Hebrew Music and the Development of Transnational Zionism Amongst American Jewry: 1920s-1940s

Thursday, October 1, 2020 - 9:30pm

Speaker(s): 
Dr. Eli Sperling, Postdoctorate Associate in the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) and the Center for Jewish Studies, Duke University.

Early Twentieth century American Jewish leaders like Solomon Schechter, Mordechai Kaplan, and Stephen S. Wise (among many others) saw Zionism and elements of emerging Hebrew culture in the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine as central to their visions of Jewish life in America. Part of the successful introduction of their brands of Zionist thought into the American Jewish mainstream-initially met with serious contention during this period-entailed importing and proliferating Hebrew music from Palestine to be used in a variety of American Jewish institutions and communal settings. This musical story, while part of a greater phenomenon of music being tied to transnational identities worldwide, is central to a more complex framework of American Jewish identity that developed. An identity in which many American Jews identify with and participate in certain aspects of Zionism (with its implications for national identity of some kind) while remaining firmly grounded in their American national and cultural identities and locale. During this lecture, we will analyze musical sources that help us better understand this period of American Jewish life and the many political, religious, social and sectarian tensions present during American Zionist development in the 1920s-40s. Event/Zoom info: https://music.sonoma.edu/events/2020/eli-sperling-hebrew-music-and-devel...

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