Making music for Jodi Blankstein can happen as spontaneously as singing a newly formed melody into her phone. Blankstein—a cantorial soloist who trained at Hebrew College and who has been praised for her “soulful” voice—will immediately send her fresh creation to her longtime musical partner, Adam Dehner, who will then compose the guitar part.

“We’re a seamless team,” Blankstein recently told JewishBoston. To listen to Blankstein sing and Dehner accompany her is to be mesmerized. A layperson will be hard-pressed not to notice the exquisite melodies that make up the songs on their album, “From Within: Songs of Healing and Renewal.” Other musicians and vocalists will join the duo for their upcoming concert at the Vilna Shul on Sunday, Sept. 17. Calling themselves “Sanctuary,” several of these musicians are working on a new album of both Jewish and secular songs, which Blankstein described as “uplifting Jewish and secular music. Our songs will focus on renewal, hope, reflection, introspection and freedom.” For example, one of the new songs in particular, “Till Evening Comes,” written by Lisa Marcus Jones and sung by Blankstein, conveys Blankstein and Dehner’s spiritual magic.


Blankstein began her career as a teacher, but gave up the classroom for almost a decade to be a stay-at-home mother. Both of her children, who are now young adults, were students at The Rashi School. “I was always a singer,” said Blankstein. “I did musical theater in high school and sang in a cappella groups and choirs. But as I became immersed in Rashi’s culture, I reconnected to my Judaism. One Sunday morning, I woke up and knew I wanted to be a cantorial soloist.”

Although it appeared to be a sudden decision, Blankstein saw a clear life path in which she could combine her love of singing and teaching with her love of Judaism. A month later, she auditioned for the Certificate in Jewish Sacred Music program at Hebrew College. “A cantorial soloist,” she pointed out, “studies for two to four years versus the five to eight years that cantors study. I made a deliberate choice to do the certificate program, because sending my kids to Rashi came first.”

Dehner is also a Rashi parent. He teaches in the Boston public schools and works as a guitar teacher. Thirteen years ago, he was a member of a band called “Yom Hadash,” founded by Jewish musical luminaries Josh and Jon Nelson. Dehner toured with the group, as well as played on a number of their albums. After a Yom Hadash concert at Rashi, Blankstein introduced herself and asked Dehner if he was interested in teaching her son to play guitar. Dehner told JewishBoston that Blankstein’s son, Zach, is “an incredible musician.” When Dehner is not available, Zach will accompany his mother on the guitar. “Adam is a huge part of my son’s life,” said Blankstein.

Blankstein and Dehner also team up at Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, where Blankstein is the cantorial soloist. “It’s my fourth year at the congregation,” she said. “I love being in such a warm, vibrant Reform shul.” Prior to her time at Congregation Shalom, Blankstein worked at Temple Habonim in Barrington, R.I., another small Reform congregation. “If it weren’t for the commute, I would have stayed,” she said. “It’s such a special place. I still do concerts there and just sang at the Holocaust Memorial, where the names of survivors who settled in Rhode Island were being recognized.” Blankstein then moved on to Temple Emanuel in Andover. During her four-year tenure she started a women’s singing group called “Soul Sisters” and rejuvenated the junior choir. She is a current member of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, where Blankstein and Dehner have also lent their talents to Shabbat and b’nei mitzvah services at the temple.

In addition to performing and leading services, Blankstein and Dehner conduct private bar and bat mitzvahs. Blankstein stressed: “We never pull from shuls. This is for people who want an alternative experience.” She brings her sharp teaching skills and her day-school background to her work with students. It takes nine months to a year to train a youngster to lead a service and read from the Torah. Blankstein finds it particularly gratifying to see her students with special needs succeed. This year, she will bring her expertise to Gateways: Access to Jewish Education. Blankstein will work one-on-one with students and potentially conduct services for the non-affiliated among them.

Blankstein and Dehner are also dedicated to giving back to the community. They have done pro-bono concerts for JFS of Metrowest, the JF&CS Journey to Safety program, as well as for the Vilna Shul. “It’s the essence of tikkun olam,” said Blankstein.

“It’s in our DNA,” Dehner added, “and the best way to share it is through our music. We’re helping organizations that are making the world a better place.”

As for the music she and Dehner make, both observed that, “When we see people closing their eyes and swaying with us, it feeds the soul. We know what we’re doing is making a mark, and it’s a privilege.”

Find more information about their Sept. 17 concert here.