Wishing all our readers a sweet and happy Rosh HaShanna. Shofar blowing by Jews around the world.
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Wishing all our readers a sweet and happy Rosh HaShanna. Shofar blowing by Jews around the world.
I hope that you come to me
And tell me that you learned the word chronological
And that you put all the books on your book shelf in chronological order
And I hope that the diary of Anne Frank
Ends up ordered out of history between the dinosaur books and the caveman books…
I hope that you yell at me
and that you run to mommy, “Mommy, Daddy’s lying to me”….
I will patiently answer your “How?” and your eventual tearful “Why?”
You will bear witness, but I hope you resist
I hope that the world you live in is one that makes believing in the Shoah more difficult than believing in God….
The above poem is by Andrew Lustig, author and producer of the video “I am Jewish”.
Speaking about his video to the Times of Israel, he said:
Basically, I really hope that one day remembrance, regarding the Holocaust, can mean something different. I hope that my children can live in a world where they are so accepted and appreciated for who they are that the idea that anyone would hate them for it would be as unbelievable, at first, as if I told a child today that years ago people were hated and killed because they had hazel eyes, or dirty blond hair.
After the four questions and the story of the four sons we get to the Vehi SheAmbda, the reminder that redemption is an ongoing theme in Jewish life, occurring over and over again in history:
וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵיֽנוּ וְלָנֽוּ. שֶׁלֹא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד, עָמַד עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, עוֹמְדִים עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם
And it is this [covenant] that has stood for our foremothers and forefathers and us. Not just one enemy alone has stood against us to destroy us. Rather in every generation there are those who have stood against us to destroy us, and the Holy One Blessed Be saves us from their hands.
The song has both middle eastern and Ashkenazi versions. Some of the more interesting versions found on You Tube: the Caravan Tamir Israali Scouts chorus, middle eastern European (different tune), Israeli pop rock, and Elior Itzkovitz-cohen singing with orchestra and children’s chorus; ,
According to Issac Luria, the great kabbalist, one should cover the matzah and raise the wine glass. When done, the wine glass is lowered and the matzah uncovered.
It is as if we are acting out the story of rescue and redemption. Wine is dark and fluid. It has no fixed form. So too God in moments of darkness needing rescue. In those moments God cannot be grasped. But when redemption is revealed we can look at events and see God in our midst. The troubles become like liquid flowing away and we are left standing safely on solid ground. Moments of redemption are like matzah whose white color is reminiscent of light and understanding and whose flat surface and solid feel represents the foundational sense of God in moments of redemption.
Matzah also symbolizes redemption because of the way it was transformed. In the story of the Exodus during slavery matzah represents the bread of poverty and affliction. Then on the final night the very simplicity of matzah becomes the sign f redemption. The fact there was no time to let it rise is prove that redemption was not just on its way but rather in the here and now pushing them forward and out from Egypt.
Even within the seder itself we are reminded of many redemptions and rescues. Vehi SheAmda concludes the part of the Seder devoted to the story of Abraham. It precedes the story of Laban and Jacob. In yesterday’s post (Karev Yom: It Happened At Midnight), Abraham was our first midnight story of redemption. Jacob and Laban were players in the next two midnight stories. Placed as it is between Abraham and Jacob it acts as an acknowledgement of the first of many redemptions in Jewish history.
Below in 1980 on national Israeli TV, a woman leading a seder, surrounded by family singing the piyut Karev Yom. The woman below is actress Hanna Rovina , winner of the Israel prize in 1956, singing the song in call and respone fashion.
The song has many versions, each showing a different flavor of Jewish music. Here is another version of Karev Yom sung by Yaffa Yarkoni. from her album Sabra. Yarkoni received the Israel prize in 1998 and died at age 86 at the beginning of this year. Instead of call and response she uses a driving beat and decorative melisma typical of Israeli Sephardic cantorial style.
There are also versions where the instruments take on a central role: here is a klezmer version with double base, clarinet, accordian, violin and drums sung by Evyatar Banai. The sound is sweeter and softer. And here, a middle eastren music setting with ud and gesang by Ensemble Majimaz.
The song, Karev Yom, expresses Jewish hope and longing for final redemption: a day where there is no day or night.
Draw near the day which is neither day nor night;
Exalted One, proclaim that Yours are day and night;
Set guards over Your city all day and night;
Brighten as day the darkness of the night;
And it came to pass at midnight! (translation by Josh Kulp )
The words are taken from the last verse of a piyut (liturgical poem ) found at the end of Ashkenazi haggadot, “And it Happened at Midnight”. The poem is a reworking of Bemidbar Rabba 20 which lists a series of events that all, according to tradition, happened at midnight. Each line excepting the last stanza (Karev Yom) begins with a different letter of the alphabet in order. Each event is focused on either returning from exile or alleviating the sufferings of exile. They are described in order starting with Abraham and ending with the final redemption.
- Abraham’s victory over the kings that kidnapped his nephew Lot (Genesis 14)
- Jacob’s return to his homeland which involved two midnight miracles: Laban’s dream and Jacob’s wrestling with an angel (Genesis 31:24, 32)
- Israel’s escape from Egypt ( Exodus 11:4, 12:29 )
- The tribes victory over Sisera, thanks to the generalship of Devorah and the clever thinking of Yael. Devorah defeated Sisera’s armies forcing Sisera to flee. He fled into the tents of his supposed ally Heber the Kenite, where his wife Yael stabbed him with a tent peg (Judges 4-5)
- King Hezekiah’s victory over the Assyrian armies. The Assyrians had conquored the north of Israel and had surrounded Jerusalem. They sent Ravshaka, an Israelite, to demoralize them by saying that their God was a wsh and would not help them. Miraculously one night a significant portion of the camp was dead. 2 King 18 (fall 2 King 19:35)
- The story of Daniel set during the Babylonian captivity. The poem names three events that happened at midnight: the rescue from the lions, Daniel’s visions and the death of Belshazzar.
- The story of Esther also set during the Babylonian captivity. Haman decreed pograms against the Jews at midnight and the king read through the chronicles one night because he couldn’t sleep. While reading he discovered that Mordachai whom Haman wanted to kill, had in fact saved the kings life.
- The end of times when Isaiah’s prophesy of redemption and in-gathering will be fulfilled (Isaiah 21:10-12)
The full Hebrew words are available here.
This is more than kletzmer meets heavy metal, in Yiddish. The overlaying of the violin on top of heavy metal rythms, guitar and synthesized sounds makes the music dance. And there is something about laying the gutteral sounds of Yiddish on top of that that makes me think Yiddish was invented for metal and just didn’t know it. At least this is true when Anatholy Bonder sings. It really works.
The Russian-Israeli band , Gevolt, playing in the video below was founded in Israel in 2001 by Antholy Bonder and three others. The violin that is crucial to the band’s current sound was added in 2005. The synthesizers were added in 2007 making for a total of six members. By 2010 all of the original musicians except Bonder, had left and been replaced.
The song below “Tshiribim Tshiribom” without the metal sounds like this. Here is Gevolt’s version from their latest album, AlefBeis.
The band has released two albums so far “Siddur” in 2006 and “AlefBeis”in 2011. They are beginning work on a third. Each album takes four to five years to develop. The long development time is because, like many musicians, all of the band members have day jobs, some in music and some outside of it. Bonder works as a programmer. Two members work as sound engineers. Their violinist, Eva Yefremov, plays in an orchestra when she isn’t playing with the band.
All of the current members are Israelis who were born in the former Soviet Union (FSU), but the musical influences on their work span motown, rock, various kinds of metal, classical, and even asian chants.
Sidur has an orchestral and meditative dreamy feel sometimes shifting into a driving electropop sound. It draws on both Russian tunes and Jewish meditative themes. In an interview with Metal Israel in 2007, Bonder says the words are sometimes hard to understand (even more so for those who don’t speak Russian), but that isn’t the point because the words are meant to be felt not analyzed.
AlefBeis has a strong driving metal feel. It is based entirely on musical motifs drawn from traditional Yiddish tunes. Their upcoming album will contain newly composed Yiddish songs. The Forward, when reviewing preview tracks from AlefBeis published in 2007 qvelled:
Gevolt’s music is not auto-annihilation rock. Rather, it is a resurrection. Their composition of Hirsch Glick’s famed partisan song “Zog Nit Keyn Mol, Az Du Geyst Dem Letsten Veg” (“Never say that you are on the final road”) is stunning in both its lyrical beauty (Glick’s contribution) and its musical defiance (singer Anatholy Bonder’s contribution). When the metal disappears momentarily and band member Marina Klionsky’s klezmer-inflected violin plays softly, one begins to reconsider Singer’s statement. [who called Yiddish a dying language].
Gevolt Website: http://www.gevolt.com/
- Lilt Interview, May, 2011
- Metal Shock Finland Interview, January, 2012
- Metal Israel, November, 2007
- Video Interview (in Hebrew), on or before Sept 2010.
- “Death Metal for a Dying Language”, The Forward, September, 2007 (Yiddish version)
- Oleh! Records bio
- Grandma listening to Gevolt’s version of Bei Mir Bist Du Shein.
Roza Eshkenazy was a cafe singer and prolific recording artist in the 1930’s. Known as the Queen of Rebetiko, her long career continued through the 1970’s. She died in December, 1980 in her mid 80’s, confused by Alzheimer disease. Her music continues even today to influence and inspire Israeli, Greek, and Turkish artists.
Born in the late 1890’s to Sephardi Jewish parents, she grew up near Thessaloniki. She survived World War II with a forged baptismal certificate and a love affair with a German officer. After the war she toured frequently in the USA and even considered living there. However, the love of her life remained in Greece. By the late 1950’s she had returned to Greece where she lived until the end of her life.
Rebetiko, or “Greek blues”, is the name given to urban-Greek folk music and Ottoman cafe music based on Turkish modes and traditional Greek and Anatolian dance rhythms. Lyrics discussed themes of urban life and hardship, including the urban drug culture. It is accompanied by traditional stringed instruments, finger cymbals, and sometimes an accordion or hammered dulcimer like instrument.
by Edoe Cohen, cross-posted with permission from eJewishPhilanthropy
I was neither born nor raised in Israel. My Israeli parents moved to the States in the late 70s and I grew up in Los Angeles, where I never really felt very American. I also never appreciated or understood why my parents insisted on sending me to Hebrew school and summer programs in Israel. Looking back, I think I did understand that my family was different. That all of us Israeli transplants, my parents, their Israeli friends and all the kids, were different.
We moved to Israel when I was a teen and settled near Jerusalem, but it took me nine years to really and truly feel and identify as an Israeli. It is strange to imagine the Jewish people returning to their homeland after two thousand years of exile and then the first generation of Israeli-born children finding their way back into exile. My grandparents came to Israel from Romania, Bessarabia, Iraq and Morocco; my parents came to L.A. from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I sometimes joke that I have all the Jewish geographic extremes in my blood – Ashkenazi and Sephardi, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, America and Israel. Is there something inherent in the Jewish psyche that drives us to explore, to move, to not feel settled for too long in any one place?
What once confused and frustrated me, this mixed identity and time spent in Israel and abroad, today inspires me, forms my identity and shapes my vision and work. Having lived outside of Israel, my army service was infused with the knowledge of exile, a sensation my tzabar (native Israeli) friends did not share. Although I did not grow up with anti-Semitism in my life, I was able not to take the Jewish state for granted; a frame of mind that guided my infantry army career of six years, a career that in my American youth I could have never imagined.
And when I arrived on the Columbia University campus in New York after my military service, I arrived as an Israeli, my American identity only on display when I flashed my American passport in JFK and or spoke in my accentless English. Most of my Israeli friends on campus focused on exploring the city and excelling in their studies. I also studied hard, but my Israeliness was hard earned and I could not remain passive as my country was publicly bashed on campus. Interestingly enough, my approach to Israel advocacy centered around cultural diplomacy. Here I was, bringing Israeli bands and films to an American campus – artifacts belonging to a culture that was foreign to me, but now my own. Sort of.
On campus I saw the different chapters of my life, my different personalities, manifested in entire Jewish sub-communities: Israeli students, orthodox, conservative, reform, secular Jewish students. I identified with each, because I was each. In the IDF, a sense of shared mission and purpose helped me and my comrades transcend our socio-economic, religious, ethnic and political differences. As a student activist on campus, I had no way of importing that experience. But I could import the soundtrack. I could bring to campus the sounds, colors and tastes of the Israel I had learned to love. An Israel that will without mercy challenge and push you forward to discover your potential, then call you achee (my brother) and mean it. A country that goes through the impossible every single day, but has the songs and celebrations to get us through. An Israel whose sons and daughters sacrifice so much, but have developed a creative energy that gives them a competitive edge to inspire the world.
It was this Israel that I tried to bring to campus through music, concerts, film festivals and the student run Cafe Nana. It was this Israel I saw unite students on campus when they all danced together to songs of Hadag Nachash and ate hummus with Lemonana.
And now I am back in Israel working to bring this culture online for the world to discover and for Israelis to rediscover. I definitely believe that as Jews we have a calling to explore, to move, to not feel settled, to chase justice and create peace. I believe in the power of art, music and culture to challenge us, to nurture our drive and to bring us together.
Edoe Cohen is the creator of Omanoot – Israel through Art, an e-commerce website that enables users around the world to explore Israeli art and culture online. Cohen served in the IDF’s infantry as a company commander. A graduate of Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Cohen is currently pursuing his MBA from the Kellogg-Recanati International EMBA program.
If you are interested in funky, creative ways to turn Judaism into a personal mission, you’ll want to see the new documentary, “Punk Jews”. Here’s the producer, Evan Kleinman, talking about the project, and how it shaped his own sense of Jewish identity:
Among the six Jews featured in the documentary are:
- Moshiach Oi, Hassidic Punk Rock band
- The Sukkos Mob, Yiddish street performance group/li>
- Yitz Jordan (Y-Love), African-American Jewish hip-hop artist
- The Amazing Amy Yiddish Yoga, yoga contortionist
In the past we’ve always classified Jews in America between Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Unaffiliated. And a lot of Jews today in their 20’s and 30’s happen to fall into the category of unaffiliated. Personally, I feel like the word unaffiliated should be completely done away with because it puts a complete negative connotation on the current generation and how they express themselves. I think we should change the word unaffiliated to exploratory…. We want to express our Jewish identity on the street, or in a bar, at a club, at an event, or at a concert.
Many of the Jews in the film were met through Cholent, a weekly gathering of Jews from all walks of life, religious and non-religious. As one participant described it, “It’s Jews from the fringes of everywhere”.
Director Jesse Zook Mann told Heeb n’ Vegan “”I want to turn people on to the idea that people can be creative inside of their heritage and can create what their religion means to them and that freedom and honoring your heritage are not mutually exclusive”.
The feature length film has just finished production and is being submitted to film festivals for the 2012 season.
For more information, see:
Y-love (Yitz Jordan) is a black Jewish hip-hop musician who converted to Judaism in 1999. He says music has been a mode of spirituality his entire life, include even while he was in Israel studying in yeshiva. While in Yeshiva he and his chavruta (study-partner) used hip-hop as part of the way they learned Talmud and Jewish thought. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsBd52_6iB0 )
This song is part of a campaign by Y-love and the ShemSpeed record label to promote diversity and respect of differences within the Jewsish community. The video includes women and men and Jews of many cultures and races.
…. I am an IDF sweatshirt and the chai around your neck. I am a $100 challah cover that you will never use and the five shekel piece of red string you will wear until it withers away. I am your Hebrew name. I am your Israeli cousins. I am your Torah portion and your 13 candles. I am your Bat Mitzvah dress and the cute Israeli soldier on your Birthright trip. I am 18 when I discover that Israel is not actually a garden of Eden of milk and honey where Jews of all backgrounds, ethnicities and styles of worship come together, eternally happy and appreciative to do a constant hora in the streets of the Holy Land. I am still confident that it will be…. (author: Andrew Lustig )