Music Department Hosts Residency with Rabbi Reuben Zellman

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Department of Music will host Rabbi Reuben Zellman, Assistant Rabbi and Music Director at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, California, in a residency on the UNC Charlotte campus January 11-15 to educate both campus and community on gender identity, sexuality, Judaism, and Jewish music.  

Rabbi Zellman received his BA in Linguistics from U.C. Berkeley and is currently completing his MM in choral conducing from San Francisco State University. He received his master’s degree in Hebrew Literature and in 2010 his rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. He became the first openly transgender person accepted to the Reform Jewish seminary Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 2003.

Rabbi Zellman has eight years of training in chazanut (traditional cantorial music) through the School of Sacred Music in New York City and the exceptional private teaching of generous cantors and music directors, including David Bentley, Joyce Rosenzweig and Jacob Mendelssohn. As a professional performer he specializes in the Renaissance and Baroque periods and is a regular performer with San Francisco Renaissance Voices. As a conductor, he focuses on involving amateur ensembles in high-quality music, researching and teaching lesser-known Jewish music, and on structuring vocal and instrumental ensembles as vehicles to increase and enhance the full congregation’s participation in synagogue music.

An activist and educator in the transgender community, Rabbi Zellman has written extensively about gender identity, sexuality and Judaism. He is involved with various LGBTQ community organizations and projects and has taught at congregations, conferences, and universities around the U.S. Linguistics is still one of Rabbi Zellman’s primary interests.  

Rabbi Zellman’s schedule includes a clinic with the singers of the UNC Charlotte Department of Music on the practice of traditional Hebrew chant. He will also lecture to the students of the Department of Music on the traditions of ancient Jewish music in our current musical canon. Additionally, Rabbi Zellman will conduct an open, participatory lecture about the challenges he faced as the first openly transgendered rabbinical student, how his experiences have served his mission of LGBTQ acceptance and inclusion, and how music can bring comfort, support and identity to LGBTQ youth.  He will also meet with LGBTQ students with Time Out Youth, leading discussions on inclusiveness and identity. Finally, Rabbi Zellman will offer up the opening remarks for Sine Nomine’s performance of Donald McCullough’s Holocaust Cantata on January 15.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016: Dinner and meeting with Time Out Youth (Includes students from Multicultural Student Center and Religious Studies)

Thursday, January 14, 2016:  Lecture on ancient Jewish music to Department of Music students (2:00 p.m. Rowe Auditorium, UNC Charlotte Campus); Choral master class on traditional Hebrew Chant (4:00 p.m.  Room TBA, UNC Charlotte Campus)

Friday, January 15, 2016: Open lecture and discussion about gender identity and transgendered lives (2:00 p.m. Rowe Auditorium, UNC Charlotte campus); evening Sine Nomine’s performance of The Train featuring “The Holocaust Cantata” (7:30 p.m., UNC Charlotte’s Center City Building.)