Sustaining Cultures

Soviet Jewish Sustaining Cultural Initiative

Years of activity: 1997–2002

Entitled “Nashi Traditsii” (“Our Traditions”), the Soviet Jewish SCI was directed by the noted klezmer performer/researcher Michael Alpert and was targeted to serving three distinct Jewish communities that had emigrated from the former Soviet Union—the Bukharan (Uzbekistan/Tajikistan) community, centered in Rego Park, Queens; the Mountain Jewish (Azerbaijan and Dagestan) community, centered along Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn; and, the Ashkenazic (East European) community, centered in Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.


Annual workshops and concerts were produced through the CCI, with programs taking place at diverse community and general public venues such as the Shorefront YM-YWHA Jewish community center in Brighton Beach, Restaurant Raphael in Rego Park, and culminated with a large-scale public concert at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse.

Through Nashi Traditsii and related projects, CTMD’s work in these communities has had a number of important legacies. CTMD assisted Ensemble Shashmaqam Ensemble (Bukharan Jewish) to develop as a performing group, gain 501(c)(3) status, and tour nationally. In the Mountain Jewish community, Nashi Traditsii helped spark the work of AZEM, a Mountain Jewish cultural group in Brooklyn, and the Kavkaz youth dance organization. Additionally, Nashi Traditsii brought to prominence clarinetist German Goldenshteyn, who would go on to inspire a generation of young musicians around the world to perform his Bessarabian klezmer repertoire. Goldenshteyn had meticulously transcribed over 800 melodies in notebooks, many of them not known from other sources, before his untimely death in 2006.

CTMD has worked with Dartmouth College ethnomusicologist Theodore Levin to produce two recordings presenting Central Asian Jewish performers in New York: Music of the Bukharan Jewish Ensemble Shashmaqam (Smithsonian Folkways, 1991) and At the Bazaar of Love (Shanachie, 1997), featuring Ilyas Malayev.  Additionally, CTMD produced a national tour of the Shashmaqam ensemble during 1993 and 1994.

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