The Hasidic Nigun at the Sabbath Table

For the Public
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EST

Zoom Webinar

The melodies sung during Sabbath mealtimes are highly diverse, and many overlap with klezmer music, liturgical songs, vernacular songs, and Hasidic nigunim. In this lecture we will explore the tunes used around the table and trace their pathways as they moved from Hasidic courts to family homes. Adapting a nigun to the text of traditional Shabbat poem or song often entailed changes in form, style, tempo, length, ornamentation, mood, and performance style, morphing older soundscapes into new settings.

About the Series "Songs without Words: Nigunim over Time"

Judaism has a musical tradition of tunes sung repetitively without words. These melodies, called nigunim, are as open to new interpretation as they are evocative of past worlds. This series of online lectures follows the winding paths of nigunim and their singers, from the earliest Hasidic Jews to contemporary professional musicians. They will bring to life musical worlds ranging from the synagogue to Spotify, showing how men and women have adapted the tradition for ritual, emotional expression, and art.


Naomi Cohn Zentner

Bar-Ilan University

Naomi Cohn Zentner is an assistant professor in the Department of Music at Bar Ilan University. She was formerly the head of the M.A. program in Jewish music at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. Her Ph.D. from Hebrew University's Musicology department focused on the singing of Sabbath table songs (zemiroth shabbat) among Ashkenazi religious-Zionists in Israel. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Hebrew University’s Daat Hamakom Center for the Study of Cultures of Place in the Modern Jewish World and a visiting fellow at the Oxford Seminar in Advanced Jewish Studies focusing on early Jewish Music in 2019. Her research interests lie in historical ethnomusicology, sacred songs of the Ashkenazi domestic sphere, and the cross-fertilization of Ashkenazi and Sephardi liturgical traditions.

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Cosponsored by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Klatt Family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.