Music and Community in Twentieth-Century Jewish Philadelphia

Hankus Netsky
Book Cover

PB: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0904-1
Publication: Jan 17

HC: $64.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-0903-4
Publication: Jul 15

Ebook: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0905-8
Publication: Jul 15

186 pages
6 x 9
1 tables, 50 line drawings

The story of Philadelphia Jewish life through the music of klezmer


Klezmer presents a lively and detailed overview of the folk musical tradition as practiced in Philadelphia's twentieth-century Jewish community. Through interviews, archival research, and recordings, Hankus Netsky constructs an ethnographic portrait of Philadelphia’s Jewish musicians, the environment they worked in, and the repertoire they performed at local Jewish lifestyle and communal celebrations.

Netsky defines what klezmer music is, how it helped define Jewish immigrant culture in Philadelphia, and how its current revival has changed klezmer’s meaning historically. Klezmer also addresses the place of musicians and celebratory music in Jewish society, the nature of klezmer culture, the tensions between sacred and secular in Jewish music, and the development of Philadelphia's distinctive “Russian Sher” medley, a unique and masterfully crafted composition.

Including a significant amount of musical transcriptions, Klezmer chronicles this special musical genre from its heyday in the immigrant era, through the mid-century period of its decline through its revitalization from the 1980s to today.

Table of Contents


Part I The Klezmer Musician
1 The Klezmer Mystique
2 Klezmer Musicians in Jewish Philadelphia, 1900–1945
3 Philadelphia’s Klezmer Tradition: The Later Years

Part II Musical Traditions
4 Klezmer at Philadelphia’s Jewish Weddings
5 The Evolution of Philadelphia’s Russian Sher Medley

About the Author(s)

Hankus Netsky is Chair of Contemporary Improvisation and Director of the Jewish music ensemble at the New England Conservatory in Boston. He is also the Founder and Director of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, an internationally renowned Yiddish music ensemble. He has collaborated, performed, and recorded with many well-known artists, including Itzhak Perlman and Theodore Bikel.