Bintel Blog

Why Do Jews Love Irish Music?

By Daniel Treiman

  • Print
  • Share Share

Why do Jews love Irish music? Actually, I didn’t know they did, until Gwen Orel told me so.

Writing in The Village Voice, Orel presents some anecdotal evidence that Jews are particularly well-represented in New York’s Irish music scene — which, of course, begs the question: “What makes so many Jewish-Americans with no Celtic heritage pour sweat equity into presenting, producing, writing about, and traversing long distances to enjoy Celtic music?”

But, as Orel learns, it’s a question easier asked than answered.

Rabbinical student Tom Gardner says that Celtic music “felt familiar. I’m not sure what it is, but it speaks somehow to our souls.”

“There’s a sorrow that unites both of those peoples,” Irish singer Susan McKeown says. “The Irish have been put down and moved on for hundreds of years, and the Jews have been moved on since time began. And nobody could put it into words in a miserable song that could touch your heart and be more beautiful than the Jews or the Irish … there’s a lot of hope.”

“I think part of it is longing,” says Riverdance composer Bill Whelan. “There’s a longing in the slow airs that’s expressed in the music. The first time I came to New York to work in 1992, I was brought out here by Leon Uris. He thought the Irish and the Jews had a load of shared cultural and emotional connection.”

But, Orel finds, not everyone buys the notion of some sort of deep spiritual affinity:

“There is no overlap between the styles—no emotional overlap,” contends klezmer pioneer Andy Statman. “It’s really just great music. Music can transcend culture.” Piper Bill Ochs, who teaches at the Irish Arts Center, agrees: He’s Jewish, and finds the idea of a mystical connection “kind of a romantic blarney.” His students come from Japan, China, Singapore, Russia, Latvia, Germany, and France. “It’s just great music,” he insists.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Music, Ireland

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
Paul Sat. May 10, 2008

If you read Greek and Hebrew,it will give you the answer(God Breathed)!Up lebona mizmor yassam olam.

Anthony Whelan Mon. Aug 18, 2008

I studied music a long time ago, and I was told that the Irish and Jews both loved the aeolian and myxolidian modes, or scales, which give their respective music particular qualities or atmosphere. I don't know if this is true, but I have written in these modes, both Irish and Jewish tunes. I wrote music to the great 'Hear Oh Israel, the Lord thy God is One'. Both Jews and Irish have been subjugated, and nearly annihilated by other cultures, yet neither nation gave up hope. The Jews had their Bible, particularly the psalms, and the Irish their music, and poetry. I am Irish, but I have a great respect for all things Jewish. The Irish have never picked on the Jews. The first lord mayor of Dublin when it gained independence after one thousand years of British occupation, was a Jew. If anyone is interested in my humble tunes, just email me for them.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.