Discourses in Music: Volume 4 Number 3 (Summer 2003)

Freylekhe Felker: Queer Subculture in the Klezmer Revival

By Dana Astmann

Queer klezmer emerged in the 1980s within the framework of the klezmer revival and is still active over fifteen years later. Initially, the idea of queer klezmer may seem paradoxical: klezmer was synonymous with wedding music over a century before the issue of same-sex marriage arose in North American legal circles. Today, queer marriage is still a topic of debate, but klezmer has accompanied many same-sex unions. The klezmer world itself includes many openly queer, or "out," musicians and even out bands that play music which is often distinctly queer. Existing scholarship has largely ignored this trend or has attributed it to factors within the Jewish community. But I believe that many distinct elements, such as the folk music revival, the gay liberation movement, and a renewed interest in Yiddish, contributed to the environment that allowed for the development of this particular subculture.

The word klezmer, plural klezmorim, literally means instrument or vessel of song. It once referred mainly to musical instruments. By the eighteenth century, it referred to musicians, the human conduits of music.1 Though the word can still refer to a musician, it has also become a genre term: now it most commonly refers to the body of music once played by klezmorim at Jewish weddings and in the recent revival expanded into the realms of concert halls and recording studios.

In Jewish tradition, however, music occupies an uneasy place. Instrumental music was banned altogether following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. Only one avenue was deemed worthy of it - the rituals and celebrations of marriage - and only because of a decree that weddings be joyous and songful.2 Little is known about the early development of klezmer as we think of it today. Though surviving references to klezmer bands date from the fifteenth century, the first concrete knowledge comes only from the nineteenth century.3 Over the centuries, the rabbinical strictures on instrumental music gradually relaxed, allowing for music to be played for certain quasi-religious occasions.4 But weddings were the social centres of European Jewish communities; primarily, klezmer remained music for weddings and thus came to be a rich collection of music for almost exclusively a single purpose.

The history of queer klezmer belongs mostly to the United States, although the klezmer revival is also active in Canada and Europe. Klezmer came to North America with the approximately three million Jews who immigrated there between 1880 and 1924.5 There it retained its function as wedding music, even as its practitioners and audiences adapted to a secular society. But after World War II, as Jews increasingly assimilated, klezmer declined sharply in popularity. The founding of the State of Israel in 1948 sparked a long-lasting Jewish interest in Israeli music and culture.6 By the 1960s and '70s, klezmer lingered on only in rare venues. But in the late 1970s, a few curious Jewish musicians began to explore this then-obscure genre, leading to the rediscovery of this music through old recordings, out-of-print or unpublished transcriptions, and retired, nearly-forgotten musicians. The revival began with the task of restoring traditional wedding pieces, as exemplified by the first neo-klezmer recording, East Side Wedding by the Klezmorim. As it gained momentum, new klezmorim from widely diverse backgrounds moved beyond the restoration of traditional pieces and began writing their own compositions. As Seth Rogovoy writes, "Musicians brought up on jazz, rock, classical, and other genres could approach [klezmer] not only as revivalists, but also as creative partners in its ongoing development."7 This creativity, though probably inevitable, was nevertheless a crucial step toward the evolution of klezmer's queer subculture.

More than creative forces were at work, however. In order to better understand the queer side that emerged within the klezmer revival, it is essential to explore some of the political, cultural, and musical frameworks that set it in motion.

The Folk Revival

Mainstream North American culture saw a massive revival of folk music in the fifties and sixties. But Jewish music was not part of this renaissance.8 Young North American Jews were still caught up in the post-war pressure to assimilate, and many of them became enthusiastically involved in the musics of other cultures. Robert Cantwell, sensitised by his own Russian-Jewish background, ties their involvement to culturally ingrained political liberalism:

…the grandsons and granddaughters of the anarchists, syndicalists, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and Trotskyites - Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, and Lithuanian Jews - …after three generations still carried the spirit of revolution in their hearts but found ways of attaching it… to the native strains of revolutionary idealism, from the New Deal to the New Frontier to the Great Society, the civil-rights movement, the peace movement, the environmental movement, the women's movement, and, need I add, the folk revival. 9
To this list, I would add the gay liberation movement - though its most prominent accomplishments came after the movements that Cantwell mentions. Yet his point is an important precursor to the emergence of klezmer's queer voice.

Jewish involvement in the folk revival actually led almost directly, if somewhat accidentally, to the klezmer renaissance. First, as Lynn Dion points out, even those revivalists who were "too young to have been actively involved in such activities as the civil rights movement or the folk revival…are not too young to have been aware of these activities and influenced by their older generation cohorts."10 Second, and more concrete, is the fact that many of the first klezmer revivalists came from folk music backgrounds11 and turned to their own heritage only after grounding themselves in other musical traditions.

The Gay Liberation Movement

Despite the liberal politics behind the folk and klezmer revivals, these events were based in traditions that were not always welcoming to queers. Klezmer drummer and bandleader Eve Sicular said frankly: "I had done other kinds of folk music things…. But they tended to be pretty hetero, so - it wasn't like I would feel shunned, but I wouldn't feel completely comfortable."12

So where were the queers at this time? They were only just emerging from the closet as "part of the groundswell of activism that included the national antiwar movement and free-love constituency. And the more publicized radical methods of antiwar protesters and the outrageous behaviour of flower children created the atmospheric preconditions for Stonewall."13 The 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City acted as a turning point from which the gay liberation movement quickly gained momentum and exposure. Through the sixties, queer students rallied publicly for the right to form activist groups;14 in the seventies, the first openly gay politicians were elected.15 By 1979, a few years after the klezmer revival had started, there came the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

And then in the early eighties, the AIDS crisis drastically altered the course of queer activism. For at least the next ten years, much of the gay rights movement turned its focus to AIDS education, advocacy, and research. The Gay Men's Health Crisis was formed in 1981; only three years later came the actual discovery of the virus that would be named HIV. Wide media coverage did not begin until around 1985. In an even greater surge of gay activism in the late 1980s, ACT UP - the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power - was founded in 1987.16 Queer Nation, another political action group, began operation in 1990. It was a crucial time in the queer community.

Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals has used Queer Nation as a parallel for much of the pride and even defiance with which many young Jews have now begun to assert their heritage. "We're out Jews," she has said, and her former Klezmatics colleague Frank London agrees.17 Out Jews and out queer intersect in a growing "Queer Yiddishist" movement. Gays have become an unexpectedly large part of contemporary Yiddish culture, which includes klezmer. But why?

It may have much to do with what kinds of Jews were attracted to this dying culture. Svigals notes that as Yiddish culture - and klezmer - lost popularity in the fifties and sixties, Israeli culture gained it. Even today, much of North American Jewish identity, particularly for non-observant Jews, is tied to Israel. Klezmer, as Svigals said in an interview, lies "on the margin of contemporary Jewish culture. The centre is Israel and its macho [ideals]… Then klezmer, by definition, is a kind of faggy and/or women-oriented response, the counter-culture. [It offers] …a queer way to be Jewish." Lorin Sklamberg, the Klezmatics vocalist and accordionist, corroborates her idea: though he had been able to be a queer Jewish musician while serving as cantor for the Los Angeles gay synagogue, he always felt "like an outsider" singing in Hebrew and performing Israeli music. It was with klezmer and the Yiddish language that he found a voice.

Simple timing also played a large role in forming this queer presence in klezmer. By the time Stonewall catalyzed the gay liberation movement, the folk revival was already well underway. Therefore, it remained relatively isolated from queer activism, as Eve Sicular's statement illustrates. But the klezmer revival did not begin until the late seventies, by which time much had changed. The greater presence of the gay liberation movement then, and particularly the heated activism that followed in the eighties, could influence klezmer as the revival progressed.

The Klezmatics

The Klezmatics, founded in 1986, were the first klezmer band to link up with the surge in queer activism; today they are one of the world's most well-known klezmer ensembles. They are also the only queer-identified klezmer band with both queer and straight members. And though their out profile has been visible since their beginnings, they did not form with such revolutionary intentions: they came together through a newspaper classified ad. The group's two out musicians then, Alicia Svigals and Lorin Sklamberg, nudged the group in a queer direction.18 Svigals explained: "Lorin and I were into being out, and once we said that, we had this kind of podium, so we thought we'd really go for it. Frank [London], the trumpeter, is straight, but he was very supportive of that. He thought it was cool, from a show biz kind of view. And the rest of them just went along."19 If gay activism was part of what motivated the Klezmatics' agenda, this was because the timing was both fortuitous and dangerous. Svigals notes that "It was a slightly risky time….[We] felt like we were doing something courageous."20 That courageousness in blending their queer and Jewish identities may be exactly what made them so successful, however. In fact, Eve Sicular believes that "One of the reasons the Klezmatics got as famous as they did as fast as they did is because of ACT UP."21

In 1988, the group brought out its first album, Shvaygn = Toyt. The title is a Yiddish translation of Silence Equals Death, the slogan for ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). This title works on two levels: not only did it signal the Klezmatics' advocacy of AIDS activism, which was a radical enough move in 1988, but it actively brought the Yiddish language into the present. A silent language is a dead language; with Yiddish life in Europe nearly extinct, North America has become one of the language's strongest centres of survival. Therefore, by singing in Yiddish, contemporary klezmer ensembles actively contribute to the language's continued existence. I will discuss later some of the ways in which the Klezmatics consistently address queer themes in their music.

The Klezmatics have also influenced fellow klezmorim. In the nineties, more queer klezmer bands formed, and their members easily acknowledge that the Klezmatics had opened the way for them. Debra Kreisberg, a clarinet and saxophone player in the bands Metropolitan Klezmer and Isle of Klezbos, said that the Klezmatics' out identity was a strong influence on the queer klezmer scene. She explained: "Before I ever started playing klezmer… I knew that they were very queer-friendly, and that they were openly queer-friendly." Likewise, Jeff Friedman of Gay Iz Mir immediately named the Klezmatics as a primary influence.

Gay Iz Mir

The San Francisco-based band Gay Iz Mir occupies the distinctive position of being "the only gay, lesbian, queer, bi, trans, straight synagogue klezmer house band in the world." The synagogue in question is Sha'ar Zahav - Hebrew for Golden Gate - which welcomes people of all genders and sexual orientations. The band's members are also synagogue members. Unlike the members of other queer klezmer bands, they are not professional musicians; they play klezmer for fun. Yet their reach is by no means limited: they have played for the San Francisco Pride parade as well as for weddings, commitment ceremonies, bar and bat mitzvahs - almost like any other klezmer band.

Often what displays the queerness of Gay Iz Mir is performative rather than repertoire-based. "We're queer in our delivery," Jeff Friedman explains.22 He illustrates this by describing a mock wedding procession they enacted at an event benefiting a social justice organization. In this procession,

…We had a singer who was, oh, probably seven, eight months pregnant. And then we also had someone who was in transition between genders. This person was quite tall, the other person was quite short, but what we had was a procession with these two people functioning as the kind of couple. And I don't want to say 'bride and groom' because it was clear that we were not working within that binary construction. And we had some sort of chuppah [wedding canopy] that we made out of something, and then the band processed behind. And we entered, and people didn't know what was going on. We played, and of course the people turned around and they looked. They saw something that they didn't expect. And I think that it opened their eyes….23
This is an excellent example of a group making a strong point through its actions. And as Friedman said, "We are as inclusive as you can possibly imagine along that particular continuum [of gender and sexual orientation]. And I think people really got it, that we were practicing what they were interested in promoting."24

Isle of Klezbos and Metropolitan Klezmer

Back in New York, Eve Sicular had started a group called Metropolitan Klezmer around 1994. Through a series of haphazard events, an ensemble of queer women - partially overlapping with the members of Metropolitan Klezmer - came together and became Isle of Klezbos. Sicular clarified that she did not set out to create an all-queer ensemble: "It's not as though I went out of my way to find it this way. I mean, I would have been happy if there were straight women in the band."25 But once this group of women came together, they created a professional ensemble that has toured extensively and met with strong critical acclaim.

What's in a name, and how did it get there?

Clearly, both Gay Iz Mir and Isle of Klezbos continually out themselves through their names, indicating the bands' deliberate choices about how to present themselves to the public. From the start, Sicular wanted a queer-sounding name for her group. But, she says, by the time her all-women's group formed, the word 'Klezbian' had become over-used. So, wanting to find an out name that didn't mention Klezbians, she dived into etymology and came up with the name Isle of Klezbos. She notes that the humour has been a good draw for both the public and the press, and of course for the queer community. An out name can also act as a filter for the wary or the outright homophobic. It can also draw unexpected clients, like a straight wedding couple or a rabbi in the Conservative movement - which currently does not accept queer rabbis or same-sex unions. Sicular surmises that perhaps they wanted to be hip, or to bridge a gap to a gay relative. "All kinds of interesting things happen because of taking a risk," she says.26 And yet, while Isle of Klezbos enjoys the kind of exposure its name brings, the group emphasizes that is priority is musicality.

Gay Iz Mir began as the Sha'ar Zahav Klezmer Band, named for its home synagogue. But its members wanted a name of their own. The phrase "Gay Iz Mir" is a play on the Yiddish phrase "Oy vey iz mir," meaning "Woe is me." So the word gay not only identifies the group's sexual orientations, but reverses the "Woe is me" to "Gay is me."27 Jeff Friedman describes the "raucous" meeting at which they chose their moniker:

There was concern that our name be gay enough, explicitly gay, and there was concern that we wouldn't get gigs if our name was explicitly gay. And at a certain point, I think we all agreed that we had to have something queer in the name. And so we did finally choose… 'Gay Iz Mir.' …The main concern was to make sure that the name reflected us as a group by consensus, and also that it be …queer. In other words, I think the main concern was more the positive than the negative.28
Devra Noily, one of the founders of Gay Iz Mir, echoes Eve Sicular in saying that being out actually diminishes the amount of homophobia they might encounter. She adds: "Our queer Jewish identity has allowed us to bring a queer presence into Jewish places, and a Jewish presence into queer settings."29 In other words, their double marginality actually acts as an advantage.

The Music

So what kind of music do queer klezmer bands play? Just as most klezmer music of the revival is a blend of the traditional and the original, so is queer klezmer.

Like the names of some groups, humour is often an element. An excellent example is the Klezmatics' song "Man In A Hat," from their 1995 album Jews With Horns. The catchy song was nominated for a GLAMA (the Gay and Lesbian Music Awards). Its lyrics, by Dave Lindsay, are mainly in English, but they begin with a Yiddish stanza stating that "Though the melody is old, the words are all brand new" - and they are. The persistent rhymes have a silliness reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, to which the winking allusions add a not-so-innocent layer. The title is most likely a reference to safer sex practices, and the "sailor man" in the second verse refers to a longstanding association of sailor life with homosexuality.30 In the verses, the narrator sings unabashedly of the man after whom he lusts; in the refrain, the (all-male) chorus makes explicit that "He met a man in a hat…" The music's frantic tempo underlines the absurdity of the narrator's multiple globe-trotting conquests and mimics the pace of his beloved Manhattan. So do the rapidly repeated notes in both the chorus and verses, as well as the high-speed piano chords. Even among the frequently over-the-top performances of the Klezmatics, the musical and textual campiness of "Man in a Hat" stand out.

But one doesn't need to write new lyrics to create a queer song. In fact, trumpeter Frank London says that the Klezmatics' first openly gay song took its words from the Song of Songs.31 The piece in question is "Honikzaft," recorded on the album Rhythm & Jews. The text of "Honikzaft" is not a self-contained excerpt but a compilation of carefully selected verses.32 Sklamberg twists pronouns and adjectives to make this a homosexual love song that still retains the atmosphere of the biblical poetry. And the Klezmatics' respectful irreverence for the biblical text extends to their musical setting, as they turn this piece into a klezmer-inflected rock tune.

Eve Sicular uses her knowledge of cinema to find new material for Isle of Klezbos and Metropolitan Klezmer. She has written and lectured extensively on queer subtexts in Yiddish film; the song "Muzikalisher Tango," on the album Mosaic Persuasion, exemplifies this kind of subtext. In studying the 1940 film Amerikaner Shadkhn, or American Matchmaker, Sicular found many subtle gay references. In one scene, a tango with Yiddish lyrics becomes a way for a closeted matchmaker to put off a woman who is interested in him. At the end of the tune, she says in Yiddish, "You're musical!" - "musical" being one of the many euphemisms for "homosexual."33 And he replies, "Yes - It's something I inherited from my uncle Shya" - a character very much involved in the film's "running-in-the-family gay subtext."34 Thus the song and, through it, the whole scene takes on a coming-out role. As performed by Isle of Klezbos, "Muzikalisher Tango" is sung by a woman, not a man, but this only adds to the subtle musical irony in their performance.35

Instrumental music, too, can be queer. Some tunes carry subtexts which, though not necessarily audible, still colour the music for its players and the educated listener. For example, Isle of Klezbos performs a song that they call "Terkisher Navratilova." Terkisher is a klezmer dance form which actually derives from the Greek, not Turkish, syrto.36 Eve Sicular admits that the title is an in-joke; but the reference is clear: it is a song named after lesbian tennis star Martina Navratilova, played by a lesbian klezmer band.

A slightly more serious example toys with a type of traditional wedding song called a Khosn-Kale Mazl Tov. Khosn means groom, and Kale means bride; the title essentially means "Congratulations to the bride and groom." But Alicia Svigals and Gay Iz Mir perform what they both call a Kale-Kale Mazl Tov, implying congratulations to the bride and bride. (Not so coincidentally, Metropolitan Klezmer has addressed a similar theme, but on a T-shirt.37 ) By playing a Kale-Kale Mazl Tov, these queer klezmorim seem to say that a gay wedding deserves congratulations like any other.

It seems that almost all these songs use a form of humour. But some of the issues behind the songs, and behind the development of queer klezmer itself, are actually quite serious. How can we reconcile this discrepancy?

When the Klezmatics were founded in the 1980s, issues of queer rights were edgier than they are now, and AIDS was still primarily associated with gay males. There was far less optimism about queer rights than there is now. Humour could disguise enough of the danger to allow the Klezmatics to address these concerns. The album Shvaygn Iz Toyt was named in complete seriousness, but few people looking at the album cover would know what it really meant; their message was encoded in Yiddish and contributed to the language's survival. The 1992 "Honikzaft" comes the closest to being a gay love song to which any lover could relate. Is their use of biblical poetry a nod toward Jewish tradition, or is their rewriting of that poetry a sign of subversion? Perhaps both: the song seems to aim at proving that shared texts can lead to a shared understanding of different kinds of love. By 1995 came the campy, tongue-in-cheek humour of "Man in a Hat."

By this time, both Gay Iz Mir and Isle of Klezbos had come together and had come out. The queer community had made many gains since the 1980s. Therefore, these could more easily refer to queerness in fun, as in songs like "Terkisher Navratilova." They could explore queer cinematic subtexts that might have seemed outrageous to the films' original audiences, as in "Muzikalisher Tango." "Kale-Kale Mazel Tov" is also a kind of joke, though it can also be read as a clear support of the often heated issue of same-sex marriage.

The klezmer revival was fuelled largely by an alternative politics which melded easily with queer activism. The various moods of queer klezmer songs reflect the range of approaches to the issues that fuelled this activism. Both queer and Jewish identities can be invisible, but here a confluence of outspoken movements led not only to the articulation of both identities in a powerfully assimilationist society, but to a fusion of the two into a strong individual culture. And the prominence of its advocates shows that queer klezmer is not a marginal subculture but a strong, musical voice.

Works Cited

Black, Allida M., ed. Modern American Queer History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001.

Brett, Philip, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, eds. Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Cantwell, Robert. When We Were Good: The Folk Revival. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Deitcher, David, ed. The Question of Equality: Lesbian and Gay Politics in America Since Stonewall. Toronto: Scribner, 1995.

Dion, Lynn. "Klezmer Music in America: Revival and Beyond." Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Newsletter 8 (1986) 2-14.

Gomez, Jewelle. "Out of the Past." The Question of Equality: Lesbian and Gay Politics in America Since Stonewall. Ed. David Deitcher. Toronto: Scribner, 1995.

Kalish, Jon. "Changing the Tune, Klezmatics Settle a Violinist's Sex-Discrimination Suit." Forward (28 March 2003) news12.html.

King, Chris. Chris King, "Klezmatics to Appear at Washington University."

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. "Sounds of Sensibility." American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots. Ed. Mark Slobin. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002.

Kligman, Mark. "Contemporary Jewish Music in America." American Jewish Year Book 101 (2001) 88-141.

Morris, Bob. "Yiddles With Fiddles." Village Voice (23 January 1996) 31.

Rogovoy, Seth. The Essential Klezmer. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 2000.

__________. "The Klezmatics: Outing Klezmer. Originally published in the Boston Phoenix (16 May 1997)

Sapoznik, Henry. "From Eastern Europe to East Broadway: Yiddish Music in Old World and New." New York Folklore 14:3-4 (1988) 117-127.

__________. Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World. New York: Schirmer Books, 1999.

Sebrest, Mag. "Visibility and Backlash." The Question of Equality: Lesbian and Gay Politics in America Since Stonewall. Ed. David Deitcher. Toronto: Scribner, 1995.

Sicular, Eve. "Outing the Archives: From the Celluloid Closet to the Isle of Klezbos." Queer Jews. Ed. David Shneer and Caryn Aviv. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Slobin, Mark, ed. American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Strom, Yale. The Book of Klezmer. Chicago: A Cappella Press, 2002.

Svigals, Alicia. "Why we do this anyway: Klezmer as Jewish youth subculture." Judaism 47:1 (Winter 1998) 43-49.

Interviews and electronic correspondence with Alicia Svigals, Eve Sicular, Devra Noily, Jeff Friedman, and Debra Kreisberg.


1. Yale Strom, The Book of Klezmer (Chicago: A Cappella Press, 2002) 20.

2. Henry Sapoznik, Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World (New York: Schirmer Books, 1999) 5.

3. Sapoznik 6.

4. These opportunities included pre-Sabbath events in the synagogue and the dedication of Torah scrolls.

5. Henry Sapoznik, "From Eastern Europe to East Broadway: Yiddish Music in Old World and New" (New York Folklore, 1988) 119.

6. Mark Kligman, "Contemporary Jewish Music in America" (American Jewish Year Book, 2001) 95.

7. Seth Rogovoy, The Essential Klezmer (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 2000) 107.

8. Other writers have also noticed the Jewish presence and lack of Jewish music in the folk revival: see, for example, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Sounds of Sensibility," in American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots, ed. Mark Slobin (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002) 151.

9. Robert Cantwell, When We Were Good: The Folk Revival (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996) 359.

10. Lynn Dion, "Klezmer Music in America: Revival and Beyond" (Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Newsletter, 1986) 7.

11. Alicia Svigals, "Why We Do This Anyway," in American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots, ed. Mark Slobin (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002) 213.

12. Interview with Eve Sicular, 5 March 2003.

13. Jewelle Gomez, "Out of the Past," in The Question of Equality: Lesbian and Gay Politics in America Since Stonewall, ed. David Deitcher (Toronto: Scribner, 1995) 26.

14. Allida M. Black, ed., Modern American Queer History (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001) 7.

15. Gomez 53.

16. See

17. Bob Morris, "Yiddls With Fiddles" (The Village Voice, 23 January 1996) 31. See also Seth Rogovoy, "The Klezmatics: Outing Klezmer," originally published in The Boston Phoenix (16 May 1997)

18. Svigals has since left the band. One account of this controversial situation is Jon Kalish's "Changing the Tune, Klezmatics Settle a Violinist's Sex-Discrimination Suit" (The Forward, 28 March 2003)

19. Interview with Alicia Svigals, 7 February 2003.

20. Ibid.

21. Sicular, interview.

22. Interview with Jeff Friedman, 9 March 2003.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Sicular, interview.

26. Ibid.

27. Friedman, interview.

28. Ibid.

29. Electronic communication with the author, 26 February 2003.

30. According to Mag Sebrest, "Gay life became articulated in the United States in places like …San Francisco after World War II, where soldiers and sailors (both those who had served active duty and those who had been discharged for homosexual tendencies) congregated…" See Mag Sebrest, "Visibility and Backlash, in The Question of Equality: Lesbian and Gay Politics in America Since Stonewall 89-90.

31. Frank London, cited in Chris King, "Klezmatics to Appear at Washington University."

32. Song of Songs 3:6, 1:1, 5:12, 4:11, and 7:12-13.

33. As first explored by queer studies scholar George Chauncey; see also Philip Brett, "Musicality, Essentialism, and the Closet," in Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology, ed. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas (New York: Routledge, 1994) 11.

34. Eve Sicular, "Outing the Archives: From the Celluloid Closet to the Isle of Klezbos," in Queer Jews, ed. David Shneer and Caryn Aviv (New York: Routledge, 2002) 212.

35. It seems to me that the accordion's phrases particularly convey a sense of irony; this is perhaps corroborated by Sicular, who has noted the ability of accordionist Rachelle Garniez to capture such moods in her playing (Sicular, interview).

36. Rogovoy 2000: 46.

37. The image shows two brides with two matchmakers. It is a slide from the 1925 film Jewish Luck, located in the archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. It can be seen on the band's website at