The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Irene Heskes

Irene Heskes (1923–1999) was a music historian who specialized in Jewish music. She contributed entries to Encyclopedia Judaica, Musical Theater in America, and The Handbook of Holocaust Literature. Among her books are Studies in Jewish Music, Jews in Music, The Resource Book of Jewish Music, Yiddish-American Popular Songs, 1895–1950, and Passport to Jewish Music: Its History, Traditions, and Culture.

Articles by this author

Yiddish Musical Theater in the United States

Jewish women on stage in America took on a variety of musical roles and performed all kinds of songs, including religious hymns and liturgical chants. In its heyday, the Yiddish stage mirrored American Jewish life. An amazing range of women’s woes were highlighted, discussed, and often resolved across the footlights, presenting the reality that immigrant women faced to an extent not paralleled in the English-language theatrical world during those years.

Ruth Rubin

Ruth Rubin devoted a lifetime to the collection and preservation of Yiddish folklore in poetics and songs. As a popular performer-folklorist, she would describe the background of her selections and then sing them in a simple, unaccompanied style. Rubin helped preserve the past and launch the modern Yiddish revival.

Miriam Gideon

Prolific composer Miriam Gideon took inspiration for her compositions from great poetry and Jewish prayers. In addition to her career as a musical educator, her works have been widely performed, honored, and published.

Cantors: American Jewish Women

Women’s vocal leadership in synagogue music began with zogerin (women prayer leaders) in the women’s gallery. In the nineteenth century, women began participating in mixed choral and community singing, and some opera singers acted as cantors in important Reform congregations. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Reform and Conservative movements began formally investing women as cantors, and today a plurality of cantors in liberal movements are women.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Irene Heskes." (Viewed on August 3, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/author/heskes-irene>.

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