Barbara Jean Ostfeld (born 1952)[1] is Jewish history's first ordained female cantor.[2] She was ordained in 1975 by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.[3] [4] From 1976 through 1988, she served Temple Beth-El of Great Neck as cantor.[3] From 1990 through 2002 she was a cantor at Temple Beth Am (now Congregation Shir Shalom) of Buffalo, NY.[3]

Barbara Ostfeld-Horowitz
Barbara Ostfeld

1952 (age 67–68)
SchoolHebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Senior posting

From 1996 to 1998, she chaired the Joint Cantorial Placement Commission of the American Conference of Cantors; she has also served it as a secretary, vice president, Northeast regional representative, and member of its board of directors.[3] In September 2002, she was appointed its placement director.[3]

In March 2000, as she marked 25 years of congregational service, she received an honorary doctorate in Sacred Music from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.[3] She retired from her position with the American Conference of Cantors in 2012.[5][6]

She is the author of a memoir, CATBIRD: The Ballad of Barbi Prim, which was released in 2019 by Erva Press.


  1. ^ a b "Ostfeld, Barbara Jean", Jewish Virtual Library (accessed May 14, 2015).
  2. ^ "Cantors: American Jewish Women", Jewish Women's Archive (accessed May 14, 2015).
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Barbara Ostfeld" biography at American Conference of Cantors website, archived by the Wayback Machine on March 16, 2012.
  4. ^ Archived from the original on November 27, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Jay Tokasz, "Trailblazing cantor Barbara Ostfeld to be honored: Music tribute to Ostfeld tonight marks historic role in Judaism", The Buffalo News, November 9, 2012.
  6. ^ "First Invested Woman Cantor to Retire as Placement Director for Reform Cantorate" Archived 2015-05-18 at the Wayback Machine, American Conference of Cantors website (accessed May 14, 2015).