Faculty

BEN SHALOM, ACHI

 
(El Cerrito) Achi Ben Shalom is known in the community as a specialist in Jewish and Israeli music. He leads the band Adama, conducts the Nigunim Jewish Community Chorus, performs as a singer/guitarist, and produces concerts and other events. He has studied music in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Event and Meeting Planning at San Francisco State University. See AchiBenShalom.com


BERNSTEIN, SHARON

 
(Berkeley) Vocalist and pianist Sharon Jan Bernstein lived in New York, Jerusalem, and Italy before returning home to the Bay Area, where she serves as the Cantor of San Francisco's Congregation Sha'ar Zahav. She has presented her rare Yiddish repertoire in Europe, Israel and the U.S. in venues including the Ancona Jewish Music Festival, RAI National Italian Radio, Yung Yidish, Habimah Theatre Jerusalem, Berkeley Jewish Music Festival, World Congress of Jewish Studies, Makor, Center for Jewish History and the 92nd Street Y. She has taught Yiddish song in Jerusalem, Vilnius Summer Yiddish Program and at previous KlezCalifornia events. Her repertoire mixes less known or never performed songs (most notably from the Noy Collection) with new compositions such as those by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, organized according to subtle and captivating themes. Her "delightfully clear voice" (J. Pinnolis, jmwc.org) can be heard in Beyle Schaechter Gottesman's Af Di Gasn Fun Der Shtot (2003). See SharonBernstein.com

BLADY, KEN

 

(Berkeley) Educator, writer, and Yiddish translator, Ken Blady was born in Paris and grew up in Hasidic Brooklyn, where he attended yeshiva and rabbinical seminary. A Bay Area resident since 1972, Ken has a B.A. in History from U.C. Berkeley, and an M.A. in Educational Psychology from Cal State University East Bay. He is author of The Jewish Boxers’ Hall of Fame and Jewish Communities in Exotic Places, and translator of The Journeys of David Toback and Remembrance. A popular lecturer on a variety of Jewish themes at colleges, synagogues, elderhostels, and adult educational institutions, Ken has been featured on radio and television talk shows, including the Voice of Israel and The History Channel documentary, Operation Magic Carpet. He is a lecturer in Jewish history on the faculty of American Jewish University’s Whizen Center, Bel Air; Cal State University East Bay, Concord, OLLI program; and Diablo Valley College’s Emeritus College, Walnut Creek. See KenBlady.com

BROTMAN, STUART

 
(Berkeley) Stu Brotman is an internationally-known multi-instrumentalist who plays the string bass, basy (cello), tilinca (shepherd's flute) and baraban (Jewish bass drum). He has been a moving force in the klezmer revival, produced the Klezmorim's Grammy-nominated album 
Metropolis, and has performed with the Klezmorim, Kapelye, Andy Statman, Klezmer Conservatory Band, Veretski Pass, and Itzhak Perlman. He has recorded, toured, and taught New Jewish Music with world-class ensemble Brave Old World since 1989. Lately, Stu performs most often as a member of the klezmer power trio Veretski Pass (with Joshua Horowitz and Cookie Segelstein). See VeretskiPass.com

BROWN, SHELDON

 
(Oakland)
 Woodwind player Sheldon Brown has been a vital force on the San Francisco Bay Area creative music scene for over 25 years. He formed Sheldon Brown Group in 1993 to perform his original compositions and in 1996 released the album Shifting Currents. Sheldon Brown Group has performed at Yoshiʼs Nitespot in Oakland, Jazz in The City series, sponsored by the San Francisco Jazz Festival, The Jazzschool in Berkeley and Brunoʼs nightclub in San Francisco. Having survived several tours with the Klezmorim in the 1980s, he has since appeared with many of the top names in the jazz and world music scenes. He toured extensively with Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, and appears on Mr. Sosaʼs albums, Free Roots, Spirit of the Roots, Bembon and Prietos. Brown is a member of the group Hemispheres, which features Paul McCandless (Oregon and Paul Winter Ensemble), Ian Dogle, Frank Martin and Bill Douglas. Sheldon performs with and composes for Clarinet Thing, a clarinet quartet led by Beth Custer, which also features clarinetists Ben Goldberg and Harvey Wainappel. He is also a member of Darren Johnston Quintet and the Club Foot Orchestra.

CHAVER, YAEL


 

(Berkeley) Yael Chaver teaches Yiddish language and literature at U.C. Berkeley. Her interests lie at the intersection of modern Hebrew and Yiddish cultures. She is the author of What Must be Forgotten: The Survival of Yiddish in Zionist Palestine, and has written and presented extensively on modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature and the culture of the Zionist Yishuv (settlement) in Palestine. She is currently engaged in a study of 20th-century Hebrew and Yiddish adaptations of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. See Berkeley.edu

EGGER, JULIE

 
 
(Lagunitas) Violinist Julie Egger received a Bachelor of Music in Education from the Crane School of Music, where she studied with the Carnegie String Quartet and Ruth Iogha. Julie lived for nine years in Boston, where she performed classical, jazz, and liturgical music. She founded and performs with the Red Hot Chachkas, as well as The Convergents, teaches klezmer music as well as classical and jazz to students of all ages, conducts workshops in klezmer music, and freelances in the Bay Area. She was a co-founder of KlezCalifornia. See JulieEgger.com

HALL, ALAN

 
(Oakland) Drummer Alan Hall has performed and/or recorded with Eddie Harris, Paul McCandless, Art Lande, Ratzo Harris, Stuart Hamm, Kai Eckhardt, Billy Childs, Kenny Werner, Bob Sheppard, Kit Walker, Tom Coster, Rebecca Parris, Kenny Washington, Betty Buckley, John Handy, Joyce Cooling, Victor Mendoza, Cirque du Soleil and many others. He has performed at: WAMU Theatre @ Madison Square Garden w/ Cirque du Soleil, Monterey Jazz Festival with Billy Childs and Bob Sheppard; Vancouver International Jazz Festival with Mike Zilber; Barbados International Jazz Festival with Wild Mango; JVC Jazz Festival with Rebecca Parris; BumberShoot Festival with Kai Eckhardt and Kit Walker; and Yoshi’s San Francisco with Kenny Werner and Betty Buckley. He taught at Berklee College of Music from 1986 to 1993 and has adjudicated and given classes, clinics and workshops at festivals, colleges and music stores throughout North America including: Berklee's Summer Camp in Los Angeles; Jazzcamp WEST in La Honda; Lafayette Summer Music Jazz Camp in Lafayette; and Stanford Summer Jazz in Palo Alto. Alan is currently playing tubs for "Teatro Zinzanni" in San Francisco, where he has worked with performers Joan Baez, Veronin, Christine Deaver and El Vez; and directors Ricardo Salinas and Eddie Cantor. See SCUEastBay.edu

HOFFMAN, DANIEL

 

(Tel Aviv) Violinist Daniel Hoffman, descendant of a long line of Bessarabian furriers, was born and raised near Los Angeles. After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music, he quickly began un-learning most of what he'd been taught and turned his attentions to Eastern European Jewish music and formed several klezmer bands in San Francisco. In 1992, he co-founded Davka, combining Ashkenazi music with jazz and Middle-Eastern rhythms. Davka has released five CDs of original music, including four on the Tzadik label. He also founded The Klez-X (formerly San Francisco Klezmer Experience) in 1996 and has developed a reputation as one of the foremost experts of the Yiddish violin style, recording and performing with the top players in the field. Daniel has received numerous composition grants, including from Meet The Composer and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has written new scores for the 1920s silent films, The Golem and Jewish Luck. He composed music for David in Shadow and Light, a new musical (with librettist Yehuda Hyman) based on the King David story, which premiered at Theatre J in Washington, D.C. in 2008. In Israel, he performs with Trio Carpion, Andralamoussia, Echo 3, Yehuda Katz, Keren Friedman and the Jazzraelites, and in the new Jerusalem Theater Company comedy, “Are You Happy Yet?” He teaches at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and recently began producing the pilot episode of Violin Around the World, a 36-part documentary film series that explores the role of the violin in diverse cultures worldwide. See DavkaMusic.com

JOLISH, AHUVA

 
(San Francisco) Ahuva Jolish was born in Paris to a pair of Holocaust survivors and Yiddish was her first language. When she moved to Israel, she learned Hebrew by interacting with her playmates. She moved to the U.S. in 1969 to obtain a college degree.

JOLISH, EMANUEL

   
(San Francisco) Emanuel Jolish was born in a D.P. (displaced persons) Camp in Germany, moving to Israel in 1948. He spoke Yiddish with his parents for the first twenty-one years of his life, speaking Hebrew only outside his home. He was educated in the U.S and is a father and grandfather of two.

KLEIN, HEATHER

   
(San Francisco)
Heather Klein is a classically trained soprano, who has performed across the U.S., Canada and Europe as a soloist and with various musical groups and opera companies including her Inextinguishable Trio. Highlights include singing with her mentor Adrienne Cooper in Three Yiddish Divas and touring with the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene alongside, among others, Zalmen Mlotek and Claire Barry of the Barry sisters.  Heather has also performed in New York at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, premiered the role of Rosie in the world premiere of Ravensbruck, a cabaret Holocaust opera in Boston and sang on the soundtrack of an Independent Jewish film. After the success of the Trio's first album "Mayn Yiddishe Velt," their second CD "Shifreles Portret: A Yiddish Art Song Project" is coming out in February. Heather co-founded the new ensemble, Shabbos Zingt, which leads services with Yiddishkayt melodies while she tutors B’nei Mitzvah students.

THE KLEZ-X

 
The Klez-X is in the vanguard of new Jewish music. Founded by DAVKA violinist Daniel Hoffman in 1996 as The San Francisco Klezmer Experience, the Klez-X mines the rich depths of klezmer, Yiddish folk and art song, and modern jazz to create a brilliantly original sound, still rooted in the bedrock of Yiddish culture. Based in the S.F. Bay Area, the birthplace of the 1970's klezmer revival and home to one of the country's most progressive and fertile music scenes, the Klez-X boasts an all-star roster of highly versatile and innovative musicians. Their groundbreaking work includes new compositions, fascinating reinterpretations of traditional pieces, breathtaking improvisations, effervescent vocal work, and modernist settings of 20th century Yiddish literature by poets such as Moishe-Leyb Halpern, Itzik Manger, and Avraham Sutzkever. The Klez-X has performed extensively on the West Coast as well as internationally at numerous music festivals, including the Ashkenaz Festival of New Yiddish Culture in Toronto, the S.F. Jazz Festival, and Germany's prestigious Schleiswig-Holstein Festival. The Klez-X performed at the San Francisco Symphony’s Millenium Gala at Davies Symphony Hall. Led by violinist and composer Daniel Hoffman, The Klez-X features reed player Sheldon Brown, Yiddish singer and accordionist Jeanette Lewicki, percussionist Alan Hall, bassist Richard Saunders, vocalist and trumpeter Stephen Saxon, and trombonist Charlie Seavey. See individual bios, and KlezX.com

LEVITOW, JON

 
(Los Gatos) Jon Levitow has been the Yiddish instructor at Stanford for four years. He studied Yiddish at the Los Angeles Arbeter Ring (Workmens' Circle) and the California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language intensive language program, where he has also been an instructor, and at the NYU/YIVO summer program in New York. He has a Ph.D. in English literature from Princeton University. His translations into English of works by the poets Yisroel Shtern, Yosl Bershteyn, and Aaron Zeitlin can be found at YisroelShtern.org and YosselBirstein.org

LEWICKI, JEANETTE

 
(Oakland) Vocalist and accordionist Jeanette L
ewicki was orphaned young, without a dowry or family background, and did what she had to do to learn Yiddish and klezmer accordion. She picked up accordion at the vegan commune where she grew up (in her twenties), and studied Yiddish in New York at Columbia University, as well as in Europe. Jeanette has produced numerous acclaimed recordings including Mayn Shtetele Soroke (with 78-year-old Bessarabian Yiddish singer Arkady Gendler) and Fli Mayn Flishlang (Yiddish children's songs by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman). She is the featured accordionist and Yiddish singer of the Klez-X, has played with Pablo Aslan and Jenny Scheinman on Jenny Levison's Yiddish Tango project, and leads The Gonifs Klezmer Band, whose breakout recording is on Porto Franco Records. Jeanette loves to teach, and most recently co-taught with Arkady Gendler at Yiddish Summer Weimar, the groundbreaking Yiddish culture workshop directed by Dr. Alan Bern.  See MadamLevitsky.com

REBHAN, JIM

 
(El Cerrito) Accordionist Jim Rebhan has been a mainstay of the San Francisco Bay Area klezmer scene. Since 1980, he has performed with the Ellis Island Old World Folk Band and has been a longtime member of California Klezmer, recording with both groups. He is the son of Jewish immigrants who left Europe in the late 1930’s (and who met in English language school) and grew up listening to Yiddish songs at home. His first accordion teachers were Italian immigrants in Chicago. He has studied klezmer accordion with Alan Bern (Brave Old World) and Lauren Brody (Mikveh). Jim majored in music at the University of Chicago and has a Masters in Composition from California Institute of the Arts. He has taught at Living Traditions’ KlezKamp West and at other KlezCalifornia festivals. In addition to the piano accordion, Jim performs on drums and xylophone. See Musikers.com and CaliforniaKlezmer.com

SAUNDERS, RICHARD

    
(Oakland) 
Bassist Richard Saunders was born in New York City in 1945 and grew up in Great Neck, on Long Island's north shore. Suspended from high school for a year, he applied to U.C. Berkeley because it was 3,000 miles away and had a reputation as pinko. Arriving in Berkeley September, 1964, Richard got there in time to participate in the events of the sixties, build a washtub bass, and commence a musical career as a bassist. Oh yes, he received a B.A. in history in 1969. Richard studied music composition, harmony and counterpoint with Bill Matthieu from 1968 to 1970, when he bought his first upright bass ($275 with bow and bag). He has played and recorded with Country Joe and the Fish, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Jessica Williams, Cat Anderson, San Francisco Mime Troupe, various TV shows and ads, and movie scores. He is proud of his work with The Klez-X. He currently is on the faculty of the San Francisco Community Music Center.

SAXON, STEPHEN

   
(Oakland) Stephen Saxon plays trumpets, alto horn, and sings. In addition to Klez-X, Stephen Saxon has performed and recorded as a trumpet player and / or singer with The Klezmorim, Klezmer Conservatory Band, Chanticleer, Kitka, San Francisco Symphony (soloist), Spokane Symphony (soloist), and many other excellent ensembles. He has served as Cantor for congregations in California, Texas, and Washington. Stephen is an award-winning arranger and composer, and he has composed and produced Gospel
Shabbat, a new setting of the Friday evening service, accompanied by a Gospel band and choir. He teaches improvisation at The Jazzschool in Berkeley. See StephenSaxon.com

SCHWARTZ, MARTIN

 
(Berkeley) Martin Schwartz recently retired from being Professor of Near Eastern Studies (Ancient Iranian Studies) at U.C. Berkeley. In the early 1970s, he, together with a few musicians, started the wave of interest in reviving the old klezmer repertory. Martin's role was to supply old recordings and provide information on Yiddish and performance of Yiddish tunes (including klezmer). In time, he became known as an expert on aspects of klezmer music and its broader connections, with formal invitations (i.e., paid trips) to speak at events including Ethnic Folks Arts (New York City), International Conference of Rebetica (Nikaia - Athens), Netherlands/Belgium Sferra Institute lecture series -- touring with Brave Old World and a Greek group, Jewish Music Institute (London), and Institute of Rebetology (London). Martin has produced archival annotated reissues of Klezmer Music: Early Yiddish Instrumental Music, The First Recordings (Arhoolie - Folklyric label, LP and revised edition as CD). His disks also formed the basis of the archival CD Yikhes (Trikont label) and he produced an annotated LP (revised as CD) of rebetica (Arhoolie - Folklyric) as well as contributing music and notes to other similar CDs. See Berkeley.edu

SEAVEY, CHARLES

 
(Sausalito) Trombonist Charley Seavey is a blazing slide master who combines shimmering technique with an abundance of soul. He spins solos, rhythm and counterpoint that delight with surprise and depth. He has performed worldwide with some of the most commanding players in jazz, salsa and klezmer. In the klezmer genre, Charley has established himself as one of the world’s premiere klezmer trombonists through 25 years of performances with The Klezmorim, The Klez-X and Margot Leverett, among others.

SEIDMAN, NAOMI

 
(Berkeley) Naomi Seidman is Koret Professor of Jewish Culture and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her first book, A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish, appeared in 1997. Her second book, Faithful Renderings; Jewish-Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation, was published in 2006. See GTU.edu

SHERMAN, CLAIRE

 
 
(Berkeley) Artist Claire Sherman creates ceramic sculptures and Jewish ritual objects. Following graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design with a B.F.A. in ceramics, she spent a year in Israel. While there, Claire studied Hebrew and absorbed the archaeology and age-old landscape. The walls, archways, and roofs of Israel’s ancient architecture have had a lasting impact on her work. Claire conducts art workshops in paper cutting and Jewish ritual objects for adults and children throughout California. She is a founding member of Berkeley's Congregation Netivot Shalom, where she enjoys chanting Torah and davening (leading services). Claire also loves to sing rounds. Although she knows hundreds of them, she doesn't yet know any in Yiddish.

SPAGNOLO, FRANCESCO

 

(Berkeley) Francesco Spagnolo, Ph.D., is a multidisciplinary scholar with a focus on Jewish studies, music and digital media. Intersecting textual, visual and musical cultures, Francesco has contributed extensively to academia, cultural heritage and archival institutions, and to live and electronic media in Europe, Israel and the United States. He holds a doctorate in musicology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is editor of the audio anthology, Italian Jewish Musical Traditions (Rome-Jerusalem 2001). His essay, “When the Fiddler Falls Off the Roof: Italy and the Klezmer Music Revival,” was published in the Rivista Italiana di Musicologia in 2002. Francesco is Curator of Collections at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, U.C. Berkeley. See Magnes.org and GoogleProfile


TENNEY, GERRY

 

(Oakland) Gerry Tenney is a children’s entertainer, musician and teacher, singer of Yiddish songs, and leader of the band California Klezmer. In 2002, 2004, and 2006 he was Musical Director for two Yiddish-oriented plays put on by San Francisco State University's Drama and Jewish Studies Departments. He directed the Jewish Music Festival in its early years and was a main organizer of the first klezmer camp in California (KlezKamp West) in 1989. For ten years, he hosted the Gershn Yankl Show on KPFA. He has led and performed children's music at many klezmer music camps in New York, West Virginia and California, as well as at other Jewish children's camps. Gerry has worked with children for more than forty years. He is director and music teacher of the East Bay Kindershul, the only kids’ school (grades K-8) in the Bay Area that emphasizes Yiddish culture. Gerry taught sociology at the City College of New York 1967-1972.
A descendant of the Shpielman family of the Kolymea klezmorim, Gerry is an almost-fluent Yiddish speaker and President of KlezCalifornia. See CaliforniaKlezmer.com

TKACH, DANIEL

 

(San Jose) Daniel Tkach was born and raised in a Yiddish-speaking family in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His father, Abraham Tkach, was a professor of Yiddish literature, author of books in Yiddish, and a principal of the Dr. Herzl Jewish School. His mother, Frida, sang in the choir of the IFT (Yidisher Folks Teater), therefore at home Yiddish was ingrained not only through speech but through songs and rhymes. Daniel graduated as a Jewish teacher at age 16 from the Yidisher Lehrer Seminar in Buenos Aires and taught at the Moishe Rubin school in that city before starting his studies in engineering. He has graduate degrees form universities in Buenos Aires, Eindhoven (Holland), and California.



VARGA, HARVEY

 
(Oakland) 
Harvey Varga, furniture designer and cabinetmaker, was born in New York City to Holocaust survivors. Yiddish is his first language. Harvey has been a teacher of Yiddish and other Jewish subjects since 1975 at Lehrhaus Judaica, Stanford University, JCC San Francisco, and KlezKamp. Harvey was on the Board of Directors of the JCC San Francisco, 1986 - 1990, and served on the S.F. Jewish Community Relations Council.  See VargaConstruction.net

WEINTRAUB, STEVEN

 
 
(Chicago, Illinois) Steve Weintraub is a teacher, choreographer, and performer specializing in Jewish dance. He received his training with Alvin Ailey and Erick Hawkins, and danced for Felix Fibich. He teaches Yiddish dance workshops internationally, leads dancing at simkhes, and collaborated on Hopkele, a CD of music especially for dancing. See Facebook.com

ZIPPERSTEIN, STEVEN J.

 
(Menlo Park) 
Steven J. Zipperstein, Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University and Chair of the Academic Council of the Center for Jewish History, in New York, has written or co-edited eight award-winning books including The Jews of Odessa; Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha'am and the Origins of Zionism and, most recently, Rosenfeld's Lives; Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing. He served as Director of Stanford's Taube Center for Jewish Studies for sixteen years, and has taught at Harvard, U.C.L.A., and universities in Russia, Poland, France, England, and Israel. See Stanford.edu