Monday, September 19, 2005

Jews gather for Palo Alto street fest

For decades, one of the favorite pastimes of American Jews has been to bemoan the causes of their shrinking numbers: a high intermarriage rate (oy!), mass assimilation (oy, oy!), paltry synagogue attendance (Stop! It's too painful!).

But there was no kvetching or caviling to be heard on Palo Alto's California Street on Sunday, as Bay Area Jews came together for their largest community event of the year: ``To Life! A Jewish Cultural Street Festival.''

Indeed, all visible indications -- from the presence of more than 50 local organizations to the performance of innovative musical acts -- seemed to suggest that the community might (kenahora, may the evil eye look elsewhere!) actually be thriving.

``There definitely seems to be some resurgence,'' Vivian Salana said carefully, as she took a break from advertising a new Jewish singles group called ``Jewish Singles Over Forty.'' Eager to spark romance, Salana wore two sandwich boards touting the group as she wandered among booths filled with hand-dyed silk, ceramic art, paintings, posters and jewelry.

Unlike modern electronic dating services like JDate or match.com, or older-style personal ads placed in Jewish newspapers, JSOF has the blessing of the Board of Rabbis -- who, Salana acknowledged, have been known to occasionally grouse about the high rate of intermarriage.

But aside from the marriage mishna (that's the legal commentary that tends to absorb rabbis), a random sample of artists and performers Sunday indicated that the vibrancy of Jewish life in Northern California has been helped, at least as much as it has been hurt, by the melting pot.

In less than a year, a group of Oakland musicians has begun to develop a following by reinterpreting traditional prayers and melodies as rap. The Original Jewish Gangsters took the main stage at the festival Sunday afternoon when they sang, ``Bringing in the Sabbath with an ancient niggun (melody)/ Remembering my tribe while I vibe a Hasidic tune.''

Members of the group grew up listening to everyone from Tupac Shakur to Oakland's own Too $hort. ``We definitely feel there is a void when it comes to Jewish hip hop,'' said Judah Maceo Ritterman (a.k.a. Butter).

Stephanie Brown, one of the festival's main organizers, said such cultural cross-pollination was a big part of this year's event. ``This is a way to experience Judaism through art and culture, she said. ``Essentially, it's a way to go beyond politics and borders.''

And if the festival encourages someone to join a synagogue or other group, would that be so terrible?


That crap has no shichus to your blog.


Irish Rebbe?


Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog