Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray grew up in a distinguished family of cantors. A fourth generation cantor and the second to serve a Conservative congregation, Deborah founded the Women Cantors’ Network in l982 to help share the love of cantorial music she grew up with. At Boston University her studies with Prof. Elie Wiesel z’l’ convinced her that continuing in this family tradition was the best response for Jewish survival.
She is the first recipient of the Debbie Friedman Miriam Award given at the Miriam’s Table Annual Women’s Seder event ( April 2020)
Since 1999, Deborah has served Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties in Ridgefield, CT and is active in the greater community. Deborah created a Music Shabbat series that brings guest artists on a regular basis enriching the choir and congregational experience in worship, a complete music curriculum for the religious school, Tot Shabbat music, cultural arts including classical concerts, author/luncheons, Huck embroidery of tallitot , and life-cycle involvement have been important parts of her cantorate. Her congregation honored her for her 10th, 13th and 18th years.
Her ten recordings include Passover Seder Songs, Hanukkah Songs of Light and Hope, A Cantorial Reunion- from Kalisz to California, Spirited and Soulful, Kindersongs, Jewish Soul, Shabbat Jam, A Suite Shabbat, and A Sacred Spirit. The Cantors Assembly included her recordings in the Spirit of Israel , Spirit of Hanukkah ,Spirit of the Jewish Wedding, Jewish World, Jewish Children’s Music, and Spirit of Peace CD series. Her rendition of Jerusalem of Gold was selected for The International Jewish Songbook recording. Her CDs are heard on Jewish radio stations throughout the country and are available at cdbaby.com, oysongs.com and cantordebbie.com. Her recording and companion songbook, Katchko Three Generations of Cantorial Art is being used at the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College. It is the first cantorial songbook with guitar chords in a female friendly key!
Cantor Katchko-Gray served on the Executive Council of the Cantors Assembly, and is treasurer of the CT Region Cantors Assembly. She currently serves on the Clergy Task Force of Jewish Women International and is Founder and Past President of the Women Cantors Network. Founded in l982 the WCN has a diverse membership reaching 250 members. She is an Associate Member of the American Conference of Cantors, and served on the Liturgy Task Force. She helped found a chapter of the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework in Fairfield County. She is an active writer with Lilith Magazine, Forward Scribe Writers, and Primer of CT- Israel Advocacy in Media. She is a blogger for The Times of Israel, and a founding member of Women Fighting AntiSemitism #WMFA. She is also on the Chasing Light Speaker’s Bureau.
Deborah’s story is included in The Invisible Thread- A Portrait of American Jewish Women. She also teaches huck embroidery for making tallitot .The first book of Jewish Huck Embroidery was published in honor of Deborah’s tenth year at Temple Shearith Israel, now Shir Shalom. She published a book on her Jewish Huck called, Prayerful Creations in 2019. Deborah is a cellist with the Danbury Symphony Orchestra and the Allegro Chamber Players.
Her story about reuniting with her cousin, Cantor Leopold Szneer, a Holocaust survivor and cantor in Beverly Hills was recorded for National Public Radio’s Yom Hashoah program, April 21, 2009 ”The Story”. The national Jewish tv, JBS has her program, Songs and Stories of Elie Wiesel (2019) in it’s archives.
Her archives of interviews, articles and recordings are now part of the American Jewish Archives as well as the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Two items of Deborah’s are installed permanently in the museum in Feminism and Personal Observance. Her papers on Elie Wiesel are housed at the Mugar Library, Boston University Elie Wiesel Collection.
She is the mother of four sons, David, Aaron , Ezra and Joey, two stepsons Justin and Rannon and two grandchildren Eli and Ella! She is married to Dr. F. Scott Gray, of Somers Orthopedics.