Legends That Shape Jewish Identity, Story of Esther, and a Jewish Shanghai Through Music

March 19, 2024

Jewish legends have woven a rich tapestry of cultural and spiritual narratives that span centuries, reflecting the diverse experiences and moral lessons of the Jewish people. These stories, ranging from biblical tales to mystical folklore, encapsulate themes of faith, perseverance, and the complexity of human nature. They serve not only as a cornerstone of Jewish identity but also offer universal insights that bridge communities through the shared language of storytelling.

They also serve as the focus of the tenth episode of our podcast series, hosted by the likewise legendary Leonard Nimoy. This episode takes listeners on a musical journey through Jewish literature, from the biblical tales of Naomi and Ruth to the mystical narratives of the Golem of Prague and the parables of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. Featuring compositions inspired by history, myth, and the spectrum between them, including Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Naomi and Ruth and works exploring the lore of Esther and the dybbuk, this episode is a tribute to the power of story and music to convey the depth and diversity of Jewish cultural heritage.

Listen, read and explore the episode now, on our website.

Stream Episode 10 »


Curator's Pick: Symphony Midrash Esther by Jan Meyerowitz
For this tone poem on the story of Esther, in which the imminent annihilation of the Jews of Persia is averted when the secretly Jewish queen reveals her identity, Jan Meyerowitz drew inspiration from the Talmud, Midrash, and other rabbinic sources. The composer's own biography shares an important parallel with the Esther story. Meyerowitz also harbored a secret Jewish identity, albeit unintentionally. His parents had converted to Christianity prior to his birth and did not inform him of the family's Jewish ancestry until he was an adult.


A Story of Jewish Shanghai, Told Through Music
Aaron Zigman's Émigré tells a fictional love story set in 1930s Shanghai, at the time home to a large population of Jewish refugees. The commission from the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is featured on a new recording from Deutsche Grammophon. (Photo Credit: Adam Crane/Courtesy of the New York Philharmonic)

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