O, Jerusalem! Jewish culture capital of the world, where klezmer music wafts through the air like simmering cholent…Right? Well, not exactly. In a city teeming with even more Russian than Yiddish, and where shopping malls attract more visitors than music venues, there’s only one place to experience klezmer performed by musicians who look and sound as if they’ve just stepped out of the shtetl: Kool Klezmer, the weekly post-Shabbat jam session held in the book-lined offices of the Yung YiDish cultural organization.
Led by the gregarious clarinetist and accordion player Avraham Burshtein, many of the klezmorim arrive still wearing their Shabbat bekishes, and sporting their beards and payot. The group fills the dimly lit basement on the edge of an ultra-orthodox neighborhood with hours of lively Eastern European tunes, spontaneous dancing, and Yiddish tales. And their music hits you right in the kishkes.
Kool Klezmer attracts an eclectic assortment of people—both Haredim and secular Jews alike—who gather to enjoy the organized musical chaos as well as the antics of Burshtein, who in addition to leading this talented group of klezmorim, also happens to be the best bottle dancer this side of Pinsk.