Milken Archive Newsletter Journeys

October 25, 2023

A Journey Through American Jewish Music

Discover the soundtrack of the American Jewish Experience

Signup for this free 8-part email newsletter journey by the Milken Archive of Jewish Music. You'll receive eight emails over the course of two weeks, filled with music and video selections.


Curated by experts, this free educational series highlights Jewish compositions at all ends of American history, from the Colonial era to the 20th century.
Whether you're a seasoned music enthusiast or simply curious, this digestible program is designed as a starting point for a lifelong Jewish journey of musical appreciation and discovery.

Themes Covered in the Journey


Yiddish Theater
Yiddish musical theater is one of the great cultural legacies of 20th century American Jewish immigrants. It was a vital source of joy and inspiration for Jews who struggled to adapt to life in America, and come to terms with the oppression and poverty left behind in Europe.


Sacred Jewish Jazz
When you think about synagogue music, jazz, funk, swing and blues don’t immediately come to mind. However, these genres all came into play in the 1960s and 1970s with the emergence of liturgical music that incorporated contemporary elements, particularly jazz and blues.


The Golden Age of American Cantorial Music
From the 1920s through the 1950s, synagogue cantors, known in Hebrew as hazzanim, achieved veritable rock star status. In addition to their primary role leading congregations in prayer, they played to sold-out crowds at concerts, toured internationally, appeared regularly on the radio and made hundreds of musical recordings.


Jewish Music in the New World
These early Jewish settlers represented a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences, and the rich communities they formed together in New York, Rhode Island, Georgia, and elsewhere became the foundation for almost 370 years of American Jewish life.


Classical Jewish Music
American Jewish composers produced a vast array of symphonies, orchestral suites, and concertos based on Jewish musical themes and topics ranging from the sound of shofar blasts, the cantillations used for reading Torah, key biblical episodes and characters, and more.


Jewish Opera
Jewish opera, while not necessarily an established genre in and of itself, comprises several dozen operas featuring soaring vocals, sweeping orchestrations and dramatic storylines that are on par with the very finest works of the 20th century. What makes them Jewish differs from opera to opera.


Reflections of the Holocaust
How can art - and music in particular - address the horrors of the Holocaust without trivializing it? In Europe, it took years for artists and leaders to address the Jewish genocide inflicted by Nazis and their allies. For survivors, this delay came from unspeakable pain and sadness...


Modern Liturgical Masterpieces
You won’t often hear prayer services set to contemporary classical music in synagogue. But some of the greatest compositions in the history of American Jewish music were actually intended as sacred services, and commissioned by rabbis, cantors, and philanthropists at preeminent institutions in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.





Media Inquiries

Bonnie Somers
Senior Vice President, Communications
(310) 570-4770


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