Ronit Wolff Hanan
Posted on Dec 17, 2019
Music Director, Congregation Beth Sholom, Teaneck, NJ
H. L. Miller Cantorial School ’12
“I was a public school kid who hated Hebrew school,” says Cantor Ronit Wolff Hanan, “but I later discovered that Jewish knowledge and spirit can be nurtured through the arts, not just in a traditional educational setting. Music provided me with the path to reconnect to my Judaism in a powerful way.”
Ronit believes that music is an “on-ramp” to Jewish involvement, inspiring and connecting people to the Hebrew language, to Jewish culture and tradition, to a love for Israel, and to an appreciation of our texts. “Music provides a more visceral, holistic connection. It adds dimensions that are emotional and transcendent,” she observes.
That is why Hanan has dedicated herself to Jewish education through music. Instead of a traditional d’var Torah, she offers a d’var shirah (song) that elucidates themes from the parashah. She cofounded and directs an award-winning children’s chorus at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey, which engages the entire community in song. She conducts the Bergen County chapter of HaZamir: the International Jewish Teen Choir. And through her supervision of the synagogue’s b’nai mitzvah program, she challenges students to think about Jewish obligation and what that means to their identities.
“My father, also a cantor, used to say, ‘If your interpretation helps a congregation to pray, you’ve done your job.’ I think of this every time I lead services. If I can convey Jewish text through music and help people understand it better and feel it more deeply, I have accomplished my goal.”