William Franklin "Frank" Birnbaum (1922–2005) was a well-known 20th century chazzan within Conservative Judaism in the United States. Serving congregations and performing concerts across America, his music was well known for its eclectic and melodious nature. As a tenor, his voice was widely acclaimed as one of the finest cantorial tenor voices in the latter-half of the 20th century.

A 1973 recording of Cantor Frank Birnbaum performing "Ten Shabbat v'Ten Shalom" at Rodeph Shalom Synagogue in Philadelphia, PA.

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Birnbaum sings Avinu Malkeinu

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Birnbaum was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1922. The oldest of three children, Birnbaum began studying chazzanut under his father, Samuel Birnbaum, who was then chazzan of Brith Sholom Beth Israel Synagogue, the oldest Ashkenazic synagogue in continuous usage in the United States. After serving in World War II, Birnbaum completed his collegiate studies at Columbia University in New York City.

Graduating from Columbia University in 1951, Birnbaum assumed a temporary position as Assistant to the Cantor at Central Synagogue in New York City. It soon became apparent that his vocal ability warranted a more permanent position, and he was subsequently made "Associate Cantor" of the synagogue. After serving Central Synagogue from 1951–1953, he assumed the position of chazzan at Congregation Shaare Zedek (New York City) from 1953–1957 and later Chevra Thilim in New Orleans, Louisiana from 1957-1964. In 1959, he was inducted as a member of the Cantors Assembly of America.[1]

Birnbaum would go on to serve congregations in Dallas and Atlanta until he retired in 1990 from Temple Israel (Charlotte, North Carolina).[citation needed]


Birnbaum served as President and Placement Chairman of the Cantors Assembly for the Conservative movement.[citation needed] He also taught on the faculty of music at Emory University for a number of years and was responsible for the establishment of the Southern Jewish Cantorial Festival, which each year brought world-class chazzanim to Atlanta, Georgia. He was a proponent for the investiture of women as cantors within the Conservative movement and an advocate for liturgical reform, which led to the printing of Siddur Sim Shalom in 1985 with his good friend Rabbi Jules Harlow.


  1. ^ "Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Conference-Convention" (PDF). The Cantors Assembly of America and the Department of Music of the United Synagogue of America. 1959. p. 2. Retrieved October 25, 2011.