With great delight, the Forward presents the results of a reader-inspired digital project to find the best new voices in Jewish music that has surpassed even our ambitious expectations. It is a testament to the depth and diversity of Jewish song today and the chord it strikes — pun intended — in listeners across the country.
These songs are sung in English, Hebrew and Spanish, alone or accompanied by piano or guitar, by women and men, Ashkenazi and Sephardi. Some are in the style of what I call “High Hazzanut,” with the sonorous embellishments of classical cantorial music heard in synagogues on holy days for centuries, while others are in the soft tones of folk music strummed on a porch at night with friends. And every type of song in between.
We received well more than 300 nominations, listened to them all, and culled the selection to send our esteemed judges a playlist of 12 — all anonymous, so that the nominees could be judged on style and technique alone. The top five listed here were determined according to the judges’ rankings, but so enchanted were we all with the others that we are posting the finalists and runners-up for your listening pleasure.
I encourage all of you to weigh in on your favorites via social media. Tweet @jdforward using the hashtag #JewTunes to let us know which of the 21 songs inspires you, or leave us a comment on Facebook.
We are indebted to our judges — Angela Buchdahl, Galeet Dardashti and David Tilman — for lending their ears and their hearts to this project. And I am indebted to Anne Cohen, deputy digital media editor, who created and shepherded this effort, and who was ably assisted by Maia Efrem, Eileen Reynolds and Lior Zaltzman. Our inspired logo was designed by Anya Ulinich.
Most of all we thank those who create songs and who support them for enriching our spiritual and communal lives. As we enter a new year, let Jewish music elevate our sense of purpose and gratitude. Let it reach across the generations to remind us what we can share by simply humming a simple tune. — Jane Eisner
Created by Anne Cohen, with additional research by Maia Efrem, Eileen Reynolds and Lior Zaltzman.
These entries have been edited for length and style.
Want to just listen to all the songs? Here’s the entire Soundtrack of our Spirit playlist: