Betty Robbins

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Betty Robbins (April 9, 1924 – February 19, 2004)[1] was a notable cantor. She is sometimes reported to be the first female cantor, although in fact Julie Rosewald precedes her.[2] Robbins was appointed cantor of the reform [3] Temple Avodah in Oceanside, New York in 1955,[4] when she was 31 and the Temple was without a cantor for the High Holidays.[1][5] Her appointment was reported on the front page of the New York Times.[6] In addition to her cantorial work, Robbins taught religious education at the Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, Long Island and later in Lake Worth, Florida, where she also continued to serve as a cantor.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Robbins was born Berta Abramson in Kavala, Greece,[1] and later was the soloist in the choir of a German synagogue in Danzig, Poland after convincing the cantor to allow her to participate.[1] In 1939, Robbins and her parents left Poland due to the Nazi invasion and immigrated to Australia because Sydney sounded Jewish to Robbins' father, the Russian born Samuel Abramson.[1][7] She married a member of the United States Air Force named Sheldon Robbins, who she met at a Temple Emanuel dance while he was on leave from his New Guinea base. They married in a civil ceremony in Mackay, Queensland, on September 18, 1943 and in a religious ceremony at the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation on October 25, 1943. On August 8, 1944, Robbins immigrated to the United States.[1][7]

Robbins' older brother, Moishe Abramson left the family while they were still living in Poland to move to Palestine.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Robbins, Sandra. "Betty Robbins". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Andres, Holly J. (2008-03-01). "Conservatice Female Cantor Fits In Religion". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  4. ^ "Religion: Woman Cantor". TIME Magazine. 1955-08-15. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  5. ^ "Woman Named Cantor". The Portsmouth Times. Oceanside, New Jersey. AP. 4 August 1955. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Woman Named Temple Cantor, Perhaps First in Jewish History". New York Times. 1955-08-03. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  7. ^ a b "Woman Appointed Cantor; Perhaps the First in History". The Milwaukee Journal. Massapaqua, New York. AP. 3 August 1955. Retrieved 8 March 2012.