seminary for Reform Judaism located in the West Village. Because it’s a five-year program, I didn’t actually assume my first full-time job until July 2018, where I served as the cantor at a Reform congregation in Northern California. That position taught me so many things, the most important of which was self-advocacy.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I am a Reform cantor – I am a full-fledged member of the clergy and am legally able to do everything that a rabbi does. While the music and liturgy are the focal point of my training, my responsibilities span widely across almost all of synagogue and Jewish life. Many people think that a cantor’s sole responsibility is to sing the prayers during the Shabbat (Sabbath) and holiday services; in actuality, though, that is only about 5% of my week-to-week job. When I’m not leading services, you can find me teaching children and adults of all ages, providing pastoral care, officiating life-cycle events, composing music, producing the next big service ... the possibilities are endless! Being a cantor has been my dream since I was a little girl, so there was really never anything else. I’m so grateful for the music education I received at Hofstra that set me up for success in the next stage of my schooling and, ultimately, my career.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
Take advantage of as many professional and educational opportunities as you can get – college is YOUR time to be busy and fill your life with all kinds of experiences before entering the real world! And make sure you take the time to stop and smell the tulips. :-)
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- How has your position at Har Sinai – Oheb Shalom Congregation changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Drastically! Like most other organizations, synagogue doors closed when the pandemic hit, but we had to continue to provide fulfilling experiences for our congregants. At first, we tried our best to move everything we were already doing to a virtual platform. As the weeks and months carried on, we shifted our mindset and instead focused on how we could best use the virtual platform to create new and meaningful experiences. Throughout it all, the most crucial part has been to continue to create a sense of community, even with everyone in their own homes.
- How did your passion for music begin?
It is in my DNA! I was born into a musical family, so my parents started me on piano lessons when I was 4 years old. When I had my first exposure to synagogue music in kindergarten, I was immediately captivated. I haven’t turned back since!
- What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Sitting with people as they take their final breaths. Being able to hold the weight of that moment in a meaningful light – and particularly holding the emotions of the person’s loved ones – is among the holiest and most beautiful moments I experience.
- Who was the person who most influenced you, and how?
My childhood cantor, Stephen Dubov z"l. From a very young age, he inspired me become completely enthralled with liturgical music and just being Jewish in general. When I was about 8 years old, he told me that I could one day become a cantor, and it has been my biggest dream ever since.
- When did you learn to play instruments, like guitar and piano?
I started playing piano when I was 4 years old! I didn’t pick up a guitar until my senior year of college, and I only did so because I knew I’d eventually need that skill for my career.
Cantor Alexandra Fox believes in the power of music to foster a community that inspires, comforts, uplifts, and heals.
On July 1st, 2021 Alexandra will become the inaugural cantor of Har Sinai – Oheb Shalom Congregation in Baltimore, MD. Prior to this position, she was the cantor at Peninsula Temple Sholom (PTS) in Burlingame, California, where she proudly served as the first ordained cantor in the temple's history. She received her cantorial ordination from the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in May 2018 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Music from Hofstra University and a Master of Sacred Music from HUC-JIR.
Alexandra wanted to be a cantor since she was 8 years old, having been inspired by Cantor Stephen Dubov z"l. She sang in her temple’s youth choir and spent her teenage years singing on the bimah with Cantor Dubov, dreaming of the day when she would become a cantor herself.
During her tenure at PTS, Alexandra revitalized the musical life of the synagogue. For the High Holy Days of 5780, she hired and incorporated a worship band of professional instrumentalists and successfully moved all musical forces from the choir loft to the bimah for the first time in the synagogue's 65-year history. Among her greatest joys from her time at PTS is the creation of the youth choir, Kehillah Singers.
During her cantorial studies, Alexandra served as student cantor at Am Shalom in Glencoe, IL; KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago, IL; and Temple Emanuel in Roanoke, VA. She discovered her deep love for camping infused with Jewish culture and values during the two summers she spent at URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute in Indianapolis. Additionally, she served as the Student Liaison for the American Conference of Cantors Executive Board.
One of the highlights of her career thus far is her time serving as a chaplain intern at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Her experiences there led her to write her master’s thesis and perform her senior cantorial recital, titled Ahavah Nitzchit – Love Doesn’t Die, on how Jewish music can help a family through the death of a loved one. Alexandra’s cantorate, through both her life experiences and her research, has come to be inspired by helping people find meaning during the most fragile moments of life.