By Brian Ossip, DC Music Live
The Washington Jewish Music Festival will kick off May 3 with a performance by Abraham, Inc. at the Music Center at Strathmore. The festival, now in its 13th year, features bands and artists of all types and genres including funk, jazz, hip hop, indie, as well as traditional Jewish klezmer music.
“One of the very powerful ways to connect people is through music,” said Carole Zawatsky, chief executive officer of the Washington DCJCC. “The festival builds on the notion that we are inviting you in to celebrate identity, who you are. When I look at the mix of music…this is for everyone.”
In honor of it being the 13th year, a number that has great significance in Jewish tradition as the age when young boys and girls celebrate coming of age in a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony, the festival will feature 13 different performers at venues all over the city such as the Fillmore, Strathmore, the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, and the Washington DC JCC.
According to Zawatsky, this year’s festival is the most diverse and exciting since its inception. “We have such a fantastic amalgam across the board of music,” she said. “It’s very important for people to know that Jewish music is not one singular defining style.”
The festival acts as a way to bring not only D.C.’s Jewish community together but also people of all races, ethnicities, and religions. “Music has a great ability to work across cultures, something that the festival will try to take advantage of.” Zawatsky added that “music speaks to all of us. It breaks down cultural differences and barriers, and this is a way to see the incredible art that is being produced. I’m excited to share this with a broad community.”
When most people think of Jewish music, they probably first think about traditional klezmer music. Or they may think of Matisyahu, the popular act who blends traditional Jewish themes with reggae, rock, and hip hop and has opened for the likes of 311, Phish, and Sting. But Zawatsky adds that the festival “reflects the diversity of Jewish culture at the highest level. It’s an exuberant example of creativity through Jewish life. We will be showing people how to make these connections at the highest level – Judaism has lots of doors in.”
In the end, the festival hopes to reach out to people across all communities while still reflecting the contemporary Jewish sensibility. “All of the art is as varied as can be, and everyone of them is exciting,” Zawatsky closed with. “It’s not your parents’ Jewish music festival. It uses music to pierce your soul.”
The festival runs from May 3 through the 21st and more information, including a full list of performances, can be found at www.wjmf.org.