Roundtable discussion: Why Do Germans Love Jewish Music?

Why Do Germans Love Jewish Music?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 4:00-5:30 pm
Gibson 141
University of Virginia?

A roundtable discussion featuring:

Steven Greenman, noted klezmer violinist (Cleveland)
Joel Rubin (McIntire Department of Music)
James Loeffler (Corcoran Department of History)
Jeffrey Grossman (Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures)

Sponsored by the UVA Jewish Studies Program and the UVA McIntire Department of Music in conjunction with Steven Greenman’s residency at UVA and performance with the UVA Klezmer Ensemble on Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. For more information:

The contemporary German klezmer music scene has received a relatively large amount of media attention over the past two decades, but relatively little scholarship on the topic has been generated. In both journalistic and scholarly accounts, contemporary klezmer music in Germany in particular has largely been handled both as a novelty and as a monolith, with most accounts focusing on socio-political aspects relating to the fact that the majority of the musicians involved are non-Jews and that the scene serves primarily as a mechanism for Versöhnung (reconciliation) and Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the National Socialist past). Yet so doing obscures the contemporary German klezmer scene as a dynamic movement that has evolved over a more than twenty year period. It comprises participants from numerous backgrounds and generations and also includes Jews from the FSU, Israel and the USA in addition to Germans – both non-Jewish and Jewish – and from the former GDR as well as West Germany. Another factor that needs to be considered is the strong influence of the German market on the development of klezmer music internationally – in particular in the United States – as well as interesting inter-European and crosscontinental collaborations that have developed in recent years. Finally, a differentiation needs to be made between the performance of Yiddish song in post-Holocaust Germany, which had its roots in the immediate postwar period and with limited American involvement, and the performance of instrumental klezmer music in Germany, which first began in the mid-1980s and developed almost entirely under American and Israeli influence.

Steven Greenman, an internationally acclaimed performer of traditional klezmer violin and composer of new klezmer music (Stempenyu’s Dream, Khevrisa), has been a frequent performer and teacher at German and other European klezmer festivals and workshops over the past decade.

Joel Rubin (Assistant Professor, McIntire Department of Music/Jewish Studies Program) is Director of Music Performance. Rubin lived and worked in Berlin, Germany from 1989-2003 and is himself an internationally celebrated performer of klezmer music.

James Loeffler (Assistant Professor, Corcoran Department of History/Jewish Studies Program) has researched and published extensively in the field of Jewish musical studies, and has been a frequent commentator on klezmer and other contemporary Jewish popular musics.

Jeffrey Grossman (Associate Professor, Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures) has research interests address questions of literary translation and cultural transformation (in Yiddish, German and English).