Monday, October 31, 2011

The Pirkei Avot Project

Abraham Cahan introduced A Bintel Brief in 1906.

I was happy to write a music review for the Arty Semite, a fun blog over at the website of the Jewish Daily Forward.  The review covers a new release, called "The Pirkei Avot Project, Vol. 1," by jazz guitarist Amanda Monaco.  She's interpreted some passages from a Jewish text, Pirkei Avot, and I enjoyed the result. 

Two years ago, I read the book "A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward."  A Bintel Brief was an advice column published in the Forward, a Yiddish-language newspaper founded in 1897.  The paper is now published in both Yiddish and English, and its content has changed.  If you read the book, you're peeking into a Jewish-American experience that doesn't exist anymore: the experience of the Jewish immigrant.

The paper was run from 1903 to 1946 by Abraham Cahan, one of the best writers to read if you want a good look into that experience at the turn of the nineteenth century.  His first novel, "Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto," was made into a great film, "Hester Street." 

If you didn't know, I'm Jewish.  I'm still not positive what that means, even though I minored in Jewish studies at McGill.  So in that vein, it felt a little weird writing a CD review for a blog at a newspaper which has its roots in the Jewish social dissidence of the early 1900s.  But what can you do?  A bi gezunt.

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