Whats current in klezmer, and an update on veterans

By now, rare is the American Jew who doesn't know a little about klezmer. And there are more and more klezmer bands criss-crossing the country — some highly traditional, some fusing modern and traditional elements.

The Budowitz klezmer band represents the traditional end of the spectrum–so traditional, in fact, that members perform on old instruments or meticulously recreated copies.

In part, this site is intended as a billboard and CD catalogue for the American-European band. But dig a little deeper, and you'll find an amazing array of information about the music and its incredible history.

First, the commercial stuff: The home page starts with a description of the group's latest CD, "Wedding Without a Bride," which presents "the entire forgotten music of the East European traditional Jewish wedding in a concert setting."

And there are the usual raves from the critics, who use adjectives like "deeply authentic," "raw" and "wild" to describe the band.

A particularly interesting section describes the instruments used by Budowitz. Here we learn that the violin was the musical anchor of most klezmer groups until the beginning of the 20th century, when "it was gradually replaced by the clarinet as the quintessentially Jewish instrument."

The group also uses a three-string viola, modified for playing continuous chords — a traditional instrument largely forgotten by today's klezmer revival bands.

And there's a good description of the tsimbl, a cousin of today's hammered dulcimer, which was the "rhythmic and timbrel backbone of klezmer music from the 16th to the late 19th century."

An "Ask Dr. Klez" feature provides detailed answers to questions about the music. An example: "Did klezmorim of the 19th century really use wooden flutes to beat their sheep when they strayed?"

There's also an excellent, detailed history of klezmer music. Klezmer musicians in the old country played more than just "Jewish" music, we learn; they were musical jacks-of-all-trades who would often play court dances, light classical and popular music. Often, klezmer bands would get together with Gypsy bands for gigs.

The design of the site is straightforward, navigation is a cinch and there are reasonably good graphics. Only one complaint; there are no sound clips.

Still, the Budowitz home page leaves most other klezmer sites in the dust when it comes to content.

Check it out at www.budowitz.com.


In an age of small wars and a volunteer army, it's hard to remember a time when America united behind an all-out effort to defeat evil. The declining number of World War II veterans only accelerates our collective memory loss.

The newly revamped Web site of the Jewish War Veterans helps us remember.

The attractive, nicely organized site documents the JWV's good works, including patriotic programs, the ongoing fight for veterans' benefits, lobbying on defense and security issues.

The site includes interesting information on the group's program to promote the commemoration of the Days of Remembrance in the armed services.

There's also a calendar of events and news of the group's upcoming Capitol Hill Action Day in March.

The site's one weakness: It doesn't have much information on the history of Jews in the military. But the site is linked to a separate site run by the group's National Museum of American Jewish History, which offers very brief glimpses of a handful of exhibitions on topics such as GIs and displaced persons and women in the military.

One of the most interesting: a past exhibition on Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, a Navy hero in the early days of the nation.

There's too much promotional material at both sites, and the online exhibits are thin.

But there's still enough to make the JWV sites worthwhile stops on your next cyber-excursion.

Check out both by going to www.jwv.org or go to the museum site at www.nmajmh.org.

The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected]