Rhythm and Ruth

The timing of Friday’s free children’s program, Rhythm and Roots: The Afro-Semitic Experience could not be more perfect. This year’s Washington Jewish Music Festival occurs immediately before the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which begins Sunday evening, June 8.


Rhythm and Roots explores the Jewish and African diasporas through interactive music-making. On Shavuot, we read the Book of Ruth, a beautiful story about the experience of being a stranger in a strange land.


It is easy to forget that the Jewish people in America are a diaspora people and that not too long ago, we were new immigrants and faced the numerous challenges that come from starting over in a foreign land. This collective memory that we share can guide us in how we treat strangers in our midst.


In the Book of Ruth, Boaz shows great kindness to Ruth and helps her succeed without ever compromising her dignity.


So please join us on Friday morning at 10am as we explore and celebrate the diaspora experience thought music – just in time for Shavuot, when we read of Ruth’s own journey to her new home.

Washington Jewish Music Festival Sound Byte: The Afro-Semitic Experience

A lot of lip service gets paid to the historic alliance between African-Americans and Jews. The actual experience of that history is a lot more complicated. All it takes is something like the recent media circus surrounding Reverend Jeremiah Wright to remind us that tensions below the surface can come gurgling to the surface with an intensity that evokes strong reactions and escalating rhetoric. By the time the shouting dies down, the gulf of misunderstanding has grown that much wider.

Warren Byrd and David Chevan of the Afro-Semitic ExperienceEnter The Afro-Semitic Experience on June 5th as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival to narrow that gulf, if only a little. Led for nearly a decade by Warren Byrd and David Chevan, TASE not only talks the talk, but walks the walk by responding to racism and anti-Semitism with its unique fusion of Gospel, Klezmer, Jazz, Niggunim, Spirituals, Swing and straight-up Funk. Granted, the premise seems tailor-made to produce cheap warm fuzzies of racial tolerance–but TASE brings the chops that imbues their polyglot sound with artistic validity that is impossible to deny.

The only way to become a believer is to take a listen for yourself. The track below is “Nefesh” from This Is the Afro-Semitic Experience.

Tickets are on sale May 1 for the Washington Jewish Music Festival. The Festival begins June 1 with the Capital Celebration of Israel @ 60 on the National Mall featuring Regina Spektor, Mandy Patinkin and Mashina.

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