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Russian Jewry: The Effect of Immigration on Israeli Music
Aaron Miller

1. Background

  • Believed Jews could have arrived in modern day Azerbaijan, Armenia
  • Driven out of Western Europe and persecuted in Germany, accepted and Dagestan, Russia around 8th century BCE from Babylon/Iran
  • Driven out of Western Europe and persecuted in Germany, accepted invitation to settle in Poland
  • Lived in shtetls (small Jewish communities) under halakhah rule
  • Muscovite Russia expanded into Eastern Europe, took over Polish Lithuanian lands in 1790s

2. Pale of Settlement

  • Catherine II: fearful of dissolution of Russian nationality, autocracy, and orthodoxy; separates Catholic, Jewish populations
  • Jews begin adopting language, customs
  • BUT life in the shtlets was not good, blamed for rebellions like Decembrist Uprising, etc., double taxation

3. Musical Influences in the Pale

  • Gusli: oldest Russian plucked string instrument
  • Klezmer: Ashkenazi musical tradition meant to complement liturgical and paraliturgical singing with expressive melodies reminiscent of the human voice
  • SHOW VIDEO CLIP #1
  • SHOW VIDEO CLIP #2

4. The First Aliyah

  • Majority of Jews in the world at the end of the 19th century lived in Russian Empire
  • May Laws passed and Jews were xompletely expelled from Kiev and Moscow
  • Hibbat Zion: pre-Zionist movement advocating revival of Jewish life and physical development of the land of Israel
  • Bilu: movement whose goal was the agricultural settlement (eventually joining Hibbat in founding Rishon LeZion)
  • Early conditions were harsh: marshy land, Turk tax, Arab opposition

5. Music in a Foreign Land

  • First major influence on music in Israel outside of locale
  • Although this performance by singer and actress Tova Piron is from 1947 it is exemplary of the trend of Hebrew lyrics on top of foreign (specifically Russian lyrics)
  • SHOW VIDEO CLIP #3

6. Second and Third Aliyahs

  • Arrived in the wake of more pogroms before the war, halted during the war, and then arrived again after the British mandate and Balfour Declaration promising a national home for Jewish people
  • Collective, agricultural communities that combined a mix of Zionistic and socialist beliefs

7. Purposeful Music

  • Haggadah texts (which are used to to set forth the order of the Passover Seder) set to Russian folk styles by Russian born composers like Postolsky’s “We were Pharaoh’s bondsmen in Egypt”
  • PLAY ITUNES SONG #1

8. Society of Jewish Folk Music

  • Much of its importance lies in the fact that pretty much every organization for the promotion of Jewish music followed its methods: it sought to collect folk songs and harmonize them to aid Jewish composers and promote the R&D of religious and secular Jewish folk music
  • Most of them being students at the conservatory there
  • SHOW VIDEO CLIP #4
  • Joel Engel played a key role in its success as he had already formed an important circle of Jewish musicians
  • Founded similar societies elsewhere (Juwal-Verlag in Berlin)

9. Post-Soviet Aliyah

  • During the soviet regime, mass emigration was politically undesirable so the only acceptable reason was for family reunification (generally for elders)
  • One’s family had to quit their jobs just to apply
  • More than a million to Israel b/c US stopped granting unconditional refugee status to Soviet Jews in 1989
  • No attempt to assimilate the Eastern Ashkenazi folk music of the Russian Jews who survived the Cold War

10. Unassimilated High Culture

  • Danced at Russian discotheques, went out with Russians (could’ve been due to large size w/ neighborhoods of tens of thousands)
  • Yet, interestingly enough, according to a study done by Marina Niznik of Tel Aviv University…

11. Russian-Influenced Symphonic Orchestras

  • However many have not adopted a new Jewish (Hebrewist) or Middle Eastern style like the Germans Jewish immigrants did to represent their new national identity
  • Earlier this year, in June, the Israel Philharomnic Orchestra performed a concert comprised of an all-Russian program

San Francisco, in Israeli songs in Hebrew, is presented as a distant and pleasant place, which causes the songwriter to reflect on his/her land (or love) of origin. The similarity of facing West (the Mediterranean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, respectively), indeed seems to prompt some unexpected connections, which are also reflected in the Jewish musical history that unites Israel to the Bay Area.

There are all kinds of wine houses, taverns and dives
In San Francisco, San Malo and Marseille….
There are blondes and brunettes that will eat you alive!
All waiting for some “beau” to sweep them away…
But as for me, despite it all, I swear sincerely,
I am chained down to some dilapidated dame..
If my harmonica sings out a weepy blues,
And if I hate myself, it’s not the wine or booze,
It’s that female, damn it, she’s the one to blame!

What’s come over me? The devil knows!
I am feeling confused and dazed…
Is it the night? Or is it this song
That has left me bewitched and amazed?
A harmonica spreads its wings in flight!
Singing a song of laughter and woes
oh good lord, will you explain the night?
Or is it only the devil that knows?

(Edna Goren and Kobi Recht, Zemer mapuchit, or “The Song of the Harmonica,” 1968; lyrics by Nathan Alterman and music by Sasha Argov, 1956; Hebrew lyrics found here, and English translation, by Achinoam Nini/Noa, available here).

Sitting in San Francisco by the Water
Carried away by the blues and greens
It’s beautiful in San Francisco by the Water
Then why do I feel so removed

Watching the ducks, roaming amongst the boats
and the Golden Gate Bridge, beautiful like in a movie
It’s a shame you’re not here
With me to see it
You’d say you’d never leave

I watch Doctor J, tear down the nets
and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, touches the sky
It’s a shame you’re not here
With me to see it
It’s so beautiful in San Francisco by the Water

Suddenly I want to go back home
Return to the swamp
To sit in Kasit with Moshe and Chatske
Give me Mount Tibor
Give me the Kinneret
I love and keep falling in love with my little Israel Warm and Charming

(Arik Einstein, san fransisqo ‘al ha-mayim – San Francisco on the Water, from the album Hamush bemishkafaim – Armed With Glasses, 1980; lyrics found here).

This week, with the assistance of a guest presenter, we will explore a host of musical relations between Israel and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dorothy Richman (BA Political and Social Thought, University of Virginia; Rabbinic Ordination, Jewish Theological Seminary) was a rabbi in San Francisco at congregations Shaar Zahav and Beth Sholom, and worked for several years at Berkeley Hillel (more here).

In her presentation, Dorothy Richman will discuss the life and contributions of Shlomo Carlebach, and the intersection of Bay Area and Israeli life and culture. As a point of departure, she reflects on a Hebrew poem by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), Israel’s leading poet. (The English translation that appears below was done by Avshalom Guissin, and can be found here; a UC Press edition of translations of Amichai’s poems, by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell, is linked here).

North of San Francisco*

Here the soft hills touch the sea,
like eternity touching on eternity.
And the cows that graze on them
ignore us, like angels.
Even the scent of ripe cantaloupe in the cellar
is a prophecy of calm.

The darkness does not fight the light
but passes it forward
to another light and the only pain
is the pain of not staying.

In my land called holy
eternity isn’t allowed to be eternity:
they divided it into small religions
and demarcated it in deified departments
and shattered it into shards of history
sharp and mortally wounding.
And they turned its calm reaches
into a closeness that twitches with present pain.

On Bolinas beach at the bottom of the wooden stairs
I saw bare buttocked girls
bowing down in the sand
intoxicated with the kingdom of everlasting kingdoms,
and their souls within like doors
closing and opening,
closing and opening,
to the rhythm of the breaking waves.

* From: Yehuda Amichai, Me-Adam Bata, Ve-El Adam Tashuv (Schocken Publishing, Tel Aviv, 1985), pp. 99–100.

The history of the musical relations between Israel and the Bay Area go back to the 1930’s, when San Francisco’s became the first Jewish community in the Diaspora to raise funds for the founding of the Palestine Orchestra (which, as we have learned in a previous week, was the ancestor of modern day’s Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra). 

The Magnes will screen the film, Orchestra of Exiles (2012), about the creation of the Palestine Orchestra by Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, on December 5th (more information here).

The fundraising for the Palestine Orchestra, and the later commissioning of music to Israeli composers such as Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984) and Marc Lavry (1903-1967), was the work of Reuben R. Rinder (1887-1966), who between 1913 and 1962 served as the Cantor of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. 

Reuben H. Rinder (1887-1966)

The Western Jewish Americana archives of The Magnes, accessible at The Bancroft Library, include the Reuben Rinder’s papers, a selection of which is available in an online narrative format (created by your instructor…). You can (actually, you are required, according to our Syllabus) check it out here.

Several decades later, the musical ties between the Bay Area and Israel were renewed, when a San-Francisco-summer-of-love Jewish phenomenon, the music of the House of Love and Prayer (a Jewish center founded in San Francisco in 1967, also documented in the Western Jewish Americana archives of The Magnes at The Bancroft Library (link here), was transplanted to Israel along with its creator, Shlomo Carlebach (1925-1994).

Interestingly enough, Congregation Emanu-El and the House of Love and Prayer were located a few blocks from one another. See Google Maps directions for this 5-minute walk through San Francisco’s Jewish musical history.

Carlebach (who was born in Berlin), had studied in New York, and had moved to the Bay Area in 1966, as an emissary of the Habad movement, along with Zalman Schacheter, as detailed in this week’s reading assignment, eventually moved to Israel, after one of his songs won the Hassidic Song Festival, one of the many song contests created in Israel after the festival hazemer hayisraeli that we discussed last week.

Here’s a clip from an Israeli television broadcast of Carlebach (1973).

A more recent, and less explored connection between our Bay and the Israeli musical scene, is in the open-source-inspired creation of the website, An Invitation to Piyyut (as we’ve learned, a piyyut is a Hebrew poem included in synagogue liturgy).

This extraordinary resource (which is connected to a real-life cultural initiative, Kehillot Sharot, or “singing communities” (active across Israel in transmitting traditional liturgical-musical lore to new generations, defying the boundaries between religion, art, culture, gender, and religious affiliations) charts century-old Hebrew poems in their musical versions across the Jewish Diaspora through texts and melodies. These resources are fully searchable, and also organized according to several principles, such as author, religious occasion (liturgical and para-liturgical events, life cycle ceremonies), and Jewish culture of origin. For example, if you follow this link, you will land on a page listing 21 different poems for the upcoming festival of Hanukkah, in countless musical versions spanning the entire Jewish Diaspora.

The website exists though the efforts of Israeli musician and music promoter Yair Harel (and the formidable support of the Avi Chai Foundation. You can see Yair in action while presenting his project in a very US-minded, Bay-Area-familiar, setting, here:

Punk Rock in Israel
Daniel Cohen

History of punk rock, core elements / philosophy, development in Israel
Global roots
o Developed between 1974-1976 (early 70s) in US, UK, Australia
o Derived from garage rock/ protopunk
o Second wave of punk is 1970s, spread throughout rest of Europe and in Asia
Common point in British/American punk: inner cities left to rot
o Allowed intermingling of young people, artists, squatters
o Sick of being ignored and fed up with the post war complacency
Core elements/ philosophy
o Do-it Yourself (DIY) ethic; self produced / distributed
o Musical virtuosity not required (in fact looked at suspiciously); ‘fast and ‘loud’
Development of rock / punk in Israel
o Rock represented rejection of nationalist culture, came to mark openness to dialogue, change
o By 1980s it was dominant form of pop culture in Israel, by 1990s it was compromised by a number of scenes/styles/textures
o Mid-1980s: Tel Aviv became hot-spot for ‘alternative’ rock or that with ‘cutting edge of aesthetic and stylistic innovation in rock’ (Regev-Seroussi pg. 175); post-punk and new-wave rock styles thrived.
o First Intifada (1987-1991) seemed to set the stage for development of punk in Israel; youths fed up of all the violence/ complacency. This was the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Nature of punk rock in Israel
Punk & Politics
o Punk about protest, freedom, speaking your own mind; believe there is too much apathy in Israel
Israel/Palestine conflict & mandatory military service
o Many punks are youths required to serve in Army, many defy joining by claiming insanity
o Some punks work in the army middle of the week and go to shows to let loose on weekends
o Most punk music supports the Palestinian people (not the Palestinian politicians), are against the occupation, yet have close connection with Israel
o Directly affected by bombings, conflict; leads to fear, frustration, depression, cynicism. Punk life provides ‘escapism’ for every day life.
Israeli punk & religion
o Many punks are not religious, but identify as being Jewish
o Tend to be against religious oppression in any culture, disagree with Orthodox customs and pushing beliefs or customs on people
Generally have positive outlook, optimistic and believe their music and voices are necessary for change

Israeli punk rock sounds / examples

  • State of Fear by Useless I.D. (English vocals); more global appeal with English lyrics, have toured around the world
  • Radio lo chaver (Radio’s Not A Friend) by Beer7; female vocal lead, paved way for female punks – music video shows light spirited antics of punk rock
  • Mi Aatam by Chaos Rabak; popular punk band in Israel, style reminiscent of UK late 70s punk rock

Discussion/ open question:
Does the notion of ‘globalized Israeliness’ imply that music, specifically musical genres such as punk, are universal in that they translate seamlessly from one culture to another? How does punk in Israel support or refute your claims?

Note: ‘globalized Israeliness’ is a mixture of Hebrewism and effects of globalization of culture, according to Regev & Seroussi.

References:
Christgau, Robert, “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain” (review), New York Times Book Review, 1996. Retrieved
on January 17, 2007. http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/bkrev/mcneil-nyt.php
McLaren, Malcolm, “Punk Celebrates 30 Years of Subversion”, BBC News, August 18, 2006. Retrieved on January 17, 2006
Nord, L. (Director). (2006). “Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land” [Documentary]. United States. http://www.jerichosecho.com/
Regev, Motti and Edwin Seroussi. Popular Music and National Culture in Israel, University of California Press, Berkeley 2004

View this document on Scribd
View this document on Scribd

An interesting class discussion on the initial failed attempts to create an Opera house in Palestine before 1948, and on the current status of the Israeli Opera, led to working on a phenomenology of musical production in Israel, today and throughout its history. Below is my “wordle” with the list (almost 30 “agents” of musical productions!) that emerged from class discussion.

Agents of Musical Production in Israel

  1. SCHOOL
  2. ARMY
  3. RADIO
  4. ORCHESTRA
  5. CHURCH
  6. SYNAGOGUE
  7. TV
  8. HOME
  9. FAMILY
  10. RECORDING INDUSTRY
  11. OPERA HOUSE
  12. COMMUNAL SINGING
  13. MOVIE INDUSTRY
  14. MINISTRY FOREIGN AFFAIRS
  15. INTERNET
  16. KIBBUTZ
  17. COPYRIGHT LAW INSTITUTIONS
  18. TRADE UNION
  19. PRINTING HOUSES
  20. THEATERS
  21. CLUBS, CABARETS, CAFES
  22. FESTIVALS
  23. VENDORS
  24. WEDDING
  25. RABBINIC SCHOOLS
  26. MOSQUES
  27. TRANSNATIONAL AGENCIES
  28. MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MANUFACTURERS
  29. DANCE COMPANIES

This is the Land (1935, 50′), by Baruch Agadati (1895-1976; a quasi-legendary character, a dancer-choreographer-artist-film-maker, whom among other things is credited for introducing the Hora to the Palestinian Jewish Yishuv) is considered the first Hebrew language sound film, and was entirely produced in Palestine.

The soundtrack was composed by Yaakov Levanon. Around 25:00 there are various scenes with different types of music, underscoring the variety of musical cultures brought by Jewish immigrants to Palestine during the first half of the 20th century.

Dear Class,

As we discussed at the beginning of the Semester (and as indicated in our Class Syllabus), this Fall we are taking advantage of the fact that our class time coincides with a major Jewish Festival, Sukkot (Hebrew for “booths” or “tabernacles”). The festival lasts for seven days, followed, on the eight day, by shemini ‘atzeret (Hebrew for “eighth [day] of closing [assembly]) and simchat torah (Hebrew for “rejoicing of the Torah,” when the yearly cycle of reading the Hebrew Bible in the synagogue begins anew).

The Hebrew calendar is “lunisolar,”that is, based on the lunar cycle, but also integrated with the solar cycle. Therefore, Jewish holidays always fall during the same season each year, but not always on the same date of the Gregorian calendar. This year, the first day of Sukkot falls on Thursday, September 19, and shemini ‘atzeret falls on Thursday, September 26.

This presents us with the chance to make two field trips to local (Berkeley) synagogues on these dates (or on days immediately following them, if that is more convenient). Since at this point of the semester we are learning about the different Jewish musical traditions in the Diaspora, and about how sounds can define the identity of a group, everyone in the class is required to visit two different synagogues, and reflect on the similarities and the differences presented by each one. This will be a unique chance to experience and reflect upon one of the cultures we are studying in class by observing some of its manifestations in situ, and to further our understanding of fieldwork dynamics.

Below I am detailing how the field trips can take place. Please read the whole message, and register for the field trips. If the instructions are not clear, ask questions during lecture time on Tuesday (September 17). If the trips present a challenge of any sort, promptly inform me by email (ASAP).

All the best,
Francesco

PS: Try clicking on the links above. If you are off Campus and you can read the corresponding entries in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, it means you’ve successfully configured your access to UCB’s electronic resources… Otherwise, read here. (If you are reading this post and do not have UC Berkeley or other academic credentials, the links may not work at all… Sorry about that!).

======================================
ASSIGNMENT / FIELD TRIPSVisit two (2) synagogues during the two weeks of the Sukkot Festival

1. Consult the list of Jewish congregations in Berkeley
The list is available online at this link. It includes addresses, contact information, and website links. Note that they are not listed in order of importance (but the first two are very close to Campus), and that not all of them will be holding services during the upcoming holiday.
2. Choose two (2) different synagogues
Individual visits can take place during class time (travel time is included in class time, so your actual visit may and up being as short as 30-45 minutes, depending on which synagogue you plan to visit), but also at the other times indicated in the Field Trip Registration Form (see below, No. 3). In other words, you can choose to conduct your field trips during class time, but also at another time (based on the registration form, see below No. 3), if that is more convenient for you. However, you must visit two (2) different synagogues on two separate field trips.
3. Register for each field trip
a) Add your name (First, Last) to the synagogue and time corresponding to your visit on the Field Trip Registration Form, a shared Google Spreadsheet linked here.
b) No more than twelve students can visit a synagogue at the same time (to limit your impact on the congregations you will be visiting).
c) You must use your @berkeley.edu login to bDrive to access the registration spreadsheet (more information here).
d) Registration closes at 3PM on Wednesday, September 18. Make sure you name is on the spreadsheet for both field trips by then!
4. Plan your visits (field trips)
a) Read the congregations’ websites (links provided in the list below and online, AND in the shared spreadsheet), and document yourself on the background and history of each of the two congregations you are planning to visit.
b) Plan your trip (all congregations are located within walking distance, and near public transportation), to make sure you maximize the time at your disposal.
c) In general, make sure you have as much information with you BEFORE your trip, so that DURING the trip you can focus on researching your surroundings.
5. During your visits: seven general rules of conduct
Remember that you will be visiting ritual spaces, and that you may not be aware of all the rules of conduct that govern them. Be as respectful as you can of your (unfamiliar?) surroundings.
a) Dress appropriately (use your judgment), and be quiet.
b) Silence your phones.
c) Stand when people stand, sit when they sit.
d) Ask for page in prayer book (don’t be shy about asking for assistance!).
e) Introduce yourself if anyone asks you why you are there. There is a long-standing history of visiting synagogues on the part of “strangers” (Jewish visitors from out of town, Jewish members of other congregations, and non-Jewish visitors), so your presence will not be out of the ordinary. But it will definitely be noticed.
f) Do not take notes, do not take photographs, do not make audio recordings, do not use any electronic devices while you are inside a synagogue
g) Do your best to minimize your luggage (backpacks, etc.), and try to not have any with you if possible (of course, some of you will be going back to class, so you may need your backpack with you).
6. During your visits: observe and listen to your surroundings (field work)
Be as aware of your surroundings as you can. Look for the following:
a) Architectural space: what does it look like, how is space distributed and occupied, etc.
b) Population: number of people attending, age, gender, dress code(s).
c) Use of space gender and age.
d) Languages (of the prayer books, of people conducting the prayers, etc.).
e) Sounds and music: any particular sounds? recognizable melodies? identifiable musical style or styles?
Also, refer to the four parameters listed in the Listening Assignment Sheet for Week 2 (soundscape; performance style, language, and context).
7. After your visits: take notes (field notes)
As soon as you are able to, write down your observations on the points listed above (No. 6), or on additional details and impressions you may have gathered from your visit. Try to be as systematic as you can in collecting your notes, so that you can compare them from one field trip to the next.
8. After your visits: class work
We will be comparing notes and impressions in class (weeks 4 and 5), and you will be asked to incorporate your observations in you weekly responses (note that on week 4 we discuss the many waves of immigration to Palestine in the early 20th century, each of which brought with them different musical traditions).
9. About instructors’ participation
Both Rachel Colwell (graduate student assistant) and Francesco Spagnolo (lecturer) will be also visiting two different synagogues at this time. But we will not register online, and we will only see those of you who are registered for the same field trips on such occasions. We plan to share our observations with the class as well.

When studying the many musical traditions that were brought to Palestine, and then to the State of Israel, by Jewish immigrants, we confronted the challenges presented by the multi-dimensionality of Jewish cultural identity.

Here are my field notes from our conversation, which led us to consider the role of ethnomusicology in Jewish Studies.

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