Cantor Gladys Gruenwald

If one had met Cantor Gladys Gruenwald as a youngster, one might have predicted that education and cantorial endeavors were in her future. Her parents, Holocaust survivors from Poland, Manya and Paul, z”l. came to the United States to create a life for themselves; they raised two children, Gladys and her brother Abe, who both completed Yeshiva Rabbi Moses Soloveichik. There, Gladys thrived in her Judaic studies, but her greatest joy was singing in the choir with conductor Seymour Silbermintz, z”l.

Subsequently, she attended Music and Art High School majoring in voice, although she originally was and remained a classical pianist. Concurrently, she continued her Jewish education at Herzliah Hebrew High School, where she graduated as valedictorian, and even completed a year in their college program.

After receiving a B.S. from Hunter College with a major in psychology, and a minor in education, Gladys taught elementary school briefly, only to discover that special education was her calling. She earned an M.S. from City College in Child Study and Adjustment, and later a dual Masters Degree in Special Education (L.D.-E.D.) from Fordham University on a scholarship. At Martin Luther King High School, she fully devoted herself to her challenged students, as well as those in regular classes. During her career, Gladys was a unit-coordinator, a grade-adviser, a resource room teacher, a consultant educator, a mainstream and an inclusion teacher, and a U.F.T. Chapter Chairperson.

Although she was always an active congregation member, also involved in organizational work with U.J.A., the Heschel School and Hadassah, it wasn’t until the late eighties that Gladys actively reconnected with Jewish music. She joined the Hebrew Arts Chorale, under the leadership of Elayne Robinson-Grossman, who recruited her for their chamber ensemble. Every summer since then, Gladys has participated in the North American Jewish Choral Festival, under Maestro Matthew Lazar, with whom she has also performed in other venues. Currently, Gladys sings with the New Yiddish Chorale, Zalmen Mlotek conductor, as time permits.

After retiring from the New York City Board of Education, Gladys discovered AJR, and became enamored with the environment. Always a “groupie” at heart, she loved the warm, congenial atmosphere and began to dabble in their courses, never truly visualizing this day! It was her husband who understood early on, that this journey would come to fruition because of the true joy it brought her.

In 2005, Gladys was accepted at AJR as a matriculated student, after spending the prior year exploring the possibilities of formal enrollment. Cantor Lisa Klinger-Kantor became her vocal coach and Cantor Sol Zim became the bridge between the chazzanut of her parent’s generation and the current cantorial repertoire. These two inspirational mentors formed the nucleus for Gladys’ transformation from a choral singer into a cantor; their influence will always be part of her as she embraces her new role in the Jewish community. For sharing their talents and expertise, and for so generously giving of themselves personally, Gladys is eternally grateful – todah rabbah.

Last year, Gladys was privileged to intern with Rabbi Shimon Hirschhorn at The Hebrew Home for the Aged, where her father had resided. Although Gladys had had prior chaplaincy experience at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, the Hebrew Home exposure refined her therapeutic and counseling skills. This year, Gladys is the cantorial intern at Congregation Tehillah in Riverdale, working alongside her dear colleague, Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn. Together, they direct Tehillah’s Hebrew School, a challenging venture, which has been wonderful.

Gladys feels very blessed to have studied at the Academy with such creative and accomplished faculty, students, and staff, and considers many of them close friends. Although she is being ordained today, she plans to remain a visible presence at the school, in order to help perpetuate the unique AJR culture and tradition.

Because Gladys ‘meditated’ upon the words of Torah for so much of her life, she hopes Hashem will ‘hear’ her voice on behalf of the kahal, for all to behold.