Every Measure a Mitzvah

The Boston Jewish Music Festival will present a mix of the traditional and the new.

Boston Jewish Music Festival

Photo courtesy of the Boston Jewish Music Festival

This month, the fourth-ever Boston Jewish Music Festival (BJMF) is expanding far beyond the traditional cantors and klezmer bands you’d expect. Its most diverse lineup yet will feature acoustic folk, Yiddish protest punk, classical chamber and chorale music, and even an “electro Judeo dance party.” And then there’s the violin god Itzhak Perlman, who will be performing at Symphony Hall. “We’re really looking at who’s doing the most interesting music that’s Jewish in the grandest scheme of things,” says the festival’s executive director, Joey Baron. Baron and his cofounder, Jim Ball, created the BJMF back in 2009, over a cup of coffee. After doing some research, the two found that Boston had the largest Jewish community in the country that lacked this kind of festival. By forming partnerships with local clubs and temples, the Israeli consulate, and organizations like Celebrity Series (which is staging the Perlman concert), Baron and Ball changed that. Though musicians this year will come from all over, Baron and Ball have focused mainly on featuring homegrown talent, including Yehudi Wyner, a Pulitzer-winning composer from Medford. They’ve also consciously balanced artists who preserve tradition with those who want to do something new by it. Baron says there’s only one unwritten restriction: “‘Hava Nagila’ has never been played here.”

The Boston Jewish Music Festival plays in venues around the region from 3/1–3/10, bostonjewishmusicfestival.com.