Yiddish Art Songs by Israeli-Born Composers: A New Stylistic Interpretation

L. Silber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The establishment of the State of Israel with its adoption of Hebrew as the national language resulted in the complete repression of Yiddish and other immigrant languages and cultures. Yiddish music and culture, which was associated with the Diaspora Jew, posed a particular threat to the image of the revived Hebrew nationalist and the spirit of a Jewish renaissance. As a result, Yiddish music was permitted to be performed publicly only if translated into Hebrew, threatening the possible further development of Yiddish creativity in Israel. This situation changed in the 1960's, which ushered in a new era of cultural pluralism and ethnic acceptance due to a variety of social, political and global influences. Israeli-born composers who were intrigued by the powerful yet heretofore repressed Yiddish culture began exploring the musical sounds of that abandoned language and ultimately created a small body of Yiddish repertoire influenced by their Middle Eastern surroundings. This paper examines the phenomenon of Yiddish music created by non-Yiddish speaking Israeli-born composers living in Israel. It analyzes the works of three representative composers and explores their attitudes toward the language and their creative and diverse approaches to its sonorities. Through that analysis, the paper identifies characteristics that define the Israeli Yiddish art song as a distinctive art form.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)203-220
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Musicology
StatePublished - 2015


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