19 March 2008

Feher Jewish Music Center: The day the music died?

There is an amazing repository of Jewish music at the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv.

The Feher Jewish Music Center's director, Dr. Yuval Shaked, has performed yeoman's work in preserving and developing its rich resources used by musicians and researchers from around the world. In addition, he has organized and produced CDs of important community musical traditions that would have been otherwise lost.

Unfortunately, the day the music died may be as early as March 31, Shaked's last day as director, as the museum's management has terminated his work.

Because Tracing the Tribe's readers understand the value of this rich repository - and indeed the value of all Jewish heritage archives - and how detrimental its loss will be, I'm asking readers to help preserve the FJMC and enable its director to continue his amazing work, by signing an online petition.

The online petition appeals to the museum's management to void its action, to ensure Yuval Shaked's position and the maintenance of the recording collection and activities for the future.

Readers who are not familiar with the Center's resources may wish to read the comments of those who have already signed. They may also wish to inform their synagogues' cantors and hazzanim - no matter whether they are Ashkenazi, Sephardi or Mizrahi, as the Center's resources cover all community musical traditions

I've known about the FJMC for a number of years and have counted Yuval as a friend since the first day I visited his office and saw his desk and shelves piled high with esoteric recordings not yet entered into the database. Since then, I've written several articles for the Jerusalem Post on his work and the Center's materials and its mission in preserving the musical traditions of the Jewish people.

I have located early 20th century recordings of music sung in Mogilev, Belarus when my ancestors were there; other researchers have located their own ancestors' voices in the recordings. The archive's assets are a treasure trove for those looking for musical traditions of lesser-known communities, and the CDs produced by the Center have preserved traditions for the Jewish world.

Yuval worked with a small number of volunteers to help input materials into the database. He could have had more volunteers but computers were in disrepair. Each time a story was written on the Center, he received hundreds of phone calls from people willing to help him as volunteers to input materials or to donate materials (records, sheet music, photographs and other materials of interest) to the archives.

He was willing to go anywhere to speak on the frankly amazing resources of the FJMC, and also to go anywhere at any time to record rare musical traditions to add to the resources. Yuval spoke several times to our JFRA Israel genealogy society, presenting gems from the collection.

Today, the resources of the Feher Jewish Music Center are severely and acutely endangered by the museum's management (Beth Hatefutsoth - The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diapora, Tel Aviv), which has terminated Yuval's work as Center director.

The Center's rich resources are not duplicated in any other archive. The decision to terminate Yuval is without regard to these resources. He has spent years making it possible to produce a series of renowned CDs preserving community traditions, and successfully working his contacts to provide financing for these projects, despite obstacles placed in his path.

According to Yuval, upon his dismissal the vast recording collection of the Center, the CD series it released and its unique databank - all renowned and highly esteemed world wide - will be abandoned.

The contacts initiated and maintained by the FJMC with partner archives and institutions around the world, its initiatives and intense endeavors on behalf of Jewish music of all kinds, places, times and styles (preservation; documentation) will all be neglected and destroyed. Various projects in progress will be stopped. Hard work produced over many years will become lost.

Following is an email sent by Shaked to Feher friends around the world - including partners, colleagues, personal friends, music lovers, genealogists and more:

Please consider supporting the struggle for the sheer existence and continuation of the work done at the Feher Jewish Music Center, Beth Hatefutsoth (the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Tel Aviv) by signing the petition,

I'd be gratified to find you among the list of the supporters. Kindly, forward the request to your friends and colleagues, to whom this cause is dear.

With best regards and many thanks,

Yuval Shaked
Feher Jewish Music Center
Beth Hatefutsoth
P.O.Box 39359
Tel Aviv 61392
Tel. +972-3-7457861
Fax. +972-3-7457832

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