bella e perduta: music, italy, & the jews

[a bi-lingual blog on cultural identity] – [un blog bilingue di identità culturali]

Posts Tagged ‘sanfrancisco’

Italian Synagogue Music and the Politics of Jewish identity

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2009/11/10

This weekend I will be the “Jeffrey A. Miller” scholar in residence at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco, giving two talks and teaching a workshop on the role of synagogue music in representing social identity and political processes. Services will include a panoply of melodies from the synagogues of Italy, arranged a performed by Sharon Bernstein with Ruth Rainero and the synagogue’s excellent choir.

While the inspiration of these talks is indeed drawn from the Italian Jewish experience, I am also addressing them to the complex of multi-layered identities that compose the Jewish mosaic of the San Francisco Bay Area, and especially of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. For me, this represents a wonderful opportunity to bring the study of synagogue life back to, well, synagogue life, but also to test the idea that Italian Jewish modernity, as experienced and crafted within synagogue and congregational life since the 16th century, can speak directly to the “melting pot” of contemporary Jewish life in America.

See the announcement on the Congregation’s website.

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Italian-Jewish/Italian-American (in San Francisco)

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2008/09/09

I returned last night from an amazing visit to (Jewish) Italy, and will begin reporting on it very soon.

In the meantime, here’s some preliminary coverage of an upcoming exhibition with a very broad/ambitious focus, “Il Ghetto: Forging Italian Jewish Identities, 1516-1870,” opening soon at the Italian-American Museum (or Museo ItaloAmericano) located at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

The article, by Jean Schiffman, appeared last week in the San Francisco Arts Monthly. I was pleasantly surprised to see how my notion of a “shared ownership” of Italian Jewish culture made it into the headline. For me, this is a core idea about culture in general, which I owe, in its musical context, to my teacher and friend Israel Adler.

It is an idea with direct (and complex) political and financial implications. If the ownership of Jewish culture is a shared endeavor, whose responsibility is it to look after, care for and maintain the overwhelming legacy that it leaves behind? Jewish Italy is an interesting paradigm for this discussion: there are hundreds of Jewish “sites” around Italy in which Jews no longer live. And, of course, thousands and thousands of historical documents, which include music – music manuscripts, organs and choir stalls, and the melodies of the oral traditions.

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Sono tornato ieri sera da un viaggio straordinario attraverso l’Italia (ebraica), e ne scriverò presto.

Nel frattempo, ecco un iniziale reportage su una mostra dal tema piuttosto ampio e ambizioso, “Il ghetto: La formazione delle identità ebraico-italiane, 1516-1870”, che tra breve aprirà al Museo ItaloAmericano di San Francisco.

L’articolo di Jean Schiffman, è apparso la scorsa settimana sul San Francisco Arts Monthly, e sono rimasto gradevolmente sorpreso dal fatto che la mia nozione di una “proprietà condivisa” della cultura ebraica italiana sia finita nel titolo. Per quanto mi riguarda, si tratta di un’idea centrale rispetto alla cultura in genere. Nel suo contesto musicale, la devo certamente al mio amico e maestro Israel Adler.

Si tratta, tra l’altro, di un’idea dotata di implicazioni politiche e finanziarie dirette (e complesse). Se la proprietà della cultura ebraica è un mandato condiviso, di chi è la responsabilità di prendersi cura e mantenere l’imponente eredità che essa lascia dietro di sè? L’Italia ebraica è un paradigma interessante in questa discussione: vi sono centinai di “siti” ebraici in Italia, dove gli ebrei non abitano più. E vi sono, inoltre, migliaia di documenti storici, che tra l’altro includono la musica – manoscritti, organi e strutture per i cori, e ovviamente le melodie di tradizione orale.

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