Inspired by children’s book “Mendel’s Accordion” written by Heidi Smith Hyde and illustrated by Johanna Van Der Sterre, accordion player and leader of the Java Jews Klezmer Band, Abe Goldstien, tells his own story of rediscovering his culture through music.
The story begins with a young boy raised in the orthodox Jewish tradition in upstate
New York. If wearing a yarmulka (skull cap) tallit katan (prayer shawl undergarment) isn’t enough to make him different than other children in his school, Avram decides to play Jewish music on the accordion. While in high school, he plays with older musicians for various Jewish events in his community.
When Avram moves away from home for college, he begins to separate himself from the customs, laws, traditions and music of his Jewish. He no longer wears his yarmulka and tallit katan and puts his book of Jewish music in a closet, preferring to play American music in dance bands. One day in his forties, Avram hears a radio broadcast about Yiddish (Eastern European Jewish) music and is immediately connected to his heritage once again. He gets out his book of Jewish music and organizes a klezmer (Yiddish music) band that brings this music back to life.
Goldstien incorporates Yiddish tunes and explains elements of the Jewish culture as he shares his story. It is truly an entertaining and educational experience about many lost cultures — accordion playing, Yiddishkeit and klezmer music. In the end, students realize Avram is indeed Abe!
The moral to the story, which Abe shares with students, is this — never forget your roots, regardless of how strange they may appear to you and others around you.
Eastern Europe; Jewish Culture
Social Studies, Music, Storytelling