Since 1995, Congregation Nahalat Shalom has been a very active participant in the current klezmer music and dance revival which has been joyously working its way around the world since the 1970's. In December of 1995, The Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band, consisting of a few cheder students and their talented parents, made its debut by accompanying the community on some Yiddish Hanukkah songs and klezmer dance tunes at Nahalat Shalom's Hanukkah service. Today, The Community Klezmer band (which is really more of a mixed orchestra) consists of 12-25 or so members of various ages playing a wide variety of instruments. About half of the band's personnel are also members of the congregation, and several continue in the band's tradition of 'family bands' within the band. The Community Klezmer band has several members who are not members of the Congregation and many who are not Jewish; neither is a requirement to play in the band. The band is very fortunate to have these members who contribute so much of their time, talents and joy to the music and community events.
In addition to being part of a fun and creative community project and sharing a unique camaraderie, the members of the band are drawn to klezmer music for a variety of reasons: it's beauty, it's exotic sounding scales and modes, it's technical challenges, the connection it makes to Jewish roots and traditions, and it's emotional and joyous nature. Whatever their motivation, several band members who live out of town find it important enough to schlep to rehearsals and to gigs from places like Belen, Santa Fe, the East Mountains and Los Lunas.
The Community Klezmer band has performed for many public and private events over the years in the Albuquerque area including the annual band-sponsored world-recognized klezmer music and dance festival "KlezmerQuerque." The band benefits greatly from "KlezmerQuerque", which provides the opportunity to study and to perfect musical skills with renowned klezmer musicians and scholars such as Margot Leverett (clarinetist/founder of The Klezmatics & The Klezmer Mountain Boys), Joshua Horowitz (accordionist & tsimbalist of Budowitz & Veretski Pass), Stuart Brotman (bassist of Brave Old World, Khevritsa & Veretski Pass), Cookie Segelstein (violinist of Budowitz & Veretski Pass), Adrianne Greenbaum (klezmer flutist), The Strauss / Warschauer Klezmer Duo, Beyond The Pale (klezmer ensemble from Toronto), Yosl Kurland & Christina Crowder (of Wholesale Klezmer Band). klezmer clarinetist & scholar Joel Rubin, violinist Steve Greenman & tsimbalist Pete Rushefsky. The overall ABQ community also shares in this opportunity as "KlezmerQuerque" attracts hundreds of people each year, not only from New Mexico, but also folks from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, Flagstaff, Prescott, Tucson, Detroit and San Antonio. The Community Klezmer band continues to grow - in size and artistically - completing it's first CD "Lomir Alle Tantzen / Let's All Dance" in 2009.
Shortly after the band's first appearance, Erik Bendix, a klezmer dance master and dance collector, came to Congregation Nahalat Shalom and gave several Klezmer dance workshops. Nahalat Shalom's klezmer dance culture grew very closely alongside the Klezmer music scene and by 2003 the community had spawned it's own Yiddish dance group called "Rikud." In addition to Rikud’s studies with Erik Bendix, the troupe has also studied with the klezmer dance master Shulim Zaltman of Moldova at KlezmerQuerque 2004, with Yiddish dance master Steve Weintraub at Klezmerquerques 2005-08, Jewish dance scholar Judith Brin Ingber in 2009, Deborah Strauss from 2009-2010, Yosl Kurland in 2011, & Bruce Bierman in 2012. Like klezmer music, many Yiddish dances were lost because of the Holocaust and mass emigrations of Jewish communities from Europe. One of the main goals of Rikud and The Community Klezmer band is to help revive, collect, preserve and share these aspects of Jewish culture. Rikud members taught the dance classes and led the dances at KlezmerQuerque 2004, at hundreds of public community events as well as Nahalat Shalom events over the years. The dance troupe has also worked with members of The NM Federation of the Blind, teaching our rich tradition of dance to the blind. In the summer of 2004, Rikud dance troupe taught Yiddish dancing in Los Alamos, NM as part of the centennial celebration of the Isaac Bashevis Singer & collection dedication in the Los Alamos public library. The dancers also strive to pass this unique dance heritage on to our children by working with the children in the cheder classes at Nahalat Shalom as well as with children in other communities.
2011-2012 Band personnel: Beth Cohen Director, violin & piano; Violins: Jeff Brody, Joanna Conrardy, Gabrielle Rosen, Gabriella "Ella G" Orr; Cello: Rachel Mittleman; Clarinets: Clem Wings & Tony Fajdia; Alto saxophone: David Willet; Bassoon: Nancy Terr; Flutes: Patsy Gregory & Ilene Dunn; Trumpet: John Karon; Accordion: Randi Thompson; Banjo: Marc Yellin; Pojk(drum): Robin Berman; Guitar: Randy Edmunds; Electric bass: Barbara Friedman; Piano: Ginny; Acoustic bass: Chilton Gregory.
2011-2012 Rikud dancers: Penina Ballen, Linda Brody, Michele Diel, Elizabeth Etigson, Michelle Vogler, Elaine Schwartz, Ann Abrams, Lisa Jacobs & Muqit Steve Sachs.
For a wealth of information about klezmer music and dance around the world visit
To join or to hire the Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band contact Director Beth Cohen: 505-243-6276
Ari Davidow's Klezmershack: http://www.klezmershack.com/
And visit Community Klezmer band's banjo-player Marc Yellin's website Abq Jew:
http://www.abqjew.com/ -- and his blog site: http://www.abqjew.net/