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American Jews and their Music

Hosted By: Orange County Community Scholar Program (CSP)

Acculturation is a dynamic two-way street. For Jewish immigrants in America (and their offspring), the arts and entertainment provided one of the few opportunities for employment without racial quotas. Throughout the twentieth century, Jews played a major role in American music, quite disproportionate to their demographic share. At the same time, the Jews’ own music was radically transformed through exposure to American popular culture. We will explore the character traits of American culture and its music, and see how they began to color Jewish music—liturgical, folk, popular, and “classical.” We will also look at the characteristics of traditional Jewish music and see its effect on the mainstream music of this country.

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