(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The inaugural year of the New York Jewish Music & Heritage Festival, which runs from September 7-14, is being launched as part of the nationwide celebration of 350 years of Jewish life in America, commemorating the anniversary of the first Jewish settlers who landed in Lower Manhattan on September 12, 1654 after being expelled from Brazil.
Longtime producer Michael Dorf, the founder and executive director of the festival, has included more than 50 groups in 15 venues performing an unprecedented variety of music broadly defined as "Jewish." The festival is sponsored by the UJA-Federation of NY and a number of private foundations including the Michael Steinhardt Foundation, Charles Bronfman Foundation, Rudin Family Foundation, Samuel Bronfman Foundation, Russell Berrie Foundation, Lynn Korda Kroll, Roy J. Zuckerberg Family Foundation, F.E.G.S. and the Educational Alliance.
The festival kicked off on September 7 with a concert at 92nd Street called "Great Jewish Artists Perform Great Jewish Composers," featuring Neil Sedaka, Lisa Loeb, Jill Sobule and Philip Glass performing compositions by Irving Berlin, Simon & Garfunkel and Glass. Concerts throughout the week will feature dozens of the best traditional Klezmer bands from around the world as well as rock, rap, middle-eastern and Gypsy music, Hasidic reggae, children's master classes, cantorial singing and Hebrew-language opera.
"Jewish music has evolved far beyond traditional wedding music," says Dorf. "It has absorbed and influenced a huge range of pop music styles, and touched some of pop culture's biggest stars. Jews represent only 2.5% of America's population, but their influence on Western culture's arts and sciences, as well as their outspoken challenges to adversity–are pervasive. This festival celebrates the energy and creativity of Jewish artists in America, and specifically in New York, which is home to Jews with backgrounds from around the world. This large and diverse Jewish community along with the wealth of cultural, community and religious institutions, makes New York the perfect place to host this new annual gathering.
Venerable institutions such as the 92nd Street Y, Museum of Jewish Heritage, Manhattan JCC and Center for Jewish History, and intimate music performance spaces like at Makor, Satalla and Tonic, plus synagogues old and new, as well as the old Yiddish Mazer Theatre on the Lower East Side are among the venues offering concerts and events during the eight-day festival.
Sol Adler, executive director, 92nd Street Y, comments, "We are thrilled to be participating in this ambitious and joyful event, which puts the current Jewish cultural renaissance center stage. The 92nd Street Y, in its 130 years of existence, has been an inextricable part of the tapestry of Jewish culture in New York, and it is wonderful to welcome the next generation of Jewish cultural innovators, like Michael Dorf, Jill Sobule and David Broza, to our concert hall and to Makor – the newest member of our family – and to see so many venues around the city opening their doors to be part of this festival."
"This festival brings us together to mark an important milestone in American Jewish history with music and celebration," says John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO, UJA-Federation of New York.
The centerpiece of the festival is a day long event being held at the South Street Seaport on the officially recognized anniversary date September 12. Starting at 11am, a ship will land with 23 people representing the immigrants who landed 350 years ago. Special dignitaries and elected officials will participate in this landing, which will open up a day of music from eight important groups appealing to young and old. It starts with four of the best klezmer bands– Andy Statman Trio, a premier of a Brazilian project of Frank London, the U.S. premier of de Amsterdam Klezmer Band, the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars; moving into two creative hybrid projects – Steven Bernstein's Diaspora Soul, Pharoah's Daughter, then moving towards the very popular pop and jam Bands – Blue Fringe, Moshav Band; and ending the day with Hassidic-reggae phenomenon – Matisyahu.
"The festival allows the cultural fan to explore a sampling of the many different directions Jewish music has come from and where it is currently moving," Dorf continues. "The festival will have the opportunity in the future to bring communities from all five boroughs, who have come from communities all around the globe—from Syria, Iran, Morroco, Spain, Cuba, Brazil, Australia, Israel, and settled within a subway ride of Manhattan. This becomes very exciting."
The festival is produced through the Downtown Arts Development, Inc., a new non-profit organization focused on development of festivals, musical presentations, and educational activities. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen
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