In Search of Jewish Nightlife: Class Fieldwork in Berkeley Synagogues

Guidelines for a class debriefing session after two field trips in Berkeley at the end of the Sukkot Festival.

  1. Setting

- Where (location, real estate, interiors)

- How (to get there, to get inside)

- Who (genders, ages, attires)

- Languages (of prayer books, spoken, sung)

- Atmosphere & relationship with locals (welcoming, unwelcoming, indifferent…)

  1. Music & Sound

- Voices: gender, style

- Instrumentation (yes, not, if yes: what kind/s?)

- Melodies

- Chants (and Modes)

- Rhythm (clear beat; flowing rhythm)

- Texts

  1. Body language(s)
  1. Food
  1. Main Topics / Big(ger) Pictures

- The “I” in the fieldwork (individual perspectives, emotions, etc.)

- The “We” in the fieldwork (group visits)

- Comparative approaches to fieldwork (visiting more than one site)

- A sense of otherness

- How it felt to be there with other students

- The original assignment: nightlife

- The original assignment: holiday (festival of Sukkot/Simchat Torah vs. a “ regular” Shabbat evening)

- Any other topics

Jewish Nightlife
Midterm Examination
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

1. TEAMS: Form teams of 2, to work in “chavruta style” (as discussed in class and posted on the course blog)

2. METHODS: Each team must create one multi-media flash card for each of the 3 topics (choose one in each group, so that at the end you will have produced a total of 3 flash cards), using the Google Apps available to UC Berkeley students via the bConnected suite)

Cultural Identity & Cultural History (multi-dimensional notions of time, space, and language)
- Sephardic
– Ashkenazi
– Jews in the Lands of Islam

Ritual and material culture (ritual performances, texts, objects)
- Simchat Torah
– Prayer Book (Siddur)
piyyut
- quasi-Hazzan

Music & Sound (in their relationships to cultural identity and to ritual)
- “chant” (Psalmody and Biblical reading)
– “tune”
– para-liturgical

3. CONTENT: Each card must include the following elements:

  1. Two short paragraphs representing different (possibly conflicting) points of view on each of the topics selected
  2. A visual element
  3. A sound (or video) element
  4. Source citations (no specific style requested) for each of the elements above

4. COLLABORATION: Each team must share its flash cards with the instructor (spagnoloacht[at]berkeley.edu)

A Piyyut and Its Publication History

Kol berue ma’ala umatah (“All creatures above and below” [in Heaven and on Earth])
Bakkashah with acrostic “shelomoh” (Solomon)
Attributed to Solomon ibn Gabirol (Malaga-Valencia, 11th centurty CE)
On bakkashot see Idelsohn p. 157

Publication history (selection) based on Davidson’s Thesaurus
Otzar hatefilot, Vilnius 1914
Arba’h ta’aniyot, Constantinople 1780
Bet av, Livorno 1877
Bet habechirah, Livorno 1880
Bet ya’aqov, Tunis 1898
Bakkashot yerushalayim, Jerusalem 1913
Bakkashot rash”ad, Ms. Bodleian Library (Oxford)
Zavche shlemim, Constantinople 1728
Z”Y Izmir, Smirne 1766
Yigal, Jerusalem 1885
Yiztchaq yeranen, Jerusalem 1855
apa, Mezhirov (Ukraine) 1793
Liqute zvi hachadash, Warsaw 1879
M. Argil 1, Livorno 1878
M. Tunis 1, Livorno 1861
Machzor Elohei Ya’aqov, Jerusalem 1908
Meshat Binyamin, Jerusalem 1909 (Persian)
Mishmeret hachadash, Baghdad 1908
Sidur ya’avatz (Italy), Altona (Germany) 1731
Sidur tefilah, Mantua 1676

In class, we discussed how the publication history of a piyyut can be researched, and how it points to the following directions:

- Social history: impact of a liturgical poem on a given community, or on a network of communities across the global Jewish diaspora
– Intellectual history: the intellectual debates involved in the creation and diffusion of a piyyut, and the spiritual dimensions involved in its textual and musical meanings
– A “history of feelings” (in the nexus between text and music)

We discussed all of this around the fact that the class is learning and rehearsing the poem illustrated above.

Ou-là-là! A Midterm is Coming Up…

The guidelines for the upcoming Midterm Examination (Week 9) will be discussed in class next Wednesday, October 22nd. As it is often the case in this class, this examination will also provide us with a chance to explore collaborative processes, and to test out how the #digitalhumanities may serve our learning goals.

In this case, we are going to explore a consolidated format of Jewish collaborative learning practice, the chavruta.

Derived from the Aramaic for “friendship,” this term (which on Wikipedia you can find under the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the word, chavrusa) indicates the teams of two students learning together inside a Talmudic Academy, or yeshivah (link is to the EJ, with UCB-only access). Each partner in a chavruta is supposed to challenge the other’s views, thus expanding knowledge in an eminently collaborative form.

Carteret beis medrash.jpg

Study partners sit opposite each other or side by side at the Yeshiva Gedola of Carteret (image licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.).

Who will be your chavruta? (Note, you cannot “choose” your partner beforehand: selection criteria will be announced on the day of the examination…).

As the Ethics of the Fathers (pirqe avot) remind us:

Yehoshua ben Perachia says: Make for yourself a teacher ["rav"], acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person as meritorious.

Or, as the Babylonian Talmud puts it (at least in the translation linked here):

How may one explain the verse, “A sword is upon the boasters and they shall become fools” (Jeremiah 50:36)? A sword is upon scholars who sit alone to study the Torah. And not only this, but they also become stupid, as it is written here, “and they shall become fools”….

Would You Like to Sing Like That? (You Can…) | Welcoming Yair Harel to “Jewish Nightlife”

Would you like to be able to sing like this?

Well, as a student of Jewish Nightlife you have a chance to work with Yair Harel (whose musical direction inspired the music in the video included above), who will begin to co-teach our course today, and stay with us through the end of the Semester.

As described in the page about the Instructors on this blog, Yair Harel is a performer, and artistic director, and a community organizer from Jerusalem, Israel. He is the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist at The Magnes, UC Berkeley, this Fall semester.

Harel received a traditional Jewish education in Israel before going on to study zarb(Persian drum) in Israel and France with Roger Yshay and Daghmeshid Chemirani, tar and Persian classical music with Peretz Eliyhau, improvisation with André Hajdu, and Jewish-Andalusian Vocal traditions with Rabbis Meir Atiyah and Haim Louk. Over the last twelve years, he has focused on exploring, teaching and performing traditional Jewish music from North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, taking a major part in numerous multimedia productions based on encounters between traditional and contemporary music, in Israel and abroad. He has been the artistic director of the Ben Zvi Piyut Vocal Ensemble since 2008, has led workshops and courses in traditional Jewish vocal music, Middle Eastern percussion and improvisation at The Hebrew University, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and The Jerusalem Academy High School for Music and Dance. In 2010 he created the New Jerusalem Orchestra. As one of the main figures behind the Piyyut scene that has revolutionized the face of Israeli musical culture, he is a founding member of the “Singing Communities Project,” the founder and the present Editor In chief of the “Invitation to Piyut” website, the artistic director of the Jerusalem Piyut Festival, and a co-founder of Piyyut North America. He is part of Tafillalt Ensemble, which in 2010 released a new album under John Zorn’s Tzadik label.

In addition to teaching the music labs of Jewish Nightlife, Harel will be presenting concerts at The Magnes and across the San Francisco Bay Area. (More information here).