Arts & Culture, People

Local Jewish Blues Musician to Headline Federation’s Memphis-Shoham Partnership Projects

by JCPConnect-
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Laura Linder, President/CEO of Jewish Community Partners, announced this week an exciting array of projects for 2018-2019 as part of the Memphis Jewish community’s partnership with the city of Shoham, Israel. JCP launched the partnership in 2016 through the Partnership2Gether Peoplehood Platform (P2G), a program of JAFI (Jewish Agency for Israel). P2G partnerships aim to facilitate meaningful connections between Israelis and Jews around the world through unique programs like school “twinning”, teen and young adult leadership projects, programming for young families, and real people-to-people relationships.

Leading off a packed year of partnership activities, Memphis musician Jason Caplan hopes to cultivate those people-to-people relationships when he visits Shoham in late September to perform at the city’s annual three-day Muses Festival, a major cultural event which will take place during Sukkot.

Sponsored by Shoham’s “Hamesh” community center and the Shoham municipality, the free public festival, now in its nineteenth year, draws tens of thousands of people from throughout Israel. The festival is held outdoors, in Shoham’s HaHevel Park. The theme of this year’s festival is intersection of the arts, and the festival will feature an eclectic array of art forms, including themed stages with performances of top musicians in Israel, family-friendly theatrical performances, arts and crafts workshops led by local artists, and even an escape room. The festival’s opening night is dedicated to Shoham’s connection to its Diaspora partnership communities, Memphis and Venezuela.

 Reflecting on his immediate reaction to the invitation to represent the Memphis Jewish community and music, Jason recalled, “Well, my wife was asking me why I was skipping around the house one morning after reading an email…”

 Jason’s enthusiasm is matched by Hamesh staffers organizing the festival, who have been corresponding with him in advance of his trip.

“They’re really excited about it.  They want to hear our unique Memphis music, with the focus on the blues and soul music,” he said.   “That is the music I love to play and teach.”

“We are looking forward to the performance of our special guest from Memphis– Jason Caplan, who will add a touch of Memphian blues to the festival,” said Anna Berkman, Israel-based director for the Memphis-Shoham partnership.

Jason will perform solo in the festival’s opening ceremony and alongside local Shoham musicians on the following two days, including well-known Shoham singer Liat Olshaker and rising star young drummer Ron Sharhabani. He will also lead an improvisational music workshop for festival attendees, similar to the “Universal Language Room” workshop he has led at the Memphis Jewish Community Center. Using rhythmic instruments, participants will come together to learn the basics of improvisation, “thinking of music as a language and really feeling the joy of communicating through improv music.”

The workshop is designed to welcome beginners and seasoned musicians alike. “I want musicians to come,” Jason said, “but I also want people who are non-musicians to understand that we really geared it for them to be comfortable.” That includes children and youth, too.

While in Shoham, Jason will enjoy home hospitality from Shoham residents. Home hospitality is a signature element of the partnership— any Memphis delegation to Shoham, or Shoham delegation to Memphis, is warmly received with home hospitality that facilitates deep personal connections.

Jason hopes his teaching and performing at the music festival will mark the beginning of a broader musical exchange between Shoham and Memphis.

In the meantime, Jason’s band, Naqshon’s Leap, is shaking up Memphis. They recently recorded a single with Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell at Royal Studios, a song Jason describes as “a funk version of a classic Israeli peace song, mixed with Parliament Funkadelic’s sound.”

Ongoing P2G partnership projects for Memphis and Shoham include school twinning of Bornblum Jewish Community School and Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South with schools in Shoham, as well as the 70 Faces project, a photographic exhibit in the style of “Humans of Tel Aviv” comprising photos and bios from Memphis and Shoham. 70 Faces was also a program of Memphis Jewish Federation’s yearlong celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday, funded by Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund. A selection of the photos and bios from Memphis will be featured at Shoham’s Muses Festival, and the full exhibit will be displayed in the MJCC lobby in late fall.

Other upcoming partnership projects are a mix of social and educational activities and are designed to appeal to diverse audiences.

October is a major month for the Memphis-Shoham partnership. Shoham residents Avi Eliyahou and Tali Versano Eisman will come to Memphis for 5 days. They will be featured speakers at Memphis Friends of Israel’s annual Israel Festival on October 14 and will engage with both Jewish and non-Jewish community members. Avi is a 30-year veteran of the IDF and military intelligence expert, while Tali works in trauma and resilience services, specializing in supporting children whose lives have been affected by terror attacks and other emergency situations.

Also in October, two Memphis missions to Israel will visit Shoham: the Memphis delegation of the General Assembly, an annual gathering of volunteer and professional leaders from Jewish communities throughout North America; and Memphis’s second MOMentum trip, a women’s mission in partnership with Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.

In order the reach the partnership’s ultimate aim to have Memphians think of Shoham as a “home away from home” any time they visit Israel, Shoham will host an event called “ShoHome” over Thanksgiving. The community will welcome young Memphians who are studying or interning in Israel, or serving in the IDF, to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

As part of the school twinning, educators from Bornblum Jewish Community School and Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South will visit Shoham in December to spend quality, face-to-face time with the Shoham teachers and classes that are twinning with their respective schools.

In March 2019, the Shoham Steering Committee for the partnership will travel to Memphis to meet with the Memphis Steering Committee and plan out future projects. And to cap off the year, Bornblum Jewish Community School’s 8th-grade trip to Israel and Margolin Hebrew Academy’s 7th and 8th grade trip to Israel will each include a visit to Shoham.

Members of the Memphis Jewish community are encouraged to visit Shoham whenever they travel to Israel. Home hospitality in Shoham during the week or for Shabbat can be arranged for visiting Memphians. For more information, contact Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, Chief Strategy Officer for JCP.

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