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Crop tops, kippahs and klezmer: A ‘Jewish rave’ scene takes hold in NYC

(New York Jewish Week) — On a recent Thursday in Ridgewood, the Queens neighborhood that straddles the border of uber-hip Bushwick, Brooklyn, a crowd of music fans filled the room at Trans-Pecos, an all-ages music and events venue.

It’s a scene that’s pretty familiar to anyone who’s been to an outer-borough club in recent years: A homey, DIY kind of space with creaky wood floors and plants as decoration; a limited menu of pricey drinks; a young, casual and queer-leaning crowd, albeit with a smattering of “elders” along the sidelines.

But on this particular July evening, the event was celebrating the unique intersection of klezmer music and rave culture. The room was packed with Jewish ravers, for the third New York installment of “Kleztronica,” a burgeoning Jewish music scene that’s becoming a “movement,” according to its 22-year-old creator, Upper West Side native Kaia Berman-Peters.

A singer and a musician, Berman-Peters performs original Jewish songs over the electronic beats of house music and snippets of klezmer, resulting in something akin to Yiddish hip-hop or Jewish techno. With these mashups, she’s building upon a decades-old crossover tradition pioneered in the 1990s and early 2000s by rapper-producer Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, who created hip-hop songs from samples of Jewish records.

Berman-Peters, who also goes by Chaia, is aiming for something bigger than a danceable tune or a fun night out. “I see Kleztronica as a movement,” she told the New York Jewish Week ahead of the show. “It represents a certain type of diasporism; of recentering Judaism in the Diaspora. I do see it as a movement, a community, but primarily a set of ideas and ways of practicing those ideas.”

The first of these ideas, she said, is a deeply rooted respect for Yiddish tradition and Jewish ancestry. The second honors “the Black and radical lineage of electronic music: Chicago house music, dub in Jamaica, house in Detroit.”

The third is a commitment to “rave space as safe space,” she said, referring to a welcoming, queer-friendly, non-judgmental environment. And the fourth, she said, is Diaspora, specifically “Diaspora without a desire to return” — reflecting the function that Yiddish can play for Jews who do not want to root their identity or engagement in Israel.

“These little raves are just one part of living an exuberant Jewish life centered in the Diaspora,” Berman-Peters said, “centered in learning and in ancestral respect.”

UWS native Kaia Berman-Peters, the founder of Kleztronica, performs a set at Trans-Pecos on July 20, 2023. (Julian Voloj)

At the Trans-Pecos event last month, the scene was a respectful, haimish one that Berman-Peters lovingly described as “super weird” and “so cool.” The enthusiastic, intimate crowd — some wearing kippahs, others crop tops — seemed up for anything, including Slavic squat dancing, which happened later in the evening.

Berman-Peters — who also sings with with Boston-based klezmer group Mama Liga, and is a vocalist and accordionist for the klezmer-folk trio Levyosn — played a set of original songs over Jewish-inflected electronic beats. Sam Slate and Abbie Goldberg, who as drag performers Diva Nigun and Chava GoodTime, had the crowd roaring during a musical skit that had the former dressed as the captain of a cardboard ship and the latter as a shark. (“There are some things I just don’t understand,” a puzzled onlooker quipped to me.)

A highlight was a set from Eleanore Weill, a France-born Brooklyn musician who plays a hand-cranked string instrument called the hurdy-gurdy. “It’s very raw and intense,” Weill recently told the Forward about her instrument, which was wired for the Kleztronica performance. “It’s like a stringed bagpipe. A lot of people can’t handle it.”

Berman-Peters had organized the evening in partnership with Clear the Floor, a rave collective from Boston that centers Black and Indigenous people and other people of color. “The idea is that electronic dance music and techno and house is Black music,” she said of the collaboration. “And it’s music that was created by people of color and continues to be traditional music of people of color. And that we’re part of that lineage standing in solidarity with them.”

Unfortunately, a series of travel snafus meant that only one Clear the Floor rep made it to Ridgewood that evening. It didn’t seem to matter: Most of the tight-knit crowd were entwined in New York’s klezmer scene and were there to see Berman-Peters and company. The audience included klezmer luminaries like Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London — who, as founders of the Klezmatics, kicked off the klezmer revival in the 1980s — as well as representatives of the next generation, like clarinetist Michael Winograd and his Yiddish Princess cofounder, vocalist Sarah Gordon.

Performers at the Kleztronica event included a P1no, left, a DJ from Clear the Floor, a Boston-based BIPOC rave collective, and a drag performance from Diva Nigun. (Jess O’Donoghue)

But don’t mistake Kleztronica as Yiddish Revival 3.0. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is what klezmer is becoming, or that this is the new mainstream of klezmer, because of the diversity of genre expression within the scene,” said Aaron Bendich, the founder of Jewish music label Borscht Beat. “I think it would be misconstruing what’s going on there.”

Bendich, who has attended every New York Kleztronica event thus far, noted that past Kleztronica performers included more traditional klezmer musicians who have used their sets to experiment with new forms.

“Kaia is definitely of the new generation of klezmer performers, there’s no doubt in my mind about that,” said Bendich, who released Levyosn’s album in May. “But Kleztronica is its own thing. I don’t think it’s the son of what Michael Winograd is doing, or the grandchild of the Klezmatics.”

“It’s really exciting,” said musician Slate about this new shoot on the klezmer family tree, who was cooling off in Trans-Pecos’ expansive backyard ahead of his set. (Slate uses he/they pronouns in day-to-day life and she/her as Diva Nigun.) “There’s such a cultural shift among young Jews to explore, to reinvigorate, for Ashkenazi Jews, Yiddish culture and yiddishkeit.”

Slate and Berman-Peters met about a year ago at an anarchist havdalah in Prospect Par. Incredibly, it turned out that they both lived in Boston and made electronic Jewish music but had never crossed paths before.

Since then, Slate has collaborated with Berman-Peters on Kleztronica events in both cities. “It was only a matter of time because the music is so rich, and has so much to offer,” Slate said. “I grew up secular but it’s so deep in my bones still.”

“We wanted to make electronic music that wasn’t just kitschy — it wasn’t just a joke or a punchline,” he said of Kleztronica’s evolution. “There are very few artists who have been able to balance that, and it felt really exciting that there were a bunch of us [doing this] at the same time.”

Revelers get down to the sounds of Kleztronica at Trans-Pecos on July 20, 2023. (Jessica O’Donoghue)

Berman-Peters grew up in an academic, Jewish and musical home in Manhattan. Her mother, Julie Stone Peters, is a professor of literature and theater at Columbia University; her father, Nathaniel Berman, is a professor at Brown University specializing in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Not only did she “grow up on campus” at Columbia, “I grew up sort of with a stream of rabbis, cantors and Jewish musicians sort of coming in and out of our house to hear my dad teach,” she said. “And that was really cool.”

One of her father’s students was Basya Schecter, founder of the Jewish world music/folk band Pharaoh’s Daughter, who became a close family friend and “a mentor to me, musically,” Berman-Peters said. Her interest in klezmer began in high school when she took up the accordion and joined the Columbia Klezmer Ensemble — which was open to anyone, not just Columbia students — led by renowned klezmer musician, cantor and educator Jeff Warschauer.

At Warschauer’s urging, as she was set to graduate from the Heschel School, Berman-Peters applied to the New England Conservatory of Music, which is nicknamed the “Klezmer Conservatory” because it is home to the Klezmer Conservatory Band, led by Hankus Netsky.

“I didn’t have that rigorous of a musical background; I didn’t really think I could get in,” she said. But “get in” she did, and Berman-Peters began a joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program in partnership with Harvard University in 2019.

In college, while studying accordion and klezmer music, Berman-Peters began to get serious about DJing and electronic music. “I started feeling really inspired by a lot of different artists who make electronic music that expresses their cultural roots,” she said, pointing to artists like Sofia Kourtesis, whose music draws upon Peruvian culture and protest tradition. “And I thought I could do that, too.”

At the moment, Berman-Peters is taking time off from completing her degree to pursue Kleztronica full-time. She just completed recording her first Kleztronica album — her dream, she said, is to release it on London-based indie label Ninja Tune — and the next Kleztronica events in New York are slated for October and December.

Currently living with her parents on the Upper West Side, she expresses wonder at how rapidly her burgeoning vision is catching on, considering that the first-ever Kleztronica event happened just this past December, when she proposed the idea to Pete Rushefsky, a founder of the Yiddish New York festival, who was enthusiastically all-in.

“I expected it to just be people from the klezmer scene that I knew, and maybe people interested in music, but it’s all people from all walks of Jewish life that I totally didn’t expect,” she said of her fans, pointing specifically to Jewish hippies and ex-haredi party people.

She said that while attendees have mostly been Jews so far, she doesn’t think the audience ends there.

“I hope that more non-Jews start coming because I really think being culturally rooted and making dance music is what dance music was all about in the first place,” she said. “So I really hope that more people who are not Jewish come to this, and see our version of it, and our version of what Judaism looks like, too.”


The post Crop tops, kippahs and klezmer: A ‘Jewish rave’ scene takes hold in NYC appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Treasure Trove: A 1905 postcard from Basel recalls the many Zionist groups and supporters in Toronto

“Greetings from the Seventh Zionist Congress to our friends in Toronto” reads the top message on this postcard sent from the 1905 Congress in Basel, the first held after the death of Theodor Herzl. The image was painted by Carl Josef Pollack and depicts Herzl standing among his fellow Jews awaiting entrance to the Land of […]

The post Treasure Trove: A 1905 postcard from Basel recalls the many Zionist groups and supporters in Toronto appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Arteries of Capitalism’: Anti-Zionist Groups Planning Major ‘Blockade’ of Ports Around the World

Pro-Hamas demonstrators marching in Munich, Germany. Photo: Reuters/Alexander Pohl

Far-left anti-Israel activists are launching a mass demonstration to block the “arteries of capitalism” on Monday by staging a blockade of commercial shipping ports across the world in protest of Western support for the Jewish state.

“We will identify and blockade major choke points in the economy, focusing on points of production and circulation with the aim of causing the most economic impact,” A15, the group planning the action, announced in a statement. “There is a sense in the streets in this recent and unprecedented movement for Palestine that escalation has become necessary: there is a need to shift from symbolic actions to those that cause pain to the economy.”

A15 is calling on members in cities such as New York, Dublin, Sydney, Ho Chi Minh, Genoa, London, and others to participate in the act, which could endanger billions of dollars in shipping. The group is also sharing information about police arrest, bail, and other legal information, possibly suggesting that its members are prepared to behave unlawfully.

“As Yemen is bombed to secure global trade and billions of dollars are sent to the Zionist war machine, we must recognize that the global economy is complicit in genocide and together we will coordinate to disrupt and blockage economic logistical hubs and the flow of capital,” the group continued.

Another anti-Zionist group, which goes by “Within Our Lifetime,” has vowed to join the demonstration and will participate by amassing on Wall Street in an attempt to bring trading on the New York Stock Exchange to a halt. Nerdeen Kiswani, a former City University of New York student who once threatened to set a person’s sweater on fire while he was wearing it, will lead the effort.

Police in Victoria, Australia are on high alert, according to a report this weel by The Sydney Morning Herald. On Monday, the city will activate its State Police Operations Center, an action which is reserved for emergencies and will require diverting resources from other cities in the state. One likely target of the group, the Port of Melbourne, processes over 8,000 containers per day and adds $11 billion to national gross domestic product (GDP).

Anti-Zionist protesters have protested at the Port of Melbourne before. In January, they attempted to prevent the docking container ship at Webb Dock because its owner, ZIM shipping firm, is an Israeli company.

The New York City area has been the site of similar demonstrations. In 2021, a group called “Block the Boat” protested the unloading of a container ship owned by ZIM at the Port of New York/New Jersey, two days after another Israeli ship was reportedly blocked from unloading in Oakland.

Since the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, attempted disruptions of shipping have occurred in many major American cities. Most recently, a group amassed at San Francisco’s Piers 30/32 to condemn the leaving of USNS Harvey Milk, believing that it was en route to the Middle East.

US Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed the protesters, according to a local CBS affiliate, telling them that President Joe Biden agrees with their message.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Arteries of Capitalism’: Anti-Zionist Groups Planning Major ‘Blockade’ of Ports Around the World first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Biden Pressure on Israel Partly Due to Concerns Over 2024 Election, Says Israeli Lawmaker, Former UN Ambassador

US President Joe Biden, left, pauses during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli politician and former Ambassador Danny Danon attributed US President Joe Biden’s increasingly critical posture toward Israel’s war on the Hamas terrorist group to domestic political concerns and the upcoming presidential election in a wide-ranging interview with The Algemeiner.

Danon, a current member of the Israeli parliament for the Likud party and former ambassador to the United Nations, spoke with The Algemeiner to discuss the ongoing war against the Hamas , potential escalation in northern Israel with the Hezbollah terrorist organization, and the evolving politics of the US-Israel relationship.

Asked about Biden’s pressure on Israel not to enter Rafah — the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza — and to agree to a ceasefire, Danon said, “You know, a ceasefire without us bringing the hostages back and defeating Hamas, it means that Israel will lose this war.”

“I don’t think that President Biden and other allies of Israel are actually supporting the stand of Israel losing the war,” he continued, arguing that “they have other interests in moving forward because of the election in the US and international pressure, but we have a different timeline.”

When asked to clarify if he believed the upcoming presidential election in the US was fueling Biden’s current policy toward Israel — especially in the form of public and private pressure — Danon reiterated that he believes “it’s a combination of the election and also international pressure.”

In several US states, activists have been campaigning for voters not to support Biden in the Democratic primary due to his overall support for Israel. In Michigan, for example, a key battleground state and home to America’s largest Arab population, a campaign to vote “uncommitted” during the state’s primary rather than for Biden gained significant support. Some prominent observers have suggested that the Biden administration’s changing position on Israel and the war in Gaza may be influenced by domestic political fears of losing electoral support from anti-Israel voters.

Meanwhile, amid escalating tensions on Israel’s northern front with Hezbollah, which wields significant political and military influence across Lebanon, Danon made it clear that Israel would remove the threat of Hezbollah on its border one way or another.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from the northern communities” due to the rockets launched by Hezbollah on a nearly daily basis, he explained. In total, more than 2,000 rockets, along with many more anti-tank guided missiles and drones, have been launched into Israeli territory since the war began.

“They … have to be able to go back to their homes. In order for them to go back, we … have to push Hezbollah away from the border,” he said. “So that’s the end game.”

How that may happen in practice remains uncertain: “One option is to have negotiations and to prevent the conflict,” he said. “And the second option is to have a limited conflict. And the third option is to have a full war with Hezbollah.”

Regardless, he added, in the end Hezbollah “will not be on the fence and they will not threaten our communities.”

The interview took place prior to last week’s airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria last week that Iranian officials have attributed to Israel.

the Israeli strike in Syria that killed two commanders in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — putting Israel on high alert for the prospect of a direct Iranian attack on Israeli territory. The strike killed seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a US-designated terrorist organization, including two senior commanders.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the incident. However, Israel has been bracing for a retaliatory strike amid a flurry of public threats from Iran to attack Israel.

Another important issue that has captured the attention of the citizens of Israel and the entire Jewish world is the continued captivity of more than 130 people in Gaza who Hamas terrorists kidnapped during their Oct. 7 rampage. Liberated captives testified to surviving sexual assault, torture, and starvation.

“When you deal with the [sic] irrational enemy like Hamas, it’s very challenging [to negotiate a deal],” Danon said. “I think we should apply more force, more military force, and that will encourage Hamas to negotiate another agreement that will release more hostages.”

Some of the more than 250 hostages seized on Oct. 7 were released as part of a temporary Israel-Hamas truce in November.

Pushed on why there has not been another agreement since then, he explained, “The challenges that we are facing are not easy. Both the one that requires the defeat of Hamas, you know, we pay a very heavy toll every day, more and more soldiers are paying the price of their lives in order to achieve this goal.”

“And also the hostages,” he added. “It’s very hard for them, the conditions are unbearable, and we are aware of the ongoing atrocities. So it is hard, but I think it’s a challenge for us to be determined. And I think at the end of the day, despite the difficulty, we are determined to win this war, and we will win this war.”

Some Israelis have criticized the government for prioritizing military victory and politics over the return of the hostages. One family member of a hostage said at a rally recently that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “concern for coalition stability outweighs his clear duty to bring our loved ones home … We were told to sit still, we were told to travel the world, but after six months, the hostages are still in Gaza! This is a complete and deliberate failure!”

Nevertheless, Danon is singularly focused on winning the war against Hamas and bringing home the hostages. 

“I think the enemy underestimated the strength of the people of Israel, and they will realize that we are a strong nation and that’s why we will defeat them,” Danon concluded, underscoring the way in which this war has, in many ways, brought Israelis together in an unprecedented way.

The post Biden Pressure on Israel Partly Due to Concerns Over 2024 Election, Says Israeli Lawmaker, Former UN Ambassador first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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