Content type
Collage of Alicia Jo Rabins and a river on purple background

Finding Meaning in Midrash Through Song

Olivia Gnad

When I heard Alicia Jo Rabins' performance of “River So Wide,” it brought the world of the Torah close to me in a way it had never been before.

Birth of Yemenite-Israeli Singer Shlomit Levi

March 9, 1983

Singer Shlomit Levi is dedicated to depicting music’s power to connect. Her singing career portrays the beauty of finding one’s way back to one’s own roots, as well as the importance of defying boundaries. She is mainly self-taught, and as she describes, “When I compose, I just do it by singing. You find your ways. Sometimes it turns out special because I do stuff other musicians wouldn’t do” (Jewish Standard).

Birth of Leila Murad, Egyptian Singer and Actress

February 17, 1918

The face and voice of Leila Murad were well-known to the Arab world between the 1930s and the 1950s. Murad, like many other Jewish movie stars, struggled to reconcile her career with a religion that oftentimes obstructed paths to success. Her father, a Jewish chazan (cantor) and respected musician, nurtured her stardom, training her and introducing her to prominent Egyptian actors and musicians.

Tatiana Wecshler Headshot

7 Questions For Tatiana Wechsler

Jen Richler

Our new series 7 Questions For... debuts with Black Jewish actor/singer/songwriter Tatiana Wecshler. 

Topics: Theater, Music
Collage of band Sleater-Kinney on red background

Get Angry: Carrie Brownstein and the Legacy of Riot Grrrl

Ava Weinstein

Judaism’s core teachings of tikkun olam, social justice, and equality are what the riot grrrl movement was all about. Sleater-Kinney is no different.

Topics: Music, Feminism, Protests
Figurine of woman playing drum

From the Archive: Woman Playing Frame Drum

Deborah Dash Moore
Mimi Jessica Brown Wooten

The Posen Library shares a nearly 3000-year-old figurine of a woman playing a hand-drum.

Topics: Sculpture, Music, Bible

Habiba Msika, Tunisian Actress and Singer, is Murdered

February 21, 1930

On February 21, 1930, Habiba Msika, a Tunisian actress and singer, was murdered. Often called the “first star of Tunis,” Msika rose to fame across the Maghreb and Middle East because of her beautiful voice and unique talent to entertain. Her life of luxury was brought to an untimely end by her murder by a jealous suitor.

Ester Rada Releases “Nanu Ney,” the First Amharic Song on Israeli Pop Radio

October 19, 2014

On October 19, 2014, Ester Rada, an Ethiopian-Israeli actress and singer-songwriter, released “Nanu Ney.” The song was a major success and became the first Amharic song played on Israeli pop radio. (Traditional Amharic songs were played on Amharic stations, whose audience was mostly older Ethiopian-Israelis.)

Illeana Douglas as Denise Waverly in Grace of My Heart

You Probably Missed This Film When It Came out 25 Years Ago. Don’t Let That Happen Again.

Sarah Jae Leiber

This holiday season, skip the blockbusters and watch Grace Of My Heart instead.

Mahinarangi Tocker

New Zealand singer-songwriter Mahinaarangi Tocker (1955-2008) was best known as a Maori musician, but her Jewish heritage was an essential component of her identity and her music.

Episode 59: Zohra El Fassia

Zohra El Fassia was born around 1905 near Fez, Morocco. She sang from the time she was a girl, and by the mid-20th century, she was a star. El Fassia recorded hundreds of songs for international record labels and performed regularly for the king in Rabat. When she moved to Israel in 1962, her career took a hit, but she sought out smaller venues and was soon rediscovered by younger Moroccan Israeli artists. Zohra El Fassia died in 1994. Writer and ethnomusicologist Tamar Sella tells her story for Can We Talk? and for JWA's revised and updated edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

Julie Rosewald

Julie Eichberg Rosewald was America’s first woman cantor. Known as the “Cantor Soprano” at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, she served between 1884 and 1893. Rosewald enjoyed a brilliantly successful career in opera as well as being a composer, author, teacher, and professor of music.

Zohra El Fassia

Zohra El Fassia was a renowned singer and recording artist in twentieth-century Morocco. Her life story moves between the burgeoning colonial recording industry in the Maghrib to North African immigrant histories in the south of Israel. El Fassia’s soulful music and powerful persona have resonated with generations of artists and activists who look to her for the unheard stories of Jews in the Arab and Muslim world and of Mizrahi Jews in Israel.

Women and Sephardic Music

Ladino or Judeo-Spanish Sephardic songs are primarily a women’s repertoire. The two main traditions are that of northern Morocco and the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily today’s Turkey, Greece, the Balkans.

Women in Israeli Music

The arrival in pre- and post-state Israel of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa resulted in a culturally diverse proliferation of music, much of which involved performance and composition by Jewish women. Jewish women have also contributed significantly to the development of music education and music scholarship, being involved in music studies publications and projects as well as the development of music education institutions.

Florence Menk-Meyer

Australian pianist Florence Menk-Meyer took Europe by storn with her musicianship during her first visit there in the 1880s. She was a favorite of audiences overseas and in Australia for many decades, her achievements as a pianist compared to Liszt and other legendary masters

Jewish Women in Contemporary Popular Music: 1950 to Present

Since 1950, Jewish women musicians have moved with the times, performing with bands, as solo acts, and as songwriters. They have included mainstream pop performers and rock, punk, and Riot Grrrl musicians. Some Israeli artists have reached international audiences, often via the Europvision Song Contest.

Jewish Women in Jazz

Jewish women have been involved the world of jazz from its beginnings, as instrumentalists, vocalists, and businesspeople. The degree to which Jewishness overtly affects their music varied, and these musicians’ identities as Jews intersect in interesting ways with other facets of their selves, most notably their femaleness. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, Jewish women in jazz took up a wider variety of instruments, and as jazz became more international, Jewish female jazz musicians from around the globe began to come to prominence.

Karen Sarhon

Karen Gerson Sarhon, founder and vocalist of the Sephardic music group Los Pasharos Sefaradis, is coordinator of the Sephardic Culture Research Center in Istanbul, Turkey, and chief editor of El Amaneser, the world's only newspaper wholly in Judeo-Spanish/Ladino. She continues to produce innovative projects for the preservation and promotion of Sephardic culture and language.


Flory Jagoda

Flory Jagoda is a singer, musician, and composer who has promulgated and enriched the Sephardic and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) musical and folkloric tradition in the United States. Born in 1923, in Sarajevo, Bosnia (formerly Yugoslavia), she managed to leave Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia and avoid the sad fate of the extended family that nurtured her musical talent and Sephardic heritage. The popular Hanukah song, Ocho Kandelikas, is one of her many original compositions in Judeo-Spanish.

Elizabeth Swados

Elizabeth (Liz) Swados was an American composer, writer, and theatrical director. Best known for her 1978 Broadway musical, Runaways, Swados created a diverse body of work that included novels, poetry, plays, music, and musicals.

Episode 51: Alicia Svigals, Klezmer Fiddler (Transcript)

Episode 51: Alicia Svigals, Klezmer Fiddler (Transcript)

Episode 51: Alicia Svigals, Klezmer Fiddler

Alicia Svigals is the world’s leading klezmer fiddler and has played a central role in the klezmer revival. Alicia was a co-founder of the Grammy-Award winning band, the Klezmatics, and she has recorded, performed, and collaborated with countless artists over nearly four decades. In our second episode on creativity in the pandemic, Alicia joins us to talk about how music is helping her get through this difficult time.

Mordechai Gebirtig's 'Undzer Shtetl Brent' with flames

"Undzer Shtetl Brent": Our Town Is Burning

Erica Gerald Mason

Written in the aftermath of a pogrom, Mordechai Gebirtig's 1936 song "Undzer Shtetl Brent" is particularly relevant in 2020.

Topics: Music

Episode 42: Ode to Ladino

Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, was once the mother tongue of Sephardic Jews in Turkey and other Jewish communities that once thrived around the Mediterranean. Now, there are only about 100,000 Ladino speakers scattered throughout the world. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we meet Karen Sarhon, a woman on a mission to keep Ladino, and the culture surrounding it, alive. Freelance journalist Durrie Bouscaren brings us this story from Istanbul, Turkey.


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