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Closing the Distance:
Poems, Prayers and Love Songs
To what extent should Jews be making Judaism accessible to non-Jews? The question is a prickly one, and there is, of course, no one answer.
Historically, community leaders have been wary of the motivations of gentiles interested in converting, and many of our rituals are traditionally for members of the tribe only. Yet the vast majority of Jewish teaching is accessible to anyone with a library card or internet access, and we have no policies of secrecy like those of the Druse or the Scientologists. Californian Cantor Alisa Fineman sees great value in packaging Judaism for the world via her new disc, Closing the Distance. According to Fineman, her main goal in creating the album was "to share the wealth of our heritage and spiritual wisdom with everyone, the way the Tibetan Buddhists and Native Americans have shared theirs with us." The result is a brew of exotic instruments and Jewish concepts coming together to make a spiritual adult-ethno-folk concept album.
Distance's opening track presents some of the morning liturgy (including the prayer following evacuation) in an acoustic flamenco setting that features edgy percussion and bass. On "Hinei Ma Tov," Fineman juxtaposes a Sufi melody with a revised verse from the Psalms, extolling the mingling of nations (instead of the original "brethren"). Closing the Distance might not single-handedly heal the world, but it does mix a salad of ethnic influences that makes for easy swallowing.
For All the Things We Loved
Russian Israeli immigrant Zlata Razdolina is a promising young talent whose compositions defy genres and borders. Using the poetry of Ithak Katzenelson as a springboard, Razdolina's orchestral "Song of the Murdered Jewish People" is considered one of the most moving artistic memorials to the Holocaust. Avishai Ya'ar of the Omanut La'am Institute has written that he considers Razdolina's works to be "of great value to the cultural scene of Israel and for Jewish music in general."
Razdolina's new release, For All the Things We Loved, is a compilation of live performances spanning her career. Comprised of love songs set to the texts of Russian poets, the recording delves into wispy emotional balladry in a decidedly Eastern European / post-Soviet manner. Whispery vocals, synthesizer chords, sampled piano sounds and electronic bells set the tone for the collection in the Alexander Blok-penned opening title track, and these motifs are revisited in "Not Long Ago."
Uppy, theatrical whimsy dominates "I Didn't Call on You," while "Meet Me in the Evening" explores the interaction between the verses' staccato wordplay and the refrain's sweeping melody.