On a Monday night in late September, forty people gathered in a spacious, two-floor Chelsea Loft for the debut of the Maqam Project, a fusion of Judeao-Arabic music and reflective Jewish poetry. A maqam is an Arabic musical scale, similar to a jazz mode, which repeats a musical theme while allowing for and encouraging improvisation. Spearheading the project was its musical director, Epichorus founder, and oudist Rabbi Zach Fredman, who was selected as one of The Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” and serves as rabbi and music director of the New Shul in Greenwich Village. He was joined by a flutist, percussionist, and violin player. St. Louis-based writer and teacher Rabbi James Stone Goodman interspersed poetry pertaining to the parsha, or weekly Torah portion, across the Middle-Eastern melodies.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, who hobnobs with hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, didn’t make the cut. Neither did Dovi Scheiner of the relentlessly hipster Soho Synagogue. And as for the rabbi who penned “Kosher Sex,” was the guru to Michael Jackson and who recently landed in The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town column — no, not even Shmuley Boteach made the list.
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