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Adam on arts & culture: June

KlezKamp, Shakshuka, 'Hava Nagila: The Movie,' Chicago YIVO Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture and more.

Adam Davis June 2013 image
Ester Rada

Last month’s Israeli Jazz Festival in Chicago aimed to “highlight the full spectrum of the diverse jazz music scene in Israel” through a set of local performances featuring five different Israeli musicians. The festival was produced by the Israeli Consulate to the Midwest—with the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago as a sponsor—at venues across Chicago, including the Latin trombone-centric Rafi Malkiel Quintet at Old Town School of Folk Music, Amir Gwirtzman (Esta) at the Mayne Stage, the Gilad Hekselman Trio at Green Mill Jazz Club, and singer Hadar Noiberg’s Trio at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The highlight was a concert by Ester Rada at City Winery. Born into a deeply religious Ethiopian family and raised in a rough part of Tel Aviv, Rada’s music reflects her personal struggles and combines traditional Ethiopian grooves with elements of jazz and funk. Backed by a rhythm and blues horn section, Rada’s vocals echo earlier greats Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and more recent soul singers Eryka Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Jill Scott.  Her debut EP “Life Happens” was produced by acclaimed Israeli producers Kutiman and Ronen Sabbo (Soulico).

Looking ahead to next month, we go back in time for KlezKamp.  This nearly 30 year-old confab is a central meeting place for klezmer musicians and fans to meet, socialize and learn from one another. Seasoned veterans and curious newcomers alike attend, which happily now has a Midwest branch. Directed by Harry Sapoznik of the Mayrent Institute, A Biselle KlezKamp features luminaries of the Klezmer universe teaching and performing for 12 straight hours. Session topics will include Yiddish music, dance, language, visual art, and culture and there will also be children's programming available for the Klez-kids. The event is free and open to everyone culminates in a concert performance and dance party that’s not to be missed. July 21 at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the interim, local Sephardic Jazz fusion act Shakshuka, fronted by Rachel Rosenberg, sets the mood for food as they take their laid-back approach to Ladino and Israeli music to the City Winery Stage. 10 a.m. Sunday June 9. $10 for concert only, brunch buffet additional.

Ever wonder where the song Hava Nagila came from? Or how it got so popular? Filmmaker Roberta Grossman’s new documentary Hava Nagila (The Movie) explores  the subject and debuted last month at the Music Box Theatre. It returns for a screening at Spertus Institute this month as well. The film features the song’s fascinating journey around the world over the last century and sports interviews with Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis, Glen Campbell, Leonard Nimoy, Regina Spektor and more. Grossman will be on hand to lead a post-film discussion.  7pm, Thursday, June 6, at Spertus Institute, 610 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago $8 - 18.

The annual Chicago YIVO Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture returns this month with free performances, lectures and film screenings throughout the Chicago area. Among them, a concert program entitled “Yiddish Lessons” by Cantor Stewart Figa (baritone) and pianist Ilya Levinson. Farshteyst? Tuesday, June 18th at the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium of Harold Washington Library, 400 South State Street, Chicago.  

The Illinois Holocaust Museum is presenting the special exhibition, Fire In My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh.  The Hungarian-born poet is an enduring icon of Israel and accomplished much in her brief, inspiring life, which is detailed in this exhibition and draws from journal entries and letters contributed by her family. Senesh’is well known for having composed the words to the song  “Eli, Eli” and the poem “Blessed is the Match.” Her dedication to her people was exemplified in her selfless volunteering to train and parachute into her native country during the Nazi occupation to rescue Allied pilots and her fellow Jews. She was captured and executed by firing squad in 1944 at just 23 years of age.  The exhibit will also include a screening of Roberta Grossman’s documentary film on Senesh, “Blessed is the Match.”  Ongoing, Illinois Holocaust Museum, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie.

If you happen to be in Jerusalem this month, be sure to check out the 52nd annual Israel Festival, which runs through June 22nd.  The festival showcases dance, music, and theater performances by international and Israeli artists at venues throughout Jerusalem.  Highlights include an opening night concert featuring Shlomi Shaban, Asaf Avidan, Berry Sakharof, and Ninet Tayeb, the world premiere of choreographer Rami Be'er’s Undivided Void, performed by the Kibbutz Dance Company, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and much more.


Adam Davis is the founder and executive director ofKFAR Jewish Arts Center, a leading presenter and advocate of contemporary Jewish arts, music, and culture programs in and around Chicago.For future arts suggestions and feedback, e-mail Adam at or call (773) 362-4760.

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