Gail Ilene Posner Karp (born April 7, 1955 in Detroit, Michigan) has been the cantor of the Reform Jewish synagogue Temple Emanuel in Davenport, Iowa since 1987. She is also an Item Manager for the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, MI.
Early life and education
Karp attended the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York City (HUC-JIR), where Gail was ordained as the fourth female Jewish Cantor in 1978, and subsequently received a master’s degree in voice performance and musicology from University of Nebraska in 1980. She became a member of the professional women’s music fraternity, Sigma Alpha Iota, while a student.
While in seminary, Gail Posner Karp served Temple Beth Torah on Long Island as their first cantor in the late 70’s. In the years that followed, she was affiliated with Temple Israel of Omaha and Congregation B’nai Jeshurun of Lincoln in Nebraska, Temple Beth El of Aptos and Temple Emanuel of San Jose. She was the first credentialed, licensed cantor to serve these congregations.
In 1986, the Karps’ middle child, Joshua, was diagnosed with autism at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Division of Child Psychiatry. The diagnosis resulted in a second career that included local, state and national leadership roles with the Autism Societies of the Quad Cities, state of Iowa and nationally from the mid-80’s until the turn of the century. During this time, Gail Karp was also appointed to the Iowa Governor’s Task Force on Autism, worked on the establishment of the Autism Tissue Program, and consulted with numerous other funded special projects of regional and national significance (SPRANS grant programs) that impacted the lives of persons with disabilities. Cantor Karp has served on the editorial boards of The Journal of Information and Referral Services, The Advocate (a quarterly publication of the Autism Society of America), and the Iowa COMPASS. In 2003, she received an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew Union College, citing her work on behalf of this special population. The Jewish value of tikkun olam (repairing the world) continues to serve as a theme in her life.
Henry Karp and Gail Posner Karp were the first Rabbi-Cantor clergy couple to become engaged and married during their seminary studies at HUC (1973–1978). Karp is married to Rabbi Henry Karp. They have three children, Shira, Joshua, and Helene.
Shortly after the initial diagnosis of her son, Karp expanded her efforts to include improving the quality of life for all persons with autism (and, as time progressed, persons who experience disabilities with both related and disparate diagnoses). The skills she developed as a Jewish cultural arts event initiator and organizational leader of volunteer organizations enabled her to transition seamlessly into the fundraising profession. Karp had been affiliated with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (including service as a Chapter President) and met the requirements for a professional designation as a Certified Fundraising Professional (CFRE) in 2000. Additional certification included a Grant Professional Credential (GPC).
Other professional memberships have included The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (formerly the National Committee for Planned Giving, where she served as a local council past president) and the American Conference of Cantors (both as a past board member and as a member on numerous committees).
Publications and writings
- The Aleynu: A Missinai Melody as sung by the Jews of Blois, France, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, (1980)
- The Evolution of the Aleynu, 1171 to the present, Journal of Synagogue Music 12, no. 1 (1982): 3-23
- Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Activity Guide
- Devar Torah
- Freedom of religion discussed at Davenport forum
- St. Ambrose University Human Trafficking Workshop panelist
- Active in the Davenport Rotary Club
- Interfaith Education Forum on Human Trafficking
- Detroit Arsenal Holocaust Observance
- A salute to Gail Karp
- Autism Society seeks to improve research with brain tissue donation
- Iowa Family Support Initiative, Iowa Compass, Iowa Independent Living Council
- Gail Karp earns credential designation