What’s Happening in Philly’s Jewish Young Professional Scene

Rachel Abramowitz. Photo: Tribe 12.

By Rachel Abramowitz

In a person’s life, the longest time between Jewish rituals is the duration from bar/bat mitzvah to marriage. For Millenials today, that gap is only getting wider.

So what does Judaism look like for young professionals when there isn’t a ritual in sight to connect them? What does Jewish community look like outside the bounds of traditional rituals? As the engagement associate for Tribe 12, a non-profit that connects 20s/30s in Philadelphia to the Jewish community, it’s my job to “mind this gap” of the young professional experience. In this interim of milestones, I create programming that not only fosters community, but also connects 20s/30s with all the  Jewish Philly happenings and opportunities.

[Read more…]

Take A Bite Of An Apple From The Tree Of Music

— by Mira Treatman

It was a brutally cold Thursday night at Old City Coffee as locavorish (who eat locally-produced food) arts appreciators piled into the forty-seat house to see harp-centric power folk bands: Liz and the Lost Boys and Snow Caps. The show, co-sponsored by Café Olam and Moishe House Philadelphia, was in celebration of Tu B’shvat, the birthday of the trees. This celebration is quite relevant to Café Olam because of its mission as “a cultural space that will serve as a source of engagement for the Jewish and general community to help strengthen connections.” Honoring the living things in our world, or olam in Hebrew, is a very direct way of furthering environmental responsibility.

More after the jump.
The woman behind this organization is founder and Jewish non-profit guru, Laurel Klein. This was and is a major passion project that was developed further by the Tribe 12 Fellowship in 2011. In an effort to support this emerging Jewish organization, proceeds from the concert went directly to Café Olam. Next steps for the organization are to secure a permanent home for on-sight on-site beer brewing and to continue to bring young urban Jews together. Andrew Keller, singer-songwriter in Snow Caps remarked: “The fact that the show was a benefit really made me happy. I wish Cafe Olam much success.”

Moishe House, the second of the two organizations, envisions itself as “the global leader of pluralistic Jewish life for adults in their twenties, so that they have the leadership, knowledge and community to enrich their Jewish journeys.”

Philadelphia’s house, of which your author is a resident, organizes at least seven events per month in exchange for a program budget, a rent subsidy, and other opportunities for professional and spiritual development. The concert at Old City Coffee is an example of a typical program in the sense that it celebrates a traditional festivity in an innovative way. It is unusual to an extent because it is an arts-focused event completely orchestrated by residents.

Over the last nine months, Moishe House Philly has increasingly organized arts events both at their home and at local venues such as the National Museum of American Jewish History and The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. One house show even featured Snow Caps, which was so very exciting!  

Keller and his band mates — Spencer Carrow, Yianni Kourmadas, Darian Scatton, and Roger Martinez — opened the show with a set of original songs featuring lush string arrangements for harp and guitar and warm clarinet parts that were fittingly modal, neurotic, and introspective. Snow Caps as a full band often sounded nostalgic like twenty first century sea-faring pirate types sailing down Baltimore Avenue. Particularly haunting refrains stood out throughout the set, notably in Snow Caps’ finale song. Keller sang “make it sing, make it sing, sing a thing, make it sing” as Martinez echoed enigmatically with a wistful, rising clarinet.  At times the songs sound like regal court dances while others get down with a funky stomp driving fast-paced lyrics. Harmonic complexity reigns throughout. Keller said:

It was a treat to perform at Old City Coffee. We were overwhelmed by the amount of people there, and everyone in the audience was very attentive and patient, even between songs. It was also nice to see some fresh faces. I knew a few people, but most of the audience was seeing Snow Caps for the first time. I also just think it’s really great that there is a Jewish holiday to celebrate trees.

Liz Ciavolino, singer-songwriter of Liz and the Lost Boys, is no stranger to the Jewish community. She reflected:

I don’t feel like an outsider in Jewish communities too often. My dad’s side of the family is Jewish and so I grew up around some Jewish culture. My aunt and uncle lead a klezmer band for a long time and I celebrated a handful of Jewish holidays. Though I’m not practicing, I definitely see it as part of my heritage and I enjoy participating in it. This event in particular was very welcoming and supportive

Ciavolino also shared that some of her songs even contain biblical themes. She “grew up in a Christian home and attended church weekly for (her) entire childhood, memorized a lot of scripture, and sang lots of hymns. It’s still a part of who (she is) and always will be.” One of her songs even has a few explicit Old Testament references. “Since I grew up with it from an early age, biblical references have a strong, deep meaning for me,” she continued.

Liz and the Lost Boys features Ciavolino on lead vocals and harp with mostly original songs composed with a mathy, jazz influence with sprinkles of heartache mixed in mostly on harp, minus the uber-feminine angel imagery. This is clearly evidenced in a medley with a working title “Whole Tone/Unravel”, composed on a twelve-tone scale that boasts the lyrics “only a good man can break your heart and only the best ones will leave a star”.

In addition to her harp and piano driven songwriting, one of Liz’s other signatures is that her band of lost boys is constantly evolving. They are often literally quite lost. Performing this time were Dane Galloway and Joel Sephy of My Son Bison, Will Wright and Matt Scarano. This particular iteration of the band was especially tight. Wright on bass and Galloway on guitar were really playing with each other and seemed to be very conscious of how their intricate parts drove the songs together. Liz, sporting a gamine but powerful pixie cut, is the diva.

So what made this show Jewish other than the sponsoring organizations? What was the connection between the music performances and the holiday Tu B’shvat? The point illustrated by this concert and other similar programming from Café Olam and Moishe House, is that the Jewishness of youthful community gatherings should be constantly evolving. While this is not completely true for all members of the young Jewish community, a significant handful does value innovation in programming and observance over tradition.

For example, at a recent Moishe House event co-sponsored by LGBTQ Jewish group Spectrum Philly, event participants openly talked about their frustrations with the typical Jewish singles events and how alienating they can be. How is the future of Judaism going to work if every single self-identifying Jew isn’t one-hundred per cent included? The artistic and social success of this concert is a testament to the fact that young Jews today can both celebrate a very traditional holiday, Tu B’shvat, while also celebrating the breadth of sub-identities within “Jewish”.

Check out the Café Olam website to learn more about it. To stay up to date with Moishe House Philadelphia events, connect with the calendar and social media here. Snow Caps albums can be listened to and purchased here. Their album “Baby Bird” is sold out, but the stellar “Moonbreak” is still available. Liz and the Lost Boys, who are releasing a new album in June, have music here. The host venue for this concert was coffee roaster and café, Old City Coffee. Check their website for information about beans and treats, happenings and tastings.  

Hanukkah Happening: Israeli Singer Mika Karni & Band in Cnocert

Light the second Hanukkah candle on December 9, 2012 with Mika Karni and her band at Rodeph Shalom. This special performance called Kol Dodi (a name reminiscent of Karni’s use of biblical poetry from Song of Songs) brings together a unique musical ensemble of Israeli, Moroccan, Yemenite and Ethiopian musicians. Together they create a musical landscape reflecting Israel, a place where cultures from around the globe combine as one.

Co-Sponsored by: PhillyIsrael, Rodeph Shalom, Consulate of Israel in Philadelphia, The Israeli House, Temple Students for Israel. Collaborative, Renaissance, Moishe House Philadelphia and Reform Jewish Community (RJC).

More after the jump.
Location: 615 N. Broad st. Philadelphia Pa 19123

Post-Concert – Israel music andi Dancing with Rak-Dan

Community Wide Event: “Sharing Our Light Together”

5:30 – 7:15 PM Hanukkah Shuk (vendors – food, beverages, gifts etc..)

Pre paid VIP reception @ 6:30 – 7:15 PM

– 7:30 – Hanukkah candle lighting followed by “Kol Dodi” concert with Israeli singer Mika Karni and her band.
– General admission $18 in advance, $25 at the door.
Purchase your tickets online www.phillyisrael.com