News: Press Releases
Skokie-Based Klezmer Music Foundation
Awarded Arts Emergency Grant
Arts Work Fund—Arts for Illinois Emergency Relief Fund, housed at The Chicago Community Trust, provides life-saving funding to shuttered local folk music performance and education organization
Skokie, IL, June 4, 2020—The Skokie-based Klezmer Music Foundation is normally occupied for the Spring and Summer with community band rehearsals and nonstop performances. But when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live events, the performances of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, the Salaam-Shalom Music Project, and four community bands came to a screeching halt. The livelihoods of musicians, actors, and others in the performing arts depend upon playing to crowds. They are facing an existential crisis with no hope of resuming performances in the near future.
Thanks to a $12,000 grant from Arts Work Fund—Arts for Illinois Emergency Relief Fund (housed at The Chicago Community Trust) to mitigate lost revenue due to COVID-19, The Klezmer Music Foundation will not have to shutter its operation, which has been thriving on public performances since 1983. Says the organization’s director, Lori Lippitz, "We are beyond grateful for this life-sustaining support. This grant follows the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in current performance revenue, as well as the loss of income for the foreseeable future, as we continue to be prevented from performing and teaching music classes due to the pandemic."
Students around the world are coping creatively with being homebound, and this includes the Junior Klezmer Orchestra, a group of Middle and High School musicians that have been tutored in the art of klezmer by members of Maxwell Street Klezmer Band since 1994.
In lockdown, the students created a virtual klezmer performance video that can be seen here.
Pivoting from its anticipated performance schedule to what can be possible under Illinois Phase 3 and eventually Phase 4 reopening rules, the klezmer musicians are devising a way to continue marking Jewish celebrations with music, using the outdoors as a performance space—much in the way that Mariachi bands provide the soundtrack for Mexican parties.
“Fiddler on the Lawn” is a new live music option for families wishing to celebrate socially-distanced events like weddings, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvah parties, and other milestones in their back yards or driveways. As the granddaughter of a recent birthday celebrant wrote, “This made my Papa’s quarantined 94th birthday beyond special. Celebrating with his family and neighbors from a distance accompanied by his favorite songs was more than we ever could have asked for. Thank you for making this unique birthday situation so incredible!”
Like klezmer musicians back in the shtetls of Eastern Europe that traveled from town to town playing for celebrations, Maxwell Street’s musicians are finding new ways to lift spirits through the joyful sound of violins and clarinets—wherever people can gather safely in the open air.
About The Chicago Community Trust
The Chicago Community Trust is a foundation dedicated to strengthening the Chicago region and improving the lives of the people who call it home. For more than 100 years, the Trust has served as a trusted philanthropic partner, connecting the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to nonprofit organizations working to create lasting change. Following the creation of a new strategic plan in 2019, the Trust stands committed to addressing Chicago’s legacy of systemic inequity and closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap, while continuing to respond to the critical needs of our most vulnerable residents. The Trust administers more than $360 million in annual grant-making as part of its commitment to equity, opportunity, and prosperity for the Chicago region. To learn more, visit cct.org.
About Klezmer Music Foundation
In 1983, Lori Lippitz founded The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. In 1994, she established The Klezmer Music Foundation in order to keep klezmer music alive and flourishing through education and outreach. The goals of the Foundation are: preserving traditional music and dances that were lost with the destruction of the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the Holocaust; reaching out to seniors, school children, and other audiences who would not otherwise have the opportunity to see live performances; being musical ambassadors to other faith communities through collaboration in the arts; and sharing and teaching Jewish culture to insure its survival.
Lori Lippitz, Director, The Klezmer Music Foundation
, (847) 675-4800
Klezmer Music Foundation and Muslim Community Center Academy Receive Skokie Grant to Build Bridges Through Music
2020 Event Promotes Folk Music Interfaith Experience for Skokie's Muslim and Jewish Students
Skokie, IL, 1/3/2020 – Students in Skokie will be treated to a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn about music from other cultures while discovering their own musical roots and meeting each other, thanks to a grant awarded by the Skokie Community Foundation. The funds will allow the Klezmer Music Foundation and the MCC Academy to work in tandem on a lecture and workshop at MCC Academy and a public concert featuring students from both faith communities with the Salaam-Shalom Music Project at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie.
The grant, awarded in November by the Skokie Community Foundation, is for a program to bring together the children of two Skokie faith communities who do not have many opportunities to interact in a meaningful way. As the Skokie Community Foundation affirms, “Lack of interactive activities can reinforce the inherent suspicion and mistrust that can exist between people from different backgrounds. Starting with
children is always the best way to do forward-thinking programming for interfaith connections. In addition, learning about their own roots strengthens a child’s sense of self—and the ability to understand others.”
Since 2015, the Skokie Community Foundation has awarded $150,000 in grants to local organizations to improve life in Skokie. This was one of four grants awarded by the Skokie Community Foundation for 2020.
In November 2020, MCC Academy, Temple Beth Israel, and other Skokie-based Jewish organizations will host and participate in educational events to explore the history and performance of Arabic, East Asian and Jewish music. This collaboration will build bridges of understanding between these two Skokie faith communities and will feature the Salaam-Shalom Music Project, a local interfaith group of professional musicians from Muslim, Jewish and Christian backgrounds who perform together on traditional instruments. They will teach students about history, rhythms and scales, demonstrating similarities between their music and cultures, and then perform a public concert.
The grant award was accepted by Lori Lippitz, Director of the Klezmer Music Foundation, the Salaam-Shalom Music Project, and Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, at the Skokie Chamber of Commerce Annual Legislative Forum on November 1st, 2019.
This annual event featured several Illinois politicians, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. This was not Lippitz’s first act of interfaith outreach to MCC Academy: In 2014, Lippitz organized a welcome committee comprising teachers and parents from Solomon Schechter Day School to extend their best wishes to MCC Academy as the new occupants of the former Solomon Schechter school building.
The Klezmer Music Foundation is an Illinois not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization promoting Jewish music education and interfaith outreach.
The Skokie Community Foundation: www.skokiecommunityfoundation.org
“Important lesson at ex-Jewish school, now Muslim” Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich, September 24, 2014: https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/mary-schmich/ct-schmich-skokie-school-met-0924-20140924-column.html
The Klezmer Music Foundation
Contact: Lori Lippitz, Founder
firstname.lastname@example.org, (847) 675-4800
The Skokie Community Foundation
Contact: Lynn Seinfeld, Executive Director
, (847) 287-3060
Photo credit: Duron Shem-Tov
Lori Lippitz (left) and Lynn Seinfeld (right)
Hanukkah Family Concert Brings Together
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and Folk-Singer Rabbi Joe Black
Playing Hits from Their Album, "Eight Nights of Joy"
Sunday, December 15, 2019, 1:00-2:00 PM in Glencoe
Glencoe, IL — The Klezmer Music Foundation will present a Hanukkah family concert on Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 1:00 PM at North Shore Congregation Israel, 1185 Sheridan Road, Glencoe, Illinois. Joining the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band as a special guest artist will be singer-songwriter Rabbi Joe Black of Temple Emanuel in Denver. For Hanukkah Concert with Rabbi Joe Black and Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, advance tickets are $18 (kids 12 and under $12); tickets at the door are $22 (kids 12 and under $15).
Rabbi Black and Maxwell Street will be playing songs from their album, "Eight Nights of Joy," a holiday album featuring classic Hanukkah sing-a-long songs such as “Oh Hanukkah” and “The Dreidel Song,” as well as Rabbi Black’s contemporary Hanukkah songs such as “Judah Maccabee” and “Soufganiot.” While his performances are lighthearted and filled with humor, Rabbi Black also touches upon serious topics such as finding awe in everyday life, and pursuing social justice.
“Rabbi Black is thought-provoking and accessible, a rare and wondrous combination. His infectious musical style teaches while entertaining.” - ReformJudiasm.org
“The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band teamed up with Rabbi Joe Black to create a great Chanukah show for Temple Sholom in Chicago. Now you can join in the fun. It's more than a children's album, although there are some great pieces for the kids, especially the new ones composed by Joe Black. He has a great ear for combining lyrics with the American folk and country sound, which work well. There are also some fantastic jazz arrangements with Maxwell Street.” - Jewish Music Web Center
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band will play their lively blend of traditional Eastern European Jewish music and quirky originality. Their jazzy Chicago jazz sound is offset by violinist Alex Koffman's classically-inspired performance. This show will include Maxwell Street’s original Hanukkah compositions such as “Can You See the Hanukkah Lights?” and “Crazy Dreidel.”
Earlier that week, Maxwell Street and Rabbi Black will be performing together at the Union of Reform Judaism's Biennial in Chicago.
12/15/19 Ticket Link: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4431222
12/15/19 Facebook Event: facebook.com/events/534204290672453/
Featured video: bit.ly/rabbiblackandmaxwellst_video
Eight Nights of Joy on Spotify: bit.ly/eightnightsofjoy
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band website: www.klezmerband.com
Rabbi Joe Black website: https://rabbijoeblack.blogspot.com/
Lori Lippitz, Klezmer Music Foundation
Phone: (847) 675-4800, Email:
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
Returns to YIVO Summer Concert Series
June 11, 2019 at Northbrook Public Library
Northbrook, IL -- The "joy of klez" returns to Northbrook Public Library on Tuesday night, June 11, when the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band Sextet returns as part of the YIVO Summer Concert Series.
This smaller ensemble will feature duets in the style of the Barry Sisters with Lori Lippitz and Natasha Bodansky, soulful clarinet improvisations by the legendary Don Jacobs, and the lightning-fast fingers of violinist and band director Alex Koffman.
Chicago YIVO's dedication to the preservation and promulgation of Yiddish in Chicagoland dovetails with the Klezmer Music Foundation's mission to keep klezmer and Yiddish music alive. In addition to Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, the Klezmer Music Foundation supports a youth ensemble, the Junior Klezmer Orchestra.
"Once again, the Maxwell Street Klezmer held a wonderful musical program for the YIVO Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture. There were 300 enthusiastic people in an overflow crowd. It was a fabulous afternoon." (2018)
- Fran Dvorkin, YIVO Summer Festival Chair
The show is free and open to the public. Seating is limited, RSVP is recommended--last year's show was filled to capacity. To register in advance, click here, or call (847) 272-6224.
About Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band plays lively Eastern-European Jewish folk music that combines old-world melodies, jazz-age rhythms, and contemporary energy. They have charmed audiences from Carnegie Hall to London’s Barbican Centre with their unique Klezmer Big Band sound. Classical sophistication crossed with theatrical fun meet in a world-class performance filled with joy, soul, and good humor. www.klezmerband.com
About YIVO (Chicago YIVO Society)
The Chicago YIVO Society is the most active local affiliate of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The mission of Chicago YIVO is to entertain and educate the local community through subsidized lectures, music programs, and film screenings that reflect the rich heritage and diversity of Jewish culture, and to ensure the future of the Yiddish language through education and outreach efforts. www.chicagoyivo.org/info
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band Sextet
Tuesday, June 11, 2019, 7:00-8:00 PM
Northbrook Public Library, 1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook, IL
Registration Recommended: http://bit.ly/2VRCz0W
Contact: Lori Lippitz, Klezmer Music Foundation
Phone: (847) 675-4800
Young Musicians and Singers Carry the Torch of Klezmer Music
The Junior Klezmer Orchestra Performs on Sunday, April 14, 2019
in its Fourth Annual Concert at Skokie Theatre
Skokie, IL -- While other kids spend weekends doing homework, playing sports, or enjoying screen time, the young musicians of the Junior Klezmer Orchestra gather every other Sunday in Wilmette with members of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band to master the art of klezmer music.
Klezmer music, the celebration music of Jews of Eastern Europe, was lost in the Holocaust, along with the communities that sustained it. These Middle and High School students learn how to make a clarinet laugh and a fiddle cry, and how to sing fluently in Yiddish and Ladino, the ancient languages of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews.
Klezmer music was the soundtrack of the shtetls, the small Jewish towns of Eastern Europe. The Fiddler on the Roof—he was a klezmer. Rare recordings of immigrant klezmer musicians from the 1920s form the foundation of the band’s repertoire, along with Yiddish theater favorites such as “Bei Mir Bistu Sheyn.”
The Orchestra has a legacy--since 1994, many graduates have gone onto musical careers. The Associate Musical Director of Hamilton on Broadway, a saxophone-playing Rabbi in Canada, and a cellist who went on to graduate from the Eastman School of Music were all Junior Klezmers.
The Skokie Theatre is an intimate beautifully remodeled former cinema. Ample free parking is available in the bank parking lot, in a Skokie public parking lot, and on the street.
The Junior Klezmer Orchestra with members of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
Date: Sunday April 14, 2019
Time: 2:00-3:00 PM
Location: Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave, Skokie, IL 60077
Box Office Phone: (847) 677-7761
Tickets: $15 General Admission, $10 for kids age 12 and under
Event Link: skokietheatre.org/jr-klezmer-orchestra.html
Ticket Link: bit.ly/JKOtix41419
Additional Information about the Junior Klezmer Orchestra:
Video about Junior Klezmer Orchestra:
The Junior Klezmer Orchestra is a project of the Klezmer Music Foundation, an Illinois not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. www.klezmermusicfoundation.org (847) 675-4800.
Klezmer Benefit Concert for Ralph Wilder
Monday, March 4, 2019, 7:00 PM
Musicians Raise Funds for Injured Bandmate, Educator, and Conductor
Photo by David Sutton
Wilmette, IL -- Adapting to life paralyzed from the chest down following a freak accident last May, a local musician, educator and conductor will be honored at Klezmer Benefit Concert for Ralph Wilder on March 4, 2019, in Wilmette. All profits will go directly to Wilder to help cover ongoing medical expenses. The concert will feature rousing performances of Yiddish songs and “Klezmer,” the lively Jewish music of Eastern Europe.
In May 2018, Wilder was severely injured when a projector screen fell from the ceiling during a rehearsal at Northeastern Illinois University. Struggling for his life on a ventilator for months, Wilder’s busy professional musical career was cut short by this accident, which left him a paraplegic.
Wilder has been a clarinetist in the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band for thirty years, and has also conducted the Junior Klezmer Orchestra and a grassroots klezmer band called “The Wilmetsky Orchestra” for the past decade. Although he can no longer play professionally, Wilder continues to conduct these groups, passing along his wealth of knowledge about the art of klezmer performance. The concert concludes with a showstopping grand finale, with all fifty musicians performing from the stage and their seats, including Ralph Wilder, while the audience dances in the aisles.
His bandmates and students will all donate their performances, as well as Cantor Pavel Roytman of Congregation Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah, who will be a featured singer. Tickets will not be sold in advance. Doors will open at 6:30 PM, and the suggested donation is $10 or more. Donations can also be made at: https://www.gofundme.com/helpthewilderfamily.
The concert is presented by the Klezmer Music Foundation, the not for profit organization founded by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band.
Date: Monday, March 4, 2019
Time: 7:00-8:30 PM (Doors open at 6:30 PM)
Location: Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah, 3220 Big Tree Lane, Wilmette, IL
Cost: $10 or more suggested donation at the door
Lori Lippitz, Klezmer Music Foundation
Two ways to donate:
Tax-deductible to Klezmer Music Foundation,
indicate "Ralph Wilder" in memo.