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Jewish Music, Jewish Communities

In the Suburbs

Jewish Music, Jewish Communities

Monday, July 8, 2013 - 11:00 am to 1:00 pm

As Jewish communities grew and developed all over the 
world, their music grew with them. In four sessions led by ethnomusicalogist Rachel Adelstein, students had an opportunity to discover the rich history of Jewish music.

Dr. Rachel Adelstein believes that music
provides an important key to understanding the diversity and development of Jewish practice, serving as an evolving soundtrack to Jewish history. Her University of Chicago PhD dissertation focused on women cantors and their role in modern Judaism, but her background in Jewish music spans genres and influences.

She as written about the musical traditions of Jewish cultures around the world, including the Cochin Jews of Southern India and the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. Her work regarding the role of music in Holocaust memorial services has been discussed in conferences around the country. A passionate advocate of the importance of Jewish music, her diverse research interests include Jewish hip-hop, Biblical instrumentation, early American shape note singing, and contemporary Jewish hymnals.

Session Schedule

Drawing on her expertise in music, anthropology, and world Jewish history, Rachel Adelstein selected specific areas that were discussed in each of the sessions.

July 8 Judaism’s earliest interactions and early Biblical instrumentation, exploring the primitive instruments used in ancient Jewish rituals.

July 15 — The evolution of ritual melodies and the shifting role of the cantor in Jewish practice.

July 22 —  American influences on Jewish music.

July 29 Jewish melodies from far-flug regions of the world.


It was another great pleasure for Spertus to partner with North Suburban Synagogue Beth El to bring our programs to Chicago's Northshore.