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VIDEO: “Go Down, Moyshe” – a Yiddish take on “Go Down, Moses”

Yisroel Leshes, Assistant Cantor at Lincoln Square Synagogue, has released a video of the African-American spiritual “Go Down, Moses” in Yiddish – with a jazzy twist.

Leshes has previously infused Yiddish songs with jazz elements, as in his release of the song “Younger World”. In this video, he performs “Go Down, Moses” during a live performance of Yiddish jazz at The Mansion, a private venue near Union Square, that is open once a month for Jewish music.

“Go Down, Moses” was sung by African-American slaves as a song of freedom, beginning in the 1800’s. The words, quoting the Bible, re-interpreted Moses’ calls for freedom for the Israelites, as demands for freedom by enslaved Black people. It was first published as sheet music in 1861 after Reverend Lewis Lockwood heard runaway slaves singing it. The song became well-known across America since its widespread popularization during and after the Civil War.

For years, many American Jews have taken the song as emblematic of the Pesach story, and sing it at their Seder. Now Leshes’ clip may encourage some of them to sing it in Yiddish as well.

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