|SPRINGFIELD The First Annual Western Massachusetts Jewish Music & Arts Festival (WEMA Fest) will take place outdoors at the Springfield Jewish Community Center on Sept. 21. |
The organizers view WEMA Fest as an experience to bring people together throughout the Jewish communities of the Pioneer Valley, the Berkshires, Worcester, Hartford, New Haven, Providence and others from the region.
The idea for WEMA Fest was born through childhood friends Micah Becker-Klein, Jewish life director at the Springfield JCC, and Howie Schnee, president of Manhattan-based concert promotion company Creative Entertainment Group. When asked about the background, Becker-Klein responded, "When we started talking about ways in which our professional and personal interests could intersect, we came upon the idea of a new Jewish music and arts festival. It was a natural evolution linking what is new and what is old and keeping it fresh. Jewish music and art are well recognized as valuable components to Jewish life and cultural expression historically and in the 21st century."
The music lineup includes headliners Golem, Neshama Carlebach and Jewmongous. Golem is a six-piece Eastern European folk-punk band from New York City. Spending nights in Lower East Side immigrant-owned bagel shops and summers in Eastern Europe, founding member Annette Ezekiel collects Jewish, Gypsy and Slavic folk songs, and, with Golem, rewrites, adds, edits and rearranges them along the way. These are the songs to which Eastern European grandparents danced over a century ago, and now Golem has its unwrinkled fans rocking to the same pulsing beats.
One of the leading superstars in Jewish music is Neshama Carlebach, who continues the legacy established by her father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. His deep spirituality and his love of all humanity filled every song he wrote. He touched every person he encountered as he changed the face of Jewish music. Like her father, Neshama's talent and charisma captivate and endear her to people of all ages and backgrounds as she performs in cities all over the world with her soulful melodies and passionate lyrics.
Jewmongous, a comedy song concert with is the colicky, uncircumcised brain child of Sean Altman, the golden-voiced song-writing wiz behind the pioneering comedy act "What I Like About Jew" and the founder and former leader of Rockapella. Sean was featured in Time Out New York's cover story, "The New Super Jews," and in the New York Times feature about "The Jewish Hipster Movement."
Other acts are Worcester-based Peter and Ellen (family entertainment), Dan Casey (singer/songwriter), Shalom Habibi (Northampton's Middle Eastern dance and music group) and Rabbi Micah and the Kosherdawgs (Jewish bluegrass music).
Sponsors include the Valley Advocate, Zeek, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Whole Foods, WRSI 939 The River radio, Gary Rome Hyundai & Kia, Westfield State College, A to Z movers, Zap Electric, Sydney Hirsch Realtor, the Eugene Ferkauf Foundation, Najman Pierce Family, JCC of Springfield and Creative Entertainment Group.
WEMA Fest will be taking place Sept. 21 from noon to 8 p.m. at the Springfield JCC, 1160 Dickinson St. For more information, call 739-4715 or visit www.springfieldjcc.org. For tickets, visit www.wemafest.org.
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