A memoir
about glasses,
glass ceilings,
and a glass half full.

If you loved Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, you’ll absolutely cheer for real-life Barbi Prim. 


“Extraordinarily powerful.”
–Rabbi Sally Priesand, America’s first female rabbi, and Rabbi Emerita of Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls, NJ

“Funny, heartbreaking, and yet bursting with hope.”
–Helen Aronoff, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Western New York’s Children’s Psychiatric Center

“Celebrates the sweetness of hard-won acceptance.” 
–Lois Weis, State University of New York Distinguished Professor, and coauthor of Class Warfare: Class, Race, and College Admissions in Top-Tier Secondary Schools


In Catbird: The Ballad of Barbi Prim, the world meets an insightful 8-year-old who has already taken a few steps toward becoming a pioneer—but also a shadow of her quirky self.

Though she didn’t learn to ride a bike until she was twelve and never did learn to climb to the top of the rope in gym, at seventeen she innocently cracked through a stained glass ceiling and was admitted to Hebrew Union College’s School of Sacred Music. At age twenty-two she became the first woman ordained as a cantor in 3,000 years of Jewish history, but foolishly turned down an invitation to appear on What’s My Line?

Nevertheless she persisted, serving for more than twenty-seven years as cantor of congregations in Clifton, New Jersey, and in Great Neck, Rochester, and Buffalo, New York, and then for ten years as the placement director of the American Conference of Cantors.

Download the one page title information sheet here. 

About the book

Barbara Ostfeld in the Media

  • Union for Reform Judaism’s Highest Award Winners Include Interfaith Trailblazers, Diplomatic and Advocacy Leaders for Israel, and the First Woman Ordained as a Cantor


    November 6, 2019, New York, NY – Preeminent Jewish and interfaith global leaders will receive Reform Judaism’s highest honors at the 75th URJ Biennial in Chicago, Illinois, in December 2019.

    The Tri-Faith Initiative of Omaha, Nebraska, Julie Fisher and Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, and Cantor Barbara Ostfeld will receive special recognition and will be among the featured speakers at the URJ’s Biennial General Assembly, which is North America’s largest Jewish gathering, attracting some 5,000 Reform Jewish leaders over five days. The URJ is the most powerful force in North American Jewish life, representing the largest segment of the Jewish community and inspiring 1.5 million people.

    “Not only do these renowned leaders personify Reform Judaism’s core values, they all identify the Reform Movement as a pivotal influence toward accomplishing their change-making work,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “We could not be more proud or more inspired by the powerful activism and advocacy of these pioneering award-winners.”

    Read the entire release at URJ.com

  • Sexism is Routine for Female Clergy - Barbara's piece for the Lilith Blog

    A female cantor walks into a funeral chapel. The funeral director says, “Nice to meet you, Cantor. Turn around and let me see the rear view.”

    Rabbis and cantors who are also women hear some version of this from time to time, but less frequently today than 40 years ago.

    Although we’re aware that it’s impossible, many of us try to dress in a way that’s designed to prevent sexist comments. By keeping our necklines high and our hemlines low, by avoiding anything clingy, we work at a calculus that has variables clearly beyond our control. Our sought-after formula usually depends on some perfect calibration of the “female” aspect of the term female clergy and the “clergy” part. If nothing else can, the theory goes, looking HOLY should shut it all down.

    Read the rest of the article at the Lilith Blog

If you’ve got a book club or study group, we’ve got a guide for you.

Whether you’re rebellious or reserved, vocal or shy, The Ballad of Barbi Prim will strike a chord. 

Below are links to 8 reader’s guides . . . because one size never fits all.

Get in touch

For media and speaking requests and other book inquiries, please contact: 
Lisa Braun Dubbels, Catalyst Publicity & Promotion Group
+1 612.806.4455
lisa at catalystpublicity.com

Or you can email us directly at : hello@catbirdbook.com

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