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JEWISH MUSIC FESTIVALa fiscally-sponsored project of JCC East Bay


A Farewell from Festival Director Ellie Shapiro

June 26, 2015

Dear Friends,

When the JCC East Bay’s co-founder Ursula Sherman championed a Jewish music festival to attract people to the new center on Walnut Street thirty years ago, little did she know that she had launched a project that would go on to showcase hundreds of artists from around the world, introduce thousands to Jewish culture, inspire the establishment of other festivals, nurture new work and spur people of all ages and backgrounds to make their own music.

Thanks to the JCC East Bay, the Jewish Music Festival has had the rare opportunity of both curatorial autonomy and fiscal support. Along with the generous contribution of foundations, individual donors, vendors and advertisers, volunteers, committee members, staff and fantastic audience, the Jewish Music Festival, in turn, has been able to provide the truly rare gift of a creative space for artists to explore and perform music that might otherwise go unheard—music that celebrates a rich cultural legacy, and music that pushes boundaries, keeping that legacy vital and relevant.

We can all take pride in the convergence of resources, talent and energy that has rippled around the world. Our CD of Ukrainian Yiddish singer Arkady Gendler brought international attention to his unique voice. The story of the Festival-commissioned Ger Mandolin Orchestra is now part of the permanent exhibition of the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and had its New York premiere last week as part of Kulturfest, the centennial celebration of the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater. Our pairing of Yair Dalal, an Israeli musician of Iraqi background, with the late, great Hamza El Din, led to a concert at Lincoln Center. JMF introduced violinist Noah Bendix-Bagley to the work of the pre-revolutionary Russian St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music. Currently the new concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, Noah has incorporated this music into his repertoire. And the list goes on.

For me, personally, my work with the Festival has led to Poland, and the revived interest there in Jewish music and culture. I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned about this intriguing phenomenon in the future.

I am happy to say that the Jewish Music Festival will continue and be re-envisioned at the JCC East Bay. I am confident that under the leadership of CEO (and musician!) Amy Tobin, the JCC East Bay will continue to bring the best in Jewish music to the Bay Area. Stay tuned for messages about programs and plans in the coming year.

As my eighteen years with the Jewish Music Festival comes to a close, I feel deeply, profoundly, ineffably grateful for the privilege I have had to present Jewish music and contribute to the cultural life of the Bay Area and beyond. Thank you all for making it possible.

Ellie Shapiro
Festival Director
Jewish Music Festival

P.S. If you would like to be in touch with me after July 1, please use the following email: ellieshapiro1@gmail.com