There is much discussion and concern in the Jewish boardrooms, committee meetings and community about continuity and engagement. Everyone, rightfully, wants to know what it takes to keep people engaged with the Judaism. The usual suggestions tend to focus on social media and social opportunities, about open door policies and lowering entry costs.
Perhaps what we really need is more music. Well, not just music, but a full range of art and culture. We need to support the singers and writers, the painters and poets who demonstrate that Jewish faith and traditions are rich sources of inspiration for exceptional artistry. We need to support Jewish artists and increase awareness and exposure to them among the entire Jewish community.
Why? Just how important are the arts to Jewish peoplehood at this time? They are essential and have been from the very beginning, from when the angels sang, yes sang, in celebration of the creation of the world. From Miriam’s timbrel to Matisyahu concerts, music is a part of us. And, with the demise of radio stations and record labels, if we want to ensure people get to experience great Jewish art, we, as a community, must make it a priority. Yes, we need rabbis and teachers and camp directors, but we also need musicians and poets. There are important artists in all genres who are taking our traditions and reinterpreting and rejuvenating them.
Here’s one example that has been particularly thought provoking for me lately. Daniel Kahn is a young singer/songwriter who grew up in a suburban Detroit, got turned on by hearing the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars and has since moved to Berlin and dedicated himself to Yiddishkeit. I personally think his work is both cool and important. But my personal taste is not the issue right now.
Rather, I’d like to talk about what one song, Mayn Rue Plats (My Place To Rest), a written in Yiddish by poet Morris Rosenfeld, the poet laureate of the slum and sweatshop. Now, I knew a bit about the Lower East Side sweatshops and the roles Jews played in labor rights. I even knew that there was once a thriving – though unimaginable to me – Yiddish theater world because I got to see Molly Picon with my grandmother when the show Milk and Honey came to Boston.
But back to the song. This is the last song on Daniel Kahn’s Partisans and Parasites cd. And it just moves the heck out of me. Here we have, in one song, buy a dedicated and talented Klezmer/Punk/Protest/Rock singer (a Yiddish Billy Bragg perhaps?) beauty, history, and the values of Tikkun Olam. All in just 4 minutes.
I am convinced that opportunities to hear music like this, as well as all other Jewish arts, can be an irresistible invitation to inspire, expand and rejuvenate large segments of our community, especially those that mainstream Jewish institutions are having a difficult time reaching.
After seeing a great work of art, whether on stage, in a concert hall or at a museum, when I feel that unique sense of wonder and pride that I am part of the humanity that created it, I often say, “Boy, I’m glad I’m alive.” When it’s hearing a song like this, though, I tend to say, ‘Boy, I’m glad I’m a Jew.”
Click hear to hear it.
The web site is live. The tickets are on sale. The brochures will be going to the post office this week. And the Third Annual Boston Jewish Music Festival is up and running. Obviously, we’re incredibly excited about the range and quality of the programs that have been planned. And, of course, we hope you’ll buy lots of tickets to lots of events (notice we eliminated as many service fees as possible). But allow me a few moments to share some of the little personal moments that have touched me.
First, you should have seen Basya Schechter’s face when I told her she would be performing her Songs of Wonder program in a shul where Rabbi Heschel frequently spoke and his daughter still belongs. It was a wonderful combination of fear and excitement and pride. Her concert will be incredible. As will her Kabbalat Shabbat in Sudbury.
I’m also blown away by how many phone calls we’ve been getting about the Hadag Nahash concert at Johnny D’s and the Andy Statman/David Grisman Opening Night at Somerville Theater. David will also be doing a master class at Berklee School of Music while he is in Boston. BJMF always tries to have our outr-of-town guests do something in the community besides their concerts. And most artists are all too happy to do so.
Lastly, I just want to tell you how much Jim and I appreciate all the kind words people offer us. So many people are so appreciative that Boston finally has a Jewish Music Festival. And not just any festival, BJMF is already considered a model of innovation, collaboration, and community building. Your simple ‘thanks’ and ”this was so enjoyable’ mean so much to us. So get ready. Clear your calendars. And be sure to attend something wonderful at the 2012 Festival.
The Boston Phoenix has published a terrific article on the Music Festival. A big shout out to Jon Garelick for his fine work that captured so much of the spirit. Nice picture of Ruth Dolores Weiss, too! Hope you have your tickets–they are going fast!
You can read the article here: http://thephoenix.com/Boston/music/97500-jew-note/
There was a very nice article about the Festival in the Jewish Advocate this week. It’s unbelievably exciting. The Festival direct mail brochure goes to the printer today and should be delivered within 2 weeks. And Sunday night, we kick things off with Habanot Nechama. This Festival is no longer a dream, Its real. And it is going to be spectacular.
Well look at that. Some very nice media coverage in the Newton Tab. Yes, that’s my jukebox in the background. I think we it was playing Patsy Cline (not Kline or Klein) singing WillieNelson’s Crazy. Which must be what Jim and I are to be doing this. http://www.wickedlocal.com/newton/news/x1145288106/Newton-resident-coRead More…
It is through our music, our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future. Our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways…..
“It’s through this constant exchange — this process of taking and giving, this process of borrowing and creating — that we learn from each other and we inspire eRead More…
From casual friends to community leaders, the response to the Boston Jewish Music Festival is unanimous. “That would be an incredible program IF only you can get it funded.” Well, they’re right. It will be an incredible event. But there can be no IFs. Boston is the only city with such a large Jewish population that DOES NOT have a Jewish music festival. This is far too important an opportunity to hinge on an IF.
Yes, the economy is horribly difficult for many of us. BRead More…