Jessica Jacobs

Meet the New Class: Jessica Jacobs

With the start of the 2021-22 school year upon us, we are highlighting members of the incoming class of students. Click here to see all of the articles in this series.

Today we’re talking with incoming Cantorial student Jessica Jacobs.

Jessica Jacobs
Photo courtesy Jessica Jacobs

Q1) Where do you live?

Santa Monica, CA

Q2) How did you first hear of AJRCA?

I’ve worked at Kehillat Israel in the Pacific Palisades for 12 years, teaching Hebrew to kids, doing Cantorial soloist work, and leading a delegation of 8th graders to Israel. When I started looking into Cantorial school last year, my good friend and coworker Rabbi Daniel Sher guided me towards AJRCA and I’ve since thanked him profusely!

Q3) What was it about AJRCA that drew you to enroll here?

There were many things that felt to me like a perfect fit as soon as I began to learn about AJRCA. I’m already working in the Jewish sphere, and I’m married and settled in Santa Monica, and have another career in entertainment. So the “full-time program on a part-time basis” aspect is ideal for me. But what really drew me in immediately was the warmth and authenticity of every single contact I met at AJRCA. Robin, Perryne, and all of my student liaisons welcomed me into AJRCA with open arms, kindness and accessibility. I also love that AJRCA is a transdenominational institution. As a person who grew up Conservative and went on to embed herself in a Reconstructionist community, I really appreciate the space that AJR offers students to speak openly about different God concepts and bring in alternate melodies and Reconstructionist liturgy, and the school’s express intention to prepare future Clergy to serve any congregation.

Q4) What were you doing prior to enrolling?

After college, my (now) husband and I moved to LA so I could pursue a career in acting. I spent the last 12 years performing improv at Upright Citizens Brigade and Groundlings, appearing in commercials and indie films, and doing the film festival circuit with a short I co-wrote and starred in.
Fortuitously, I met someone in an acting workshop immediately upon moving to LA who introduced me to the Cantor at Kehillat Israel, Chayim Frenkel. He recruited me to teach at KI and after years of his telling me “you should have been a Cantor,” something finally clicked during the forced pause of the Pandemic and I realized I could be in a career where I was of service to my community every day, and using my voice to help connect my congregation to the Divine. What could be better than that??

Q5) As you embark on this experience, what are you most excited about?

I love being a student—I never really stopped. After graduating with a degree in Creative Writing, I continued to take classes, whether that meant improv and sketch writing classes at UCB, or the biweekly Japanese lessons my husband and I do together with our tutor, Masaki, I just love to learn. I’m already learning so much from my teachers and fellow students—new melodies, the history of Jewish music, which I thought I knew something about but have discovered I did not; nusach, repertoire—it’s all really exciting. I’m also so grateful to be a part of this warm and inclusive community, to have an outlet to regularly pray with other engaged Jewish leaders, and to be able to envision a future where I am of service every day.

Welcome Jessica!

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