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Adam on arts and culture: July

During the "Three Weeks" before Tisha B'Av, live music traditionally is eschewed to mourn everything from the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem to other calamities. 

Klesbos image
Isle of Klezbos: Shoko Nagai, Debra Kreisberg, Eve Sicular, Saskia Lane, Melissa Fogarty, and Pam Fleming. Photo credit: Angela Jimenez .

During the "Three Weeks" before Tisha B'Av, live music traditionally is eschewed to mourn everything from the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem to other calamities.

This year we add to that list the loss of important arts organizations, notably the groundbreaking Six Points Fellowship that supported a national network of new Jewish creativity after it was completely defunded last month. That came after celebrated JDub Records took its own final bow following a decade of discovering and promoting acts like Matisyahu and Balkan Beat Box. San Francisco's A Traveling Jewish Theatre ended its three decade journey and the 92nd Street Y/Tribeca closed shortly after replacing the lamented Makor.  

These entities individually cited insufficient communal support for their closure. At once too niche to drive a market and too important to collective identity to be left to their own devices, Jewish arts and culture have long been impacted by the funding priority of feeding families before funding festivals. The loss of Jewish cultural institutions is to be mourned.

Be that as it may, our purpose here is to celebrate and promote the arts scene that does exist, so here goes: 

The all-female ensemble Isle of Klezbos brings its whimsical take on the Klezmer tradition to town this month. The NYC sextet formed in 1998 by drummer Eve Sicular has toured the festival circuit and been featured on Showtime's The L Word and PBS' In the Life. The band's performances are as lively as its name is provocative, their repertoire includes neo-traditional folk dance, Yiddish swing and retro tango, late Soviet-era Jewish drinking song, re-grooved standards and genre-defying originals. Isle of Klezbos performs as part of the Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival on 3:40pm Saturday, July 20. Free.

Ethnomusicologist Dr. Rachel Adelstein presents a series of four classes on Jewish musical diversity this month. Each session features a different theme ranging from world music to the growing influence of pop music on Jewish hymns. Adelstein traces Jewish music from its role in ancient Biblical life to the present, attempting to cover everything from modern liturgical trends in progressive denominations to unusual variations in Jewish communities around the world, including the Ungandan Abuyudaya and India's Cochin Jews. Sessions meet Mondays July 8-29, 11am to 1pm at North Shore Suburban Synagogue Beth El, 1175 Sheridan Road in Highland Park. Reservations online at

The Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest presents, "My First Sony" an award-winning melodrama written by Benny Barbash. Based on his book of the same title, this one-man show performed by actor Roy Horovitz tells the story 11-year-old Israeli boy Yotam who documents everything on his tape recorder, including his own family's disintegration. Israeli wine will be served during a post-performance discussion with Horovitz. Performances are in English at 6:30 p.m., and in Hebrew at 8:30 p.m. on July 1 at the Kaplan Jewish Community Center, 5050 Church St., Skokie, and Tuesday, July 2 at WIT Theater, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago.

The annual Chicago YIVO Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture continues month with free performances by Chicago Klezmer Ensemble at Wilmette Public Library at 2pm Tuesday July 9th and Annette & Kurt Bjorling's Duo Controverso at 7pm Thursday, July 11 at Northbrook Public Library.

Adam Davis is the founder and executive director of KFAR 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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