Remembering the Great Preserver of Traditional Jewish Music, Velvel Pasternak

June 18 2019

Much like the great Russian-Jewish writer, activist, and ethnographer S. An-sky (1863-1920), Velvel Pasternak—who died last week at the age of eighty-five—dedicated much of his life to recording, transcribing, and publishing traditional Jewish music. Greer Fay Cashman writes:

Pasternak was born in Toronto, to Polish immigrant parents, and made a sufficiently important contribution to Jewish music to receive an obituary in the editorial sections of several American newspapers. . . . In the U.S., primarily New York, he would visit ḥasidic residential enclaves with a tape recorder in his hand to capture the melodies of the Modzitz, Lubavitch, Vizhnitz, Breslov, and Ger dynasties for posterity. His mission was to ensure that they would not become extinct.

But he did not limit himself to ḥasidic music. All Jewish music—Yiddish and Ladino, cantorial, choral, and klezmer, and the traditional songs sung by North African and Asian Jews—found its way into the many anthologies and essays he published. He even managed to find, record, and arrange Jewish music that had been composed in the ghettos and the camps during the Holocaust. In fact . . . he published more than 150 volumes of Jewish music.

Through his Tara Publications, which he founded in 1971, he became the largest publisher of Jewish music around the globe. . . . Pasternak also produced and conducted ḥasidic concerts, thus exposing both the exhilarating joy and the poignant pathos of ḥasidic music to audiences far removed from the religious movement.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Hasidism, Jewish music, Ladino, Yiddish

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism