In the 1960s, Jewish music in America began to evolve. Traditional liturgical tunes developed into a blend of secular and sacred sound that became known in the 1980s as “American Nusach.” Chief among these developments was the growth of feminist Jewish songwriting. In this lively study, Sarah M. Ross brings together scholarship on Jewish liturgy, U.S. history, and musical ethnology to describe the multiple roots and development of feminist Jewish music in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Focusing on the work of prolific songwriters such as Debbie Friedman, Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael, Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel, and Linda Hirschhorn, this volume illuminates the biographies and oeuvres of innovators in the field, and shows how this new musical form arose from the rich contexts of feminism, identity politics, folk music, and Judaism. In addition to providing deep content analysis of individual songs, Ross examines the feminist Jewish music scene across the United States, the reception of this music, challenges to disseminating the music beyond informal settings, and the state of Jewish music publishing. Rounding out the picture of the transformation of Jewish music, the volume contains appendixes of songs and songwriters a selection of musical transcriptions of feminist Jewish songs, and a comprehensive discography. This book will interest scholars and students in the fields of American Jewish history, women’s studies, feminism, ethnomusicology, and contemporary popular and folk music.
SARAH M. ROSS is professor of Jewish music studies and director of the European Center for Jewish Music at the Hannover University of Music, Drama, and Media in Germany.