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LETTERS Letters are welcome. Please send to: or by post to PO Box 28849, London, SW13 0WA.

JAZZ JEWS Ben Cohen in his letter about JR’s extract from my book Jazz Jews (JR April 2010) writes, “Mike Gerber’s commentary on Stan Getz is interesting but biased. The greatest influence on Getz was the Black tenor player, Lester Young” (JR July 2010).

The bias is not mine – Getz said he tried to sound black but it came out sounding Jewish. Getz was heavily influenced by Young but was certainly no clone – he was one of the most compelling improvisers in jazz history – “We would all sound like that if we could,” John Coltrane famously said.

Without doubt, jazz owes an incalculable debt to African-American musicians, such that one can easily undervalue other influences. Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman for instance, musicians featured heavily in Jazz Jews, took jazz clarinet to new levels, and I am proud to have interviewed Artie shortly before he died.

The influence on jazz of klezmer music and cantorial song is “relatively minor”, Mr Cohen asserts. My research confirmed that its influence, while not overwhelming, is greater than Mr Cohen would allow.

“The Jewish influence was not on jazz but on the first 50 years of the Great American Songbook,” Mr Cohen continues.

Surely he knows that those songs by Jewish composers such as George Gershwin figure disproportionately as jazz standards. The underlying harmonies in particular helped stimulate the evolution of jazz improvisation.

Jews have played a significant role in jazz, as musicians and facilitators, and because of the Diaspora, their global involvement has probably been more extensive than that of any other group. Even if their influence musically is as modest as Mr Cohen seems to think, the story of jazz and Jews is resonant with social, racial and political implications.


JEWS OF SLOVAKIA I would like to congratulate you on the excellent issue of Jewish Renaissance (July 2010). I enjoy reading JR any time but this time it touched me especially as I am one of those people who were young in 1968 and who was spending my first holiday in the West when Russians invaded Czechoslovakia. The interesting timeline, the people’s stories, etc. are a fitting and balanced description of how the situation was and is for the Jews there. I have been living in London all my adult life and I consider myself to be lucky.

Keep up the good work, JR is the only magazine that I read!


‘Jewish Renaissance does the near-impossible: it rescues English Jews from the curse of the parochial, reuniting us with the wider, grander, older and newer world of Jewish thought and event. Essential reading if you’re Jewish or if you’re not.’ Howard Jacobson

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Some of our contributors

Deborah Brooks is a Literature graduate and enthusiast. She is a Trustee of Limmud and currently works at the Department for Education.

AGI ERDOS is Deputy Editor of Jewish Renaissance. She also works in an editorial capacity for the Littman Library and for

JUDI HERMAN is a writer and broadcaster, specialising in the arts and religious affairs, mainly for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service. She has also written several stage shows.

CLARISSA HYMAN is a freelance writer, consultant and lecturer, specialising in food and travel: She is the current Chair of the UK Guild of Food Writers. She lives in Manchester

MAUREEN KENDLER is Head of Educational Programming at the London School of Jewish Studies. She loves to write and teach about text.

ANGELA LEVINE, an English-born art historian and critic living in Israel, aims at ensuring that her country’s vibrant art scene receives international coverage

DAVID RUSSELL is Director of the Rwandan Survivors Fund (SURF) and a trustee of the Congregation of Jacob Synagogue. .

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