"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Another JewIrish Follow-Up

For several years I've been trying to figure out whether there's a legitimate connection between Jewish identity and Celtic music, and I don't think I'll make a better case for it than I did in my "JewIrish" post on January 5. On a day when it's said that everyone is Irish, though, I do have more anecdotal evidence to share.

This past weekend, I saw Celtic-rock band Black 47 at Shamrockfest in Washington, D.C. The band played a song called "Izzy's Irish Rose," which includes two "Hava Nagila" interludes. It's a love story about "a cantor in the synagogue" who "keeps the laws of Israel with the greatest of resolve" and an "Irish shiksa." I didn't realize it at the time, but I'm guessing the song is a take-off on Abie's Irish Rose. For more information, read my Jewcy post from Monday, "Jewish Pride at Shamrockfest."

The March 19 issue of the Forward features an article about Irish musician and folklorist Mick Moloney, whom I wrote about in my January 5 post. Says Moloney, "Nearly all the significant partnerships I’ve had with people professionally have been with Jewish people." He added, "One or two is an accident. When it goes on for 35 years, it’s not an accident anymore, it’s a pattern. It’s just a good fit." Here's an excerpt from the article:
One of Moloney’s favorite Tin Pan Alley songwriters is Al Dubin. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Dubin grew up in Philadelphia and was “a holy terror of a kid,” who refused to go to school because he wanted to write songs. His despairing parents sent him to a seminary, from which he was promptly expelled for drinking. Eventually, Dubin ran away to New York. Working on 28th and Broadway, Dubin paired with various Irish songwriters, including John O’Brien, with whom he joined in 1916 to write “’Twas Only an Irishman’s Dream.” ...

How could a Jewish boy from Philadelphia write about “Sweet Shannon bells ringing”? Moloney explains it simply: “It wasn’t just dear old Ireland. It was songs that would somehow create a positive image of a place left behind.” In order to gloss over the harsh reality of immigration, “you buy into a fantasy fable of an imagined homeland.” This idea of an imagined homeland easily struck a chord with Jewish immigrants who had fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe a generation or two earlier.

Today on Jewcy, Jason Diamond wrote, "[I]f not for The Pogues, who would have come along and decided to fuse punk music with traditional folk sounds? ... [W]ould we have bands like Golem, Gogol Bordello, and The Shondes (among many others) fusing world sounds with punk aggression?" Click here to read my 2006 post in which Golem fiddler Alicia Jo Rabins said, "Irish music (via the Pogues) was the first folk tradition I really heard. ... I know that hearing the Pogues ... definitely inspired me to deal with my own tradition the same way, both musically and in my life."

The following are some other interesting tidbits I've stumbled upon since my January 5 post:


  • At 3/18/2010 9:04 AM, Anonymous Todd Silverstein said…

    I have been "translating" Jewish music, liturgical and otherwise, into Celtic-style jigs and reels for a decade or so. Perhaps the most successful one is "Hava NaJigilah". (I play in contra dance bands in Oregon's Willamette Valley.)

    Also, modern Jewish-Irish music connections stretch back to the 1980s, too. A number of trad. Celtic bands have done klezmer tunes (see Lunassa). I think it was De Danann that did a whole E. Coast U.S. tour in the 1980s with the Andy Statman Quartet.

    Todd Silverstein


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