Deborah Zecher Celebrates

the American Songbook

How I Got to this "New Chapter" in My Life:  I've been singing all my life, primarily in the synagogue.  In 1995, I was invited to be a guest speaker at a local synagogue but asked if I could do a musical program instead.  While I had been leading the liturgical music of the service for several years by that time, I had never done any other kind of program.  A new passion was born!  I created Broadway Bible, a program linking familiar Bible stories with beloved Broadway show tunes which I then presented for ten years across the Northeast at Elderhostels, synagogues and community organizations.  I became a member of the Adult Cabaret Workshop at the Berkshire Music School from its inception in 2002 until 2007.  For five years, I performed with Cabaret-to-Go, a Berkshire cabaret repertory company.  In 2006, I was accepted as a student and performed at the National Cabaret Conference at Yale University where I was coached by such cabaret luminaries as Amanda McBroom, Tovah Feldshuh and Julie Wilson.  I have been part of several cabaret workshops in Manhattan which have resulted in performances at Don’t Tell Mama’s in New York City.  In collaboration with three other Berkshire performers, I performed in Dangerous Women, a cabaret program at Shakespeare & April 2011.  For the past ten years, I have presented an annual fund-raising concert for my congregation featuring the work of Jewish composers and lyricists.

In January 2009, I produced and was a performer in Warm Up the Winter, a benefit concert for the entire Berkshire community which, in its six years, has raised almost $25,000 for fuel assistance in the Berkshires.   In 2010, I presented a classical recital with David Anderegg which raised funds for the People’s Pantry.

Over the last few years, I began to present some of these programs at various synagogues and community organizations across the country and in March 2014, I was honored to be invited to do a concert of Jewish women composers in Berlin, Germany.

in the last few years, I have studied with and been part of workshops presented by Lennie Watts and Lina Koutrakos, noted cabaret performers and mentors in NYC.

About my Rabbinic Career:  On July 1, 2014, I became Rabbi Emerita of Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, after having served as Rabbi and Leader of Music from 1992-2014. 

I am a graduate of Brandeis University and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York in 1982 where I also received my Doctor of Divinity degree in 2007. I've been fortunate enough to have also served congregations in Scarsdale, NY, Washington, DC and Germantown, MD in addition to working as a chaplain at American University and Williams College.

During my tenure at Hevreh, I was especially proud of the many congregants who studied and learned to chant Torah, including almost 250 teen and adult bnai mitzvah students. I created a five year post-bar/bat mitzvah program leading to Confirmation which also included annual trips to Prague, Amsterdam, the American South for a Civil Rights journey and L’Taken, a social justice advocacy program in Washington, DC. Together with Hevreh’s choir and in recognition of the important role music plays at Hevreh, I recorded two CD’s of Jewish music. 

I feel honored to have been part of the leadership of the Reform movement, having completed two terms on the Board of Governors of HUC-JIR and as well as serving as president of the Rabbinic Alumni Association of HUC-JIR. I served as Recording Secretary of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and was also a member of the Board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism). In 2003, I was thrilled to have been chosen as one of the sh’lichei tzibor (leader of worship) for the URJ Biennial Shabbat morning service, the first time a rabbi was chosen to share musical responsibilities for this service and in 2007, I served as cantor for the CCAR convention service at the historic Plum Street Temple, a service which formally introduced Mishkan Tefillah to the members of the CCAR. I am a past national co-coordinator of the Women’s Rabbinic Network and locally, I served several terms on the board of the Women’s Interfaith Institute of the Berkshires. I am a past president of the Southern Berkshire Interfaith Clergy Association. For several years, I served as one of the moderators of Religious Roundtable, a radio program on WSBS sponsored by the South Berkshire Interfaith Clergy Association. I especially enjoyed loved my work as a mentor to several rabbis and rabbinic students in programs sponsored by the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Hebrew Union College.

I am honored to be a long-time associate member of the American Conference of Cantors.