The Sounds of Eretz Yisrael in America: 1920’s-1950’s

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The Sounds of Eretz Yisrael in America: 1920’s-1950’s

This lesson will explore how American Jews have engaged with Israeli musical forms, from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. We will examine how Israeli music navigated the ongoing relationship between American Jews and Zionism and Israel.

Through this lesson, learners will understand that:

  • Israeli music was a primary means through which American Jews were exposed to Israeli culture and Zionism, and became and remained connected to Eretz Yisrael.
  • Israeli music grew in impact on the synagogue and in Jewish education efforts, formal and informal, as American Zionism took hold.
  • The “sound” of Israeli music has influenced the composition of American Jewish composers.
  • American Jews’ integration and distribution of Israeli music reflects the contemporaneous relationship of American Jews to Israel.

Learners will listen to the music of Bracha Zefira, Julius Chajes, Max Helfman, Marc Lavry, and more.

All the while, they’ll ask themselves:

  • How has Israeli music made its impact on American Jewish life, in both formal and informal ways?
  • How has the music had an impact on American Jewish composers and songwriters?

Materials & Resources

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We are deeply grateful to the two people who wrote these lessons:

Lorry Black, DMA, Associate Director, Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience
Rabbi Dr. J.B. Sacks, Educational and Curriculum Specialist, Stories of Music; Rabbi, Congregation Am HaYam (Ventura, CA)


Our gratitude extends to the pedagogic advisors and reviewers of this lesson:

Mark Kligman, PhD, Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music, UCLA
Dr. Susan Helfter, USC Thornton School of Music
Rabbi Devin Villarreal, Thrive Educational Services
Cantor Julie Berlin, Temple Beth-El (San Antonio, TX)
Cantor Sheldon Levin, Congregation Neve Shalom (Metuchen, NJ)