Stories of Music Lesson

Jewish Music 101: Sounds, Settings & Significance
Jewish Music 101: Sounds, Settings & Significance

Links to lesson documents found below

You are embarking on an exciting, educational journey which will take you through many aspects of Jewish music and how it connects to our history, practice, and identity as a Jewish people. The Jewish people is incredibly diverse; while we hope to demonstrate this diversity through a variety of examples and exercises in this introductory lesson, we hope you will understand that no course could ever show every Jewish musical tradition. We’ll provide more musical opportunities in subsequent lessons. 

Through this lesson, learners will understand that:

  • Jewish music is an open, evolving concept.
  • Jewish music reflects the historical, sociological and religious experiences which Jews live.
  • At the same time, Jewish music forwards the esthetics, spirituality and culture of the various contexts in which it is used and experienced.
  • Jewish music is one facet through which Jews can understand and define their own Jewish experience.

Learners will listen to the music of Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Max Bruch, Leonard Cohen, Matisyahu, Yossele Rosenblatt, Morris Rosenfeld, Barbra Streisand and others. They’ll be exposed to Torah trope from different parts of the Jewish world, hazzanut, Jewish art music, Yiddish and Ladino music, popular music and more.

All the while, they’ll ask themselves:

  • What social, historical, political and cultural forces influence Jewish music?
  • How does (or how might) Jewish music affect my personal Jewish experience/identity?


We are deeply grateful to the two people who wrote these lessons:

Lorry Black, DMA, Associate Director, Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience
Rabbi Dr. J.B. Sacks, Educational and Curriculum Specialist, Stories of Music; Rabbi, Congregation Am HaYam (Ventura, CA)

Our gratitude extends to the pedagogic advisors and reviewers of this lesson:
Mark Kligman, PhD, Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music, UCLA
Dr. Susan Helfter, USC Thornton School of Music
Rabbi Devin Villarreal, Thrive Educational Services
Cantor Sheldon Levin, Congregation Neve Shalom (Metuchen, NJ)
Rabbi Adam Schaffer, Temple Aliyah (Woodland Hills, CA)