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Being heard: The singing voices of contemporary Hasidic womenEster-Basya Vaisman
This dissertation is a study of the context and content of vocal music in the lives of contemporary Yiddish-speaking Hasidic women and girls. While the music of Hasidic men has been collected, published, and analyzed to an extent, virtually nothing is known about the songs of Hasidic women. Because of a Jewish religious law called Kol B'Isha (literally, 'woman's voice'), Hasidic women are unable to publicly perform or commercially record songs; additionally, the insular nature of Hasidic communities makes this material almost inaccessible. I obtained information through fieldwork, which consisted of conducting interviews with women from the community, recording their songs, and observing school performances. Fieldwork took place over the past four years in Williamsburg and Borough Park, New York; Jerusalem and Rehovoth, Israel; London, England; and Antwerp, Belgium, with Hasidic women from the Satmar, Bobov, Pupa, Vizhnits, Tosh, Belz and other communities. The primary purpose of this project is to describe and analyze the women's Yiddish songs and to study the role that songs and singing play in a Hasidic woman's life. Among the issues addressed are song authorship and provenance; community perceptions of qualities important to singing; the role of song as an educational tool; the representation of the outside world in girls' performances; and generational differences in song repertoire. This research provides much insight into the creative world of the Hasidim and helps people unfamiliar with the community to better understand this cultural minority. It also contributes to our understanding of how women can creatively express themselves despite the restrictions on their public voices.
Social sciences; Yiddish song; Hasidic culture; Hasidic women; Yiddish; Women's song; Jewish music; Cultural anthropology; Womens studies; Judaic studies; 0326:Cultural anthropology; 0453:Womens studies; 0751:Judaic studies
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