'Shtetl on the Shortwave'

Mile End Chavurah member Tamara Kramer brings edgy alternative Jewish Montreal to the world, and global stories of her own to this city.

By A.P.
April 28, 2011 16:17
2 minute read.

Mile End Chavurah member Tamara Kramer brings edgy alternative Jewish Montreal to the world, and global stories of her own to this city. Astute and always seeking the unusual angle to all things Jewish, Kramer is the host of Shtetl on the Shortwave (shtetlmontreal.com), an online alternative Jewish cultural magazine and radio program. The show features interviews with an array of artists from the suave, musical or edgy to the quirky or the simply curious.

“People have an interest in Jewish culture, whether they are Jewish or not. They want to access it, but they do not know how,” says Kramer. “The traditional routes to find out what is going on in the Jewish world don’t always speak to everybody.”

Of her show, she says, “It’s bringing together what is important, interesting and deep about Jewish life. Showing how it is relevant to young people who might not be interested in going to a synagogue or who are disenchanted with the Jewish world but who still want to have a connection but don’t feel comfortable in traditional Jewish spaces that we have here in Montreal.”

Kramer has featured a vibrant mix of guests. They have included an interview with a spiritual voice from the Abayudaya – a Jewish community in Uganda – as well as in-depth interviews with the likes of local musician Socalled, who performs in porn halls and then causes a stir as he attempts to play with a female singer in an Orthodox synagogue.

She even points to one of her more unusual voices, Zohar Weiman Kelman. She is an Israeli doctoral student who approaches Judaism from the study of Yiddish poets of the early 20th century in Poland – all while heading out to queer Jewish spirituality events in California and performing as Shabbes’dik, a drag-king performance based on a likeness of her rabbi grandfather in his youth. The package results in a unique, amusing and entertaining mix.

“A lot of Jewish people and people in general are really in the closet with a lot of their questions,” says Kramer. “It’s true that in a traditional setting people can’t say, ‘I’m married to a non- Jew’ or ‘I’m bisexual and interested in Jewish arts and culture and religion.’ But that is the reality with a lot of Jewish people today. They might be intermarried, part of the secular world or just part of global culture. But they still want to find a connection to the Jewish culture.”


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