Stories of Music with Cantor Hinda Labovitz: Yiddish as a Reflection of  the Jewish American Experience

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Stories of Music with Cantor Hinda Labovitz: Yiddish as a Reflection of  the Jewish American Experience



How does music reflect the American Jewish experience? What does Jewish music tell us about our identities and history? Join us to explore these questions and more through Stories of Music, an adult education project of the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where you will have the opportunity to learn with top faculty from UCLA and the Cantors Assembly.

This Unit: Di Yiddishe Amerike: Yiddish as a Reflection of  the Jewish American Experience [Unit 3]

Yiddish Music Then and Now

With the large Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Yiddish became a prominent feature of the American Jewish experience. Through Yiddish music these new immigrants expressed their allegiance to their new home land. They described as well some of the more difficult realities of the immigrant experience. Yiddish quickly made its way from the Lower East Side to Broadway, Hollywood and into American pop culture. Today there is a revival of interest in Yiddish music that is as reflective of the Jewish American experience today as it was a century ago.

Through this class, the learner will understand that

  • Since the first wave of immigration from Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century, Yiddish has been a prominent part of the American Jewish experience.
  • For early Jewish immigrants, Yiddish provided a venue for expressing their enthusiasm and passion for their new homeland.
  • Today, for many, Yiddish music feels like an authentic connection to Jewish ancestral roots.
  • This transformation of the place and use of Yiddish over the past century is, itself, reflective of the transformation in the identity of the individual Jew vis a vis America and of the place of the Jewish community in America.

Learners will be listen to the early Yiddish music of Joseph Rumshinsky, Henry Russotto, Abe Schwartz and Alfred von Tilzer. They’ll hear the influence of Yiddish music on Irving Berlin. And they’ll be introduced to modern interpretations of Yiddish songs by performers like the Klezmatics and Mandy Patinkin.

Along the way, they’ll be asked:

  • In what ways did American Jewish composers express their patriotism through music in the early twentieth century?
  • How do these early 20th century attitudes reflect or conflict with current attitudes about American/Jewish Identity among Jews?
  • What is the motivation for the Yiddish revival and today’s new compositions?

The Stories of Music curriculum is developed in partnership with the Cantors Assembly, the American Conference of Cantors, and our colleagues at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music. Our goal is to provide prepared lesson materials on a broad range of musically related topics to engage participants in adult education programs to think about the American Jewish experience through stories of the evolving nature of Jewish music.

This program is made possible by the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.