Hampshire College's Yiddish Book Center hosted their fourth annual Yiddish Music Festival, Yidstock, this past weekend. People from all over the country - and many from European nations - met in Amherst to share their passion of Yiddish culture and klezmer music.
The festival featured influential klezmer artists such as the Grammy winning Klezmatics, Klezperanto, and the Brooklyn based Yiddish Art Trio. Yidstock also offered a variety of lectures and workshops including a a session on Yiddish soul foods by UMass alumna Laura Silver and a klezmer music workshop by local music educator Brian Bender. Others included Yiddish dancing, a talk on Jewish culture by filmmaker Erik Anjou and discussions of the future of the Book Center and Yiddish literature.
Laura Silver at her talk "Knish: Jewish Soul Food"
Though the festival started in 2011 and still remains a relatively new event, it grows larger each year. Yidstock has grown from a one-day-only event to a four day festival; new workshops and lecturers are introduced each year, and the number of attendees has increased greatly.
Despite the large turnout, many of the festival goer have crossed paths in the past at other klezmer festivals and workshops.
"The klezmer community internationally is a pretty tight knit group of people, and it’s rather small," says Patrick Farrell, the accordionist of Yiddish Art Trio. "Everybody seems to know each other more or less. We go to workshops and teach together, or we’re at different camps or those kinds of things. There’s KlezKamp, KlezKanada, or Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany. So we’re constantly crossing paths with each other and doing gigs together. Some people are touring here, some people are touring there...It’s a nice community."
"It’s a small community because it’s so specialized.... it really attracts an international crowd," says Brian Bender, who hosted two introductory klezmer workshops for both adults and children. "It attracts people who are musicians, who are dancers, who are interested in Yiddish language, because there are course offerings for all those things... But I do think that some how Jewish musicians have a knack for building community. Because I don’t see necessarily the same type of community like in the blues world or in the Reggae world... I say that, but also I should add to that that quite a few of the best klezmer musicians on the scene are not Jewish at all."
The Yiddish Book Center was started in 1980 by Aaron Lansky, a Hampshire alumni who wanted to preserve rare books from the rapid destruction of Yiddish literature by young Jewish Americans that were unable to read the language, but were receiving or inheriting Yiddish books from their parents or grandparents. The Book Center is currently working on digitizing their collection, preserving it and making it more accessible worldwide.
The Yiddish Book Center displays and exhibits
For more information on Yidstock, check out their 2015 line up.
For more information on The Yiddish Book Center, visit their website, or visit them at their Hampshire College location.