News / USA

Show Explores Spiritual Link Between African-American, Jewish Music

NY musical revue explores common ground

Soul2Soul stars (l to r)) Tony Perry, Magda Fishman and Elmore James.
Soul2Soul stars (l to r)) Tony Perry, Magda Fishman and Elmore James.

Multimedia

Audio

February is Black History Month in the United States, a time to recall the challenges and triumphs of African-Americans and to highlight their contribution to Americans of all races and ethnic groups.

Historically, the relationship between blacks and Jews has been both complex and fruitful and, recently, among the most strained. Recently however, a new musical revue explores their common ground.

Cantor Magda Fishman sings a soulful Hasidic Jewish melody in Yiddish, the Hebrew and German-based language of Eastern European Jewry, that was spoken in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust, and in some American and Israeli communities today. It is followed tenor Tony Perry’s heartfelt rendering of a Negro spiritual melody from his own African-American tradition.  

Those are just two magical moments in Soul2Soul, a musical revue produced by the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene. The show explores common ground and shared spirit between Jewish and African-American musical traditions.

Folksbiene director Zalmen Mlotek, who created Soul2Soul, says African-Americans and Jews have both known centuries of oppression. When he heard Tony Perry and co-star Elmore James at an audition singing African-American spirituals and Yiddish folk songs about struggle, he wanted to build a bridge between the Jewish community and the African-American community. “And what better way to do it than through music?," he thought.

Mlotek was first exposed to African-American spirituals during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Many Jewish Americans were allied with the African-American struggle for equality, which often used spirituals as anthems. Some of those spirituals date back to the days of slavery and were based on stories from the Jewish bible.   

Mlotek says that when he was a counselor at a left wing Jewish summer camp, the campers often belted out songs like “Oh Freedom,” and other spirituals, like the ones sung by both African-Americans and Jews in this show.  

“This was a camp founded by Holocaust survivors who wanted their kids not only to learn Yiddish, but to live the values of caring for another people, of having respect for another people, of living in tolerance with other people. We woke up every morning singing songs for hours of the civil rights struggle with the same passion we sang Yiddish songs."  

Soul2Soul co-star Elmore James credits the 1930s Yiddish recordings of the great African-American singer Paul Robeson as an early influence, as well as the Jewish culture he was exposed to.   

“A history of a people is not measured by how much they suffer, but how they overcome suffering,” he muses. ”I think African-American culture and Jewish culture do share that in common: struggling against the odds. That’s what life is. I think these two groups have made an art form out of it.”

You May Like

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid