Dear Friends,

Happy Spring and Chag Pesach Sameach! We hope this finds you well and enjoying the brighter, longer days (at least in the U.S.). In this issue, Josh Jacobson muses on Italian Jewish music in anticipation of our June 8 concert, Viva L’Italia! We look back at our exciting joint concert with Philadelphia’s Nashirah and look ahead to our upcoming concerts. Read about a historic grant awarded Zamir by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and enjoy our report on two recent “Z’Alumni” gatherings online. Check out all the details below.

Josh Jacobson's Musings


In each issue of E-Notes, Artistic Director Joshua Jacobson offers his unique insights and experiences as a world-renowned scholar, composer, conductor, and influential teacher of Jewish music.


Discovering Italian Jewish Music

I was a teenager when I “discovered” Salamone Rossi (c. 1570–c. 1630). Here was this early Baroque Italian composer, a colleague of the great Claudio Monteverdi, and he was Jewish! He wrote both madrigals and synagogue motets! I wanted to be just like him.

This year, in preparing for the quadricentennial of the publication of Rossi’s synagogue music, I’ve come across some amazing music and fascinating history. Like the story of Sarra, Leone, and Salamone. Sarra Copia Sullam (1592–1641), pictured, was a modern Venetian woman: philanthropist, salon hostess, poet, musician, published philosopher. When Sarra’s sister, Rachel, was engaged to marry a son of the Mantuan musician Isaac Massarano, her friend Rabbi Leon Modena (himself quite a character) convinced Salamone Rossi to compose a musical ode for the wedding.

Rabbi Modena (1571–1648) was also a musician. He directed Venice’s Accademia degli Impediti (Academy of the Impeded), an ensemble of musicians in the Jewish ghetto. And circa 1590, he wrote new Hebrew liturgical lyrics to be sung to the music of a love song by Orazio Vecchi.

But Venice wasn’t the only place where new Jewish music was happening. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the synagogue in nearby Casale Monferrato, pictured, had a tradition of celebrating the festival of Hoshana Rabba with elaborate music for instruments and voices, composed especially for the occasion.

Then there was the Christian composer Benedetto Marcello (1686–1739), who went into the synagogues of Venice in 1724 (or so) and wrote down some Jewish chanting in musical notation, giving us the earliest transcriptions of Italian synagogue singing.

Last year, Israeli musicologist Guy Shaked sent me pages and pages of the compositions of Amadio Di Segni (1837–1925), choir director at the great synagogue in Rome. I began to think of him as the “Italian Louis Lewandowski,” but totally marinated in Italian opera.

And then there was Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco (1895–1968). I knew that he was one of the greatest Italian composers of the 20th century. But I learned that he too was Jewish and wrote some wonderful settings of Jewish texts.

We’ve put together an awesome concert featuring music by all these musicians—400 years of Jewish music from Italy. Discovering this music has been an adventure. Singing it is a thrill. We can’t wait to share it with you!

Hot Off the Press: Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) Awards Zamir Historic Grant

We are thrilled to share the news that Zamir has been approved for a Cultural Sector Recovery for Organizations grant of $32,450 from the Mass Cultural Council. Thanks to vigorous advocacy from the cultural sector, the state legislature once again showed strong bipartisan support for the MCC, including a historic $60.1 million one-time appropriation to assist artists and cultural organizations with Covid recovery needs.

Zamir's Managing Director Barbara Gaffin joined other Newton grant recipients in thanking state legislative officials at a reception on March 21 at the Allen House/Newton's Home for Arts and Culture. Among those pictured: Sen. Cindy Creem; Rep. Ruth Balser; Rep. Kay Kahn; Barbara Gaffin; MCC Executive Director Michael Bobbitt; and Adrienne Hartzell Knudsen, Managing Director, Newton Cultural Alliance/Allen Center. Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller also joined the celebration.

Upcoming Concerts

Voices of Humanity

Sunday, May 7, 3:00 pm, Vilna Shul, 18 Phillips St, Boston: In what has become an annual tradition, Zamir will perform as part of the “Voices of Humanity” interfaith concert celebrating music from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions. Other performers include VOICES 21C—a diverse choir dedicated to positive interactions, social justice, and global understanding; and Boston Community Gospel Choir--an all-volunteer, multicultural, intergenerational, multi-denominational group comprised of singers from the Greater Boston area. For tickets, visit Vilna Shul.

Viva L’Italia!

Thursday, June 8, 7:30 pm, Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward St, Newton: For our spring concert, Zamir will celebrate the quatercentenary of the publication of Salamone Rossi’s pathbreaking and beautiful collection of synagogue music, “Ha-shirim Asher Lishlomo.” The first half features music by Salamone Rossi and Leon Modena, both sacred and secular, accompanied by period instruments. The second half includes Italian Jewish music from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. See Josh Jacobson’s “Musing,” above, for more details. Click here for tickets.

Church on the Hill Concert


Sunday, June 11, 3:00 pm, 140 Bowdoin St, Beacon Hill, Boston: A chamber chorus from Zamir is delighted to return to the Church on the Hill, where our own assistant conductor, Andrew Mattfeld, is the music director. The broad-ranging program will include works by Italian composers Rossi, Di Segni, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco; as well as Lewandowski, Thompson, Osborne, Shukiar, and more. Watch your email for ticket information.

Winter Roundup

Sarah Boling

Sarah’s Blooms: A Jimmy Fund Benefit Concert in Memory of Sarah Jane Boling 

This special concert, held March 26 at Temple Emanuel in Newton, featured the world premieres of music commissioned from composers Cantor Charles OsborneCantor Robbie Solomon, Nick Page, Daniel Gil, and Richard Craswell. The event was produced by longtime Zamir bass Jordan Wagner in memory of his late wife and Zamir alto Sarah Boling z’l, in cooperation with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Performers included Zamir and Koleinu, plus several chamber ensembles under the direction of Elijah Botkin. All funds went to the Glioblastoma Brain Tumor Research Fund at Dana-Farber.

Nashirah: We Sing!


On March 12, Zamir performed at a sold-out concert at Temple Reyim in Newton, with the Nashirah Choir of Philadelphiaunder the direction of Julia Zavadsky (pictured here on Josh's left). The program began with a wonderful welcome: Stephen Glass’s “Barukh Ha-ba.” Other highlights included the Yiddish theater favorite “Abi Gezint,” with Soyeon Bin, soloist and Nashirah accompanist (pictured here on Josh’s right); and our own Bruce Creditor adding his inimitable klezmer clarinet skills. We look forward to future collaborations with this talented group!

Z’Alums on Zoom!

Over 50 Zamirniks from all over the U.S. (and one from Belgium) reunited on Zoom for two special evenings this winter, hosted by Alumni Committee members Jack “Jackie” Kahn; Riki Lippitz, chair; Susan Rubin; Larry Sandberg; Joni Schockett; and Alan “Tep” Teperow.

On January 18, the event included a talk by Josh about what makes “Jewish” music, a nostalgic sing-a-long, as well as guessing games and schmoozing in the Zoom breakout rooms.

On March 15, we focused on Zamir’s overseas tours and our impact on Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike, from the 1973 Israel Zimriyah to recent appearances at Berlin’s Louis Lewandowski Festival. Moderator Jackie Kahn invited Josh, Joyce Bohnen (past board chair), and Rachel Miller (current president) to share their reflections. Larry prepared another fun game, this time “Name that tune and that foreign language!” Zamir has sung in Yiddish, German, Polish, Czech, Ladino, Russian, Italian, Latin, and Arabic. What diversity! Assembled alums also enjoyed Michael Zaitchik’s renditions of “In My Life” and “Ba Mir Bistu Sheyn.” Thanks to Gail Terman for holding down the tech fort. We hope all Z’alums will join us for future gatherings.

Screenshot of some of the attendees by Larry Sandberg

Sing-Along at the IAC

On Tu b'Shvat, Sunday evening, February 5, Josh Jacobson led a sing-along of some of his favorite Israeli songs for friends of the Israeli American Council (IAC). Josh gave fascinating introductions to the selections, and, assisted by a group of Zamir singers, Josh had the audience singing classics such as “Laila, Laila”; Eurovision hits such as “Halleluyah La-olam”; and some more recents songs, such as “There Must Be Another Way."

Keep in Touch

Chag Pesach Sameach to all! And drop a line whenever you wish—we love hearing from our friends from all over the world.

Barbara Gaffin

Managing Director

Debbie Sosin


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