Posts Tagged With: Women

Happy New Year 2012 (5773)

Wishing all our readers a sweet and happy Rosh HaShanna.  Shofar blowing by Jews around the world.

Categories: Moments of Hope, To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Neshama Carlebach’s Inclusive HaTikva

At the invitation of the Forward, Neshama Carlebach has recorded a new version of the first verse of HaTikva, Israel’s national anthem.

The Forward’s goal was to start a debate about how the wording of HaTikvah could be made more inclusive for Arab Israelis by setting new words to the prayerful voice of Neshama Carlebach. The lack of inclusiveness made headlines earlier this spring when an Arab Israeli Supreme Court judge, Salim Joubran, stood for the anthem but did not sing the words aloud.

The lyrics are a joint effort of Forward blogger Philologos and Neshama Carlebach. Philologos made suggestions for replacing several phrases that excluded non-Jewish Israelis. Carlebach added a repeat of the last two lines of HaTikva using the original words. Thus the inclusion of non-Jewish Israelis wouldn’t be at the expense of the Jewish Israeli experience.

Here are the revised lyrics. Changes are in bold with the original words following in brackets.

As long as the heart within
An Israeli [Jewish] soul still yearns
And onward, towards the East
An eye still gazes towards our country [Zion]
We have still not lost our hope
our ancient [2000 year] hope
To be a free people in the land of our fathers [our land]
in the city in which David, in which David encamped [land of Zion and Jerusalem]
To be a free people in our land
In the land of Zion and Jerusalem

For Philologos, these lyrics represent a change of heart. Back in 1998 when Israel made it to the World Cup, the anthem had also made the news. One of the Israeli team members, an Arab Israeli named Walid Badir, also stood but stayed silent. At that time Philologos had believed that there was nothing that could be done to make the words acceptable and people like Badir would just have to settle with standing and staying silent. This spring, after the Joubran story made headlines, he wrote,

I’ve changed my mind about “Hatikvah.” The successful integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli life, on which the country’s future depends, has to have its symbolic expression, too. It’s unacceptable to have an anthem that can’t be sung by 20% of a population. Permitting it to stand mutely while others sing is no solution.

Neshama Carlebach is very aware of the sensitive nature of the song. As she explained to the Jerusalem Post,

I think it was a very controversial move, because to change the lyrics to a precious song like ‘Hatikva’ is a very big statement… It’s not about leaving the world we were in behind; it’s about opening our doors wider. I feel that if the world sees, in my own humble opinion, that Israel is not just a small exclusive group that they can’t touch, but a larger entity that’s willing to wrap our arms around the whole of humanity or even change our anthem, we’re opening our doors, and maybe the press would be better.

Categories: Building a Just Israel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Malavsky Family Choir

Cantor Samuel Malavsky, born in Kiev, was well known for singing with his sons and daughters in concert in the 1940’s and 1950’s, long before women cantors were accepted even in non-orthodox synagogues. Malavsky insisted on giving his daughters respect due to cantors as well. In concerts Malavsky’s daughters, and not just Malavsky, would sing with tallit and kippah. Several prayer tunes were composed with “boy alto” solos so that his daugher Goldie could sing. Some had soprano solos as well. Malavsky’s music may be some of the earliest cantorial settings deliberately composed for the female cantorial voice.

During World War II, they sang the High Holidays in San Francisco. The family frequently lead Passover seders in the Catskills as well. But in general, opportunties to use their skills to lead prayer were limited. Orthodox synagogues would not allow him to sing with his daughters. Conservative synagogues welcomed the family as a group, but Malavsky did not like the changes to liturgy. He found his solution singing in hotels, music halls. Sometimes the same Orthodox rabbis who would not let Malavsky and his daughters sing in their shuls would come to the concert at the hotel.

The family also did numerous recordings and even cinema shorts, as in this clip below (song starts at 0:56).

  • The family choir, known as “The Singers of Israel” performed ….
  • Malavsky’s cantorial style was known for its strong marked beat and syncopation. (jewish virtual library)
  • Goldie Malavsky : her own album – , singing Ich Baink Ahaim

Some other songs by the Malavsky family:

  • Yedid Nefesh : Malavksy as soloist accompanied by soloist
  • Ribon HaOlamim : solo by Malavsky, no choir, but very beautiful classical chazzanut, shabbat song typically sung between shalom aleichem and eshet chayil
  • Tzur MiShelo Achalnu : Shabbat table song, sung after eating. (clip above)
  • Vchol Boei Olam : solos by both Malavsky, a daughter and the family choir
  • Tzena Tzena – Israeli folk song

For more about the “The Singers of Israel”, see

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Redemption: Vehi SheAmda

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.

This version of the song is sung by Adi Arad, an Israeli singer who specializes in Chazanut and is also known for the prayer she composed for Gilad Shalit while he was in custody.

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.

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Karev Yom: And it Happened at Midnight

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.

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Oy! Gevolt is Anything But (Yiddish Kletzmer-Metal Fusion)

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 will be appearing in Israel at Metal Fest in Tel Aviv on April 10, 2012. They are also trying to organize a US tour.

Gevolt Website:

Gevolt on Facebook
Gevolt on Twitter
Gevolt on YouTube
Gevolt on MySpace
Gevolt on Last.FM

Additional information:

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

My Sweet Canary: Roza Eshkenazy

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.

Her life and the Jewish-Turkish milieu in which she lived was memorialized in a documentary, “My Sweet Canary”, by Haifa born director Roy Sher. Continue reading

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does Tzipi Livni in Newsweek’s Top 150 Tell Us About Women and Power?

On Monday Newsweek/the Daily Beast named Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, head of Kadima, among its list of “150 women who shake the world”. She is the only Israeli in the list. The international list contains 52 women from the USA, 4 from the UK, 2 from France, 3 from the FSU, 5 from Egypt, 2 from Syria and 6 from Iran. No one from Jordan or the Palestinian Authority made the list.

Newsweek looks past the decline of the Kadima party in recent years and focuses in on the number of seats her party currently holds, her advocacy work and integrity. It describes her like this:

The first female opposition leader in Israel’s history, Tzipi Livni quickly rose through government ranks, from her first appointment in 2001 to being sworn in as the first woman vice prime minister five years later. currently the head of Kadima, Israel’s largest political party, Livni is one of the most powerful women in the country. A former lawyer known for her honesty and integrity, she has been a steadfast proponent of the peace process. Livni was the chief negotiator for Israel in talks with Palestinians, supporting a pullout from the gaza Strip and a two-state solution to the conflict. She is also an active advocate for women’s and gay rights.

Tzipi Livni responded to the recognition with gratitude and hopes that more women would have the opportunities to power that she has enjoyed. On her facebook page she wrote:

I am glad that Israel is represented on this distinguished list in this positive context of strong women, particularly at a time when Israel is mentioned in the context of the unacceptable phenomena of the exclusion of women, which has raised its ugly head. I hope more women will have the power to act and fight for the right to determine their future as I plan to continue to fight for the face and the values of Israel. (Translation: Times of Israel)

In an interview on Israeli Army Radio she acknowledged the compliment to herself, but then stressed the national signifiance, saying “it’s good that an Israeli woman features on the list.”

Every major Israeli newspaper has trumpeted this news, some in ways that are very telling about their biases. Whatever one thinks of her leadership of Kadima, it is hard to argue with the claim that she is one of the most powerful women in Israel. Yet all of the major papers except HaAretz and Ynet had difficulty with acknowledging Livni as a woman of power, even though they quoted liberally from the Newsweek biographical summary. Continue reading

Categories: Building a Just Israel, How Others See Us | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Deborah Feldman: Finding Jewishness outside of Satmar

Deborah Feldman grew up with the Satmar Hassidim. When she and her husband had trouble consummating the marriage, they moved out of Brooklyn to a more liberal Jewish community. There she learned to drive and secretly began attending classes at Sarah Lawrence University. Eventually, she chooses to leave her husband and the Orthodox community in which she grew up.

Although her family responded to her leaving with anger and even hate mail encouraging suicide, for Deborah the leaving was a rebirth, a necessary step in recognizing her authentic self. In a recent interview with JSpace she says:

There’s a huge difference between faith and identity. What I rejected was more of a culture. The culture taught that faith is about fear of God, which I never really swallowed, because I don’t really believe that if there were a God he’d want to be feared. When I rejected the culture, I guess I rejected the faith that they taught.

I felt very much that I was reclaiming the Jewish identity that I had never had when I left, because I got to be a part about the mainstream Jewish community, and I got to learn about Israel, and I got to meet a very diverse group of Jews. If anything, I feel more Jewish now, because when I was growing up I felt alienated, and I felt like an oddity and an Other in that Jewish community.

She has recently written a book about her childhood and the decision to leave.

The book was released on February 14, 2012. She told Jspace that despite secular media’s promotion of the book as a tell-all, her main goal was to tell the story of her relationship with her grandmother and the struggle she felt between loyalty to those she loved and her own need for self-determination. In a video produced by her publishers, she says:

I hope to show people that even though it’s really scary to go right up to the edge and jump off, if you can do it it opens up this whole new world. So if you have the courage to give up everything, you can achieve everything. And you’ll never be in danger of losing yourself in the process. That’s what I’ve learned and that’s what I want to show other people: that bravery pays off.

But she also acknowledges leaving is not for everyone. One has to weight the circumstances because neither world is perfect. Each has its own complex challenges.

The book was written during the first six months after she left. As such it gives us a glimpse into a journey in process.    Chana from The Curious Jew observed:

Something I found odd but interesting was that despite her claim to want individuality, at the end of the day, what Deborah really wanted was to conform to something else. She wasn’t very good at conforming to the world she was born into, but she expresses deep relief and happiness at being able to conform to secular America…. While Deborah realizes by the end of her work that she can keep aspects of her past with her, and even be proud of them, I think this deep-rooted wish to conform and not to stand out is one of the lingering negative aspects of her upbringing. It seems to me that Deborah still has more steps to take and strides to make in reclaiming her individuality – so that she can be different from her society but not totally in step with American secular society, either.

Female role models have played a key role in this journey. Below is an interview with Barbara Walters on ABC. Barbara Walter’s own story played a pivotal role in Feldman’s life..

Going forward, she would like to help other women in transition. She would like to volunteer with Footsteps, a group that helps those who leave Haredi communities adapt to mainstream American life. She also dreams of setting up a shelter to help other women, perhaps using some of the proceeds from her book. She also hopes to continue writing. It appears she has a promising future. The Jewish Journal, which previewed the book before its release Jewish Journal praised the quality of the writing saying:

Through a narrative voice that is almost hypnotic, she puts you immediately in the center of her chaotic world. Flashes of adult wisdom seem almost to compete with her childlike sense of bafflement, and we watch this young author struggle fearlessly to find herself on the page.She is unlike so many other authors who have left Orthodoxy and written about it; her heart is not hardened by hatred, and her spirit is wounded but intact.

You can find out more about Deborah Feldman and her book at her website:

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Neshama Carlebach: B’shem HaShem

While some are trying to hide women behind mechitzas, blur their pictures, and consign them to singing where only other women can hear, Shlomo Carlebach encouraged his daughter to sing even as a little girl of five. At fifteen she began performing with her father. Aware that some of his followers did not believe in listening to women, he would give fair warning. Recalling their last tour before his death, daughter Neshama says, “He would say if anyone has a problem with that, go out for five minutes and then come back,”.

After her father’s death she began singing out of grief and to comfort those who had followed her father. Eventually she found that the singing was her own mission too. She writes on her website:

My father always said that when we sing, it’s like we’re praying twice. When I am on stage I experience prayer in the deepest sense. In this crazy world, sadly enough, people often are too afraid to feel. We too terrified to open our souls to our deepest prayers, yet so broken at all we are missing inside. Somehow, when we don’t have the words to express all that we need, music says it for us. Music can somehow break our hearts and allow us to feel so whole all at the same time. This miracle is what I feel when I sing.

Neshama Carlebach sings a few concerts before women only audiences because some women feel more comfortable in all female audiences. However, most of her concerts are to mixed audiences. This has created controversy in certain orthodox circles (example), but she says she is comfortable with her decision to sing before mixed audiences. She told Ynet in 2006:

My father never told me not to sing for men. I’ll tell you exactly what he said. He said that if we lived in a time when every Jewish woman was lighting Shabbat candles and every Jewish woman felt that she had a voice to talk to G-d then women wouldn’t have to sing. But as long as there is even one woman in the world who feels disconnected and far from G-d, she thinks that she is limited and she thinks that she doesn’t have the same rights, the same opportunities, then, he said, my daughter has to sing. And he said this to me even before I thought this would be my career. I didn’t think what I was doing was so important, but then after my father died it became a part of my heart.

The song below, B’Shem HaShem was the song she sang on that last tour. According to lore, Shlomo Carlebach originally composed it as a lullaby for one of his daughters when she was young.

בשם השם אלוהי ישראל
מימיני מיכאל ומשמאלי גבריאל
ומלפני אוריאל ומאחורי רפאל
ועל ראשי, ועל ראשי, שכינת האל.

In the name of HaShem, God of Israel
Who is on the right of Michael and on the left of Gabriel
Who is in front of Uriel and behind Refael
And over my head, over my head, there’s the shechinah (presence) of God

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at