Introducing the founder of the Women Cantor’s Network, Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray
Cantor Deborah Katchko Grey, Founder of the WCN
We thought it would be a great idea to introduce some of our members, so why not start with our founder, Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray? We are so excited to “introduce” her to you!
What is your Favorite aspect of the WCN?
How open accepting warm supportive & creative and inspiring the women are! Everyone who comes to a conference experiences this. I am most pleased and a little proud of it. It affects you spiritually and emotionally to have this support. “Mainstream” cantors get as much out of it as “non-mainstream”
Lots of people say in our closing circle they have never felt this before!
Did you imagine the WCN would turn into this?
I imagined a couple dozen women sitting in circle sharing songs, music, contracts.
Who was your greatest Jew influence in childhood?
Grandmother Rae epstein from east end of London. She studied with Rabbi Hertz (of Hertz chumash). She was a strong zionist, and was always active in jewish organizations. She started Hebrew Ladies Educational League which help immigrants secure loans. Senator Joe Lieberman’s mother was the secretary and Rae was President, in Stanford, CT. She never drove yet always worked and took buses. She loved a good tea party. When she traveled to England she was in the airport when the Beatles were coming off the airplane. People went crazy. But she was not as impressed. When asked about it she said, “I would rather look at my own grandchildren!”
Who was your greatest Jew influence as an adult?
Elie Wiesel, who was my teacher and mentor. He made me appreciate the miracle of jewish survival, and encouraged me to be a cantor. My parents and grandfather, though they didn’t discourage me, thought it would be too rough a life for a woman. Ritual committees were tough. But Elie made me feel i had an obligation to follow this tradition. My grandfather had two brothers who were both cantors and were killed in Holocaust. There are 22 cantors in my family tree. 70 family members were lost in Holocaust. I thought better this than be a Joanie Mitchell- James Taylor wannabe.
How would you Describe yourself?
I am someone who is compelled not to waste time, which stems from my studies with Eli. I am productive & purposeful. I do something immediately rather than put it off. I always have a project (writing, stitching, cello, cooking, my job, exercise, friends, family). The possibilities are endless. I am never bored, and always have something I want to do.
Do you think this is also how people see you?
I don’t know how people see me. I am probably more shy than they think. I am not a big joiner and like doing my own thing. I hope they see me as someone who enjoys life and is kind, caring thoughtful.
Who would you choose to play you in a Movie about your life?
People say i look like Carole King-but I wouldn’t choose her because she doesn’t have my Jewish or Family self. People always say I have never met anyone like you, passionately Jewish and Zionist and creative. I guess it would have to be ME.
It was delightful to learn more about Debbie, affectionately known as DKG. You will be happy to know she is dedicating herself to slowing down. This is a challenge for her, but she said it is “probably good to quiet your mind”. She and her husband, Scott, bought a vacation home in Lewes, DE for family gatherings and entertaining friends. It is a “Dream come true”.
May all your dreams come true, Deborah. Thank you for the spark of WCN that turned into a beautiful bonfire!