Cha-cha: From Oy Vey to Olé

By Alex Suskind

Published July 29, 2009, issue of August 07, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The scene is early 1950s New York: Many European Jews were living on the Lower East Side, spending most of their time raising families, creating businesses and dancing to Latin music.

Wait, what?

That’s right; Jews were some of the earliest supporters of the Latin music craze that swept the country in the late ’40s and ’50s. And to celebrate this mix of cultures, the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, an organization dedicated to unearthing lost American Jewish pop music, will reissue “Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos,” a 1961 album that reinterprets classic Yiddish pieces through Latin dance music.

The re-mastered “Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos” turns such tunes as Herman Yablokoff’s “Papirossen” into an up-tempo mambo, and the bar/bat mitzvah favorite “Hava Nagila” into a groovy cha-cha.

The album was recorded by Grammy-award-winning Latin and jazz legend Ray Barretto, “Giant of the Keyboards” Charlie Palmieri and trumpeters Clark Terry and Doc Cheatum, among others. For “Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos,” these renowned musicians played under the band name Juan Calle and his Latin Lantzmen.

The August 11 re-release of the album will be followed by a free concert at Lincoln Center on August 23, where the Arturo O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Sextet, along with other jazz and Latin musicians, will play “Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos” in its entirety.

Bring your dancing shoes and mambo moves.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.