Organized as the Temple B’nai Jeshurun Klezmer Band in 2002 to help promote the Temple’s annual Jewish Food Fair, the band adopted the name "Java Jews" after a series of crowd-pleasing performances at Java Joes Coffee House in downtown
The band plays what they refer to as "highly-caffeinated" klezmer music — a mix of Yiddish and Hebrew melodies combined with dixeland, avant-garde jazz, and a touch of Spike Jones.
According to accordionist Abe Goldstien, who organized the band the only time the band practices is when it performs. "That way the audience never knows what will happen next, Goldstien says. "Neither do the musicians for that matter," he quickly adds.
Describing klezmer music, Mark Finkelstein says: "Klezmer music is a very simple
and forgiving music. There are really no wrong notes in this music but we manage to find them!"
Sound like fun? It is — for the musicians as well as the audience. Since making their initial appearance at Java Joes in December 2002., the Java Jews have become a monthly feature at the coffee house. They have also played at coffee houses in Ames and Grinnell (where the band had people dancing down Main Street). In addition, the band has played for numerous functions at area synagogues, including services and bar mitzvahs.
For those of you not hip to klezmer music, it is the music of Eastern European Jewish communities during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The music emigrated to this country with the influx of European Jews and began to borrow elements from jazz and pop music. At the same time, pop music was also embracing klezmer. Ziggy Elman’s famous trumpet solo in Benny Goodman’s hit recording of "And The Angel’s Sing" is based on a familiar klezmer song — "Der Shtitler Bulgar." The Andrews Sister also had a hit with the klezmer song, "Bei Mir Bistu Shein," which Goldstien recently learned was written by a second cousin of his mothers! Santana even recorded a klezmer turn — Shein Da Vie La Vonna —in the early 1980s!
Klezmer music is upbeat. Klezmer music is tender. Klezmer music is hand-clapping. Klezmer music is tear-jerking. In the hands of the Java Jews it’s always fun!