Chava Alberstein: Multilingual Folkie

In Hebrew, English and Yiddish, this legendary Israeli singer has created an unparalleled body of music.

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Looking back at the first album she wrote, Mehagrim (Migrants), in which "Sharaliya" was the lead track, Alberstein admits the songs were immature. "But it is very authentic. It was all young people; the sound was new."

Now, while Mizrahi (Israelis of Sephardic and North African background) singers are reviving and renewing their parents' lost culture--which they had been told was "primitive" and worthless--Alberstein is drawing again on her immigrant roots, creating the music of maturity, knowing that one's parents' culture will die with them unless they are given a voice. If Yiddish was once considered a sign of weakness, the language of those who had gone to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter, Alberstein has made it a sign of strength, of the power to bring the dead back to life.

Hear the Arab and Jewish women's choir in Jaffa, Israel sing Alberstein's version of "Had Gadya" ("One Kid"), the classic Passover song:

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Esther Hecht is a writer who lives in Jerusalem.