Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians: Batsheva (Capek). Folksinger (Yiddish, Ladino, Hebrew, English), Musician

 

BATSHEVA Lead Photo 002

Batsheva


Music Online

Welcome to our weekly Sunday music section called

“Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”

By David Eisenstadt

November 21, 2021: What does Batsheva Capek have in common with David Buchbinder, Dave Cohen, Marc Jordan, Colin Linden, Fred Molin, Eddie Schwartz and Amy Sky?

All are notable Canadian Jewish musicians who have made a significant segment of their careers in Nashville, Tennessee.

Folksinger, songwriter and broadcaster Batsheva Capek is another Toronto-born and raised Jewish performer who has found success in Nashville. 

Her Polish-born mother and first generation Lithuanian-Canadian father lived with her grandparents, who spoke Yiddish at home. From age six to 21, she studied piano and cello at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She was “encouraged by film-maker/author Jack Kuper and Joso Spralja (of Malka & Joso fame) to become a professional artist.”

She plays acoustic guitar and sings in Ladino, Yiddish, Hebrew and English, and is also a comedy writer.  She has “performed with many of the leading Yiddish and Sephardic artists of our time in festivals and concerts in Israel, the United States, England, and across Canada.”

BATSHEVA El Dio Alto Batsheva Capek 002

El Dio Alto Batsheva Capek

Click HERE to watch this video


Using only her first name, Batsheva sees herself “as a cross between Theodore Bikel and Tom Lehrer from a distinctly feminine voice.”

She told me, “I have always been connected to my heritage and faith. Singing and writing Jewish music has been my life’s work.  I have been a Jewish folksinger since I was 17 years old and taught myself to play the guitar.”

Over the years, she was embraced by Toronto’s Jewish community and was involved with various Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) committees. Batsheva wrote and sung for many of their programs from the 1970s to the 1990s.  “In 1977, she “won the National Competition for Holocaust Literature sponsored by the CJC.”  That year, they recorded her Song of Remembrance, a mainstay “still sung at Holocaust remembrance ceremonies across Canada, and installed in the official archives of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel.”

In 1977 Batsheva moved to Israel.  She sang for the Israel Broadcast Authority program Shevet Achim and had a regular gig singing at the Jerusalem Plaza, a Canadian Pacific Hotel.

In 1984, she won the Kum Kum North American Jewish song writing competition for “another song I wrote about Soviet Jewry, titled Smaller Crowds.”  In 1992, she was the first Canadian to be signed by the Golden Land theatrical Agency in New York.

Batsheva recorded her first full length album I, Batsheva, Singer, with guitarist Rob Piltch and oboist Lesley Young.  Billboard Magazine Canada’s Larry Leblanc wrote, “This beautiful record was made for all the right reasons with heart and soul.”

She met her future husband, John Capek, the composer, producer and musician in 1995. They were married in 2000.  Music performed at their ceremony was played by Dan Hill, Marc Jordan and Amy Sky, with klezmer musicians Martin van de Ven and Alex Luminsky. The couple moved to Nashville in 2010.

Batsheva is featured in what is recognized as the first book on feminist Jewish song writing and liturgy published in 2016, A Season of Singing – Creating the Feminist Jewish Music in the United States by Dr. Sarah Ross. Two of her tunes are referenced: Damn Little Yiddish Folksongs and Yiftach’s Daughter.

A highlight of her repertoire includes a ballet based on three of her Yiddish translations (done in the late 1980s) of Leonard Cohen, arranged by John Capek.  The world premiere of Cohen happened in November 2019 at Kent State University’s School of Theatre and Dance. The choreographer Jeffrey Marc Rockland wrote, “With themes of love, desire, isolation, worship and loss, Cohen is a ballet that celebrates the poetic genius of Leonard Cohen and it is my hope that their work will serve as an artistic prayer for peace and understanding across cultural, religious, racial and sexual differences.” 

Cohen’s publisher, SONY/ATV authorized Batsheva to prepare the Yiddish translation for Dance Me To The End of Love.  It was reported that Cohen was consulted for Batsheva’s Hebrew translation of Hallelujah.  Both tunes are the only two authorized versions of his songs in Hebrew and Yiddish.

BATSHEVA Ashkenaz Leonard Cohen Tribute 002

Ashkenaz Leonard Cohen Tribute BATSHEVA “Dance Me to the End of Love” Yiddish

Click HERE to watch this video


Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Batsheva has kept busy performing zoom concerts for international audiences.  She has also “been doing lots of song writing for a future record.”  Tours to Australia, the UK and the US are in the planning stages, with, she said, her “hope to launch that new record in Toronto.”

Music notes

Credits:  Batsheva Capek/YouTube; Facebook.


A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in the Category section.

Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact David Eisenstadt at cjnonline@protonmail.com

David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

Reader’s Comments

-What a wonderful article! Thank you so much. I am delighted to be part of your beautifully written  series. I fully understand the  contribution that you are making by writing about the Jewish music culture in Canada. You are to be commended. It is an invaluable record. Bravo to you and your partner for your efforts. I will post this on Facebook and also send out to my friends, colleagues and fans around the world. I hope you will stay in touch. Thank you again for this wonderful piece. I wish you and yours a very Happy Chanukah. Zay gezint un shtark. – BC, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

-Nice to read your piece on Batsheva; we go way back and worked together here and there over the years. – BK, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

-It is beautifully written and gives a real sense of the person. Really nice of her to send such a supportive note. – FSK, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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Book of The Week: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


Books Online

Welcome to our Good Books for Good Friends, a regular series of reviews of important people in our Community.

This week, Ralph Wintrob reviews a book authored by one of our community’s leading international figures, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times by Jonathan Sacks

A review by Ralph Wintrob

Sir Jonathan Henry Sacks, Baron Sacks. British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author, and politician. (March 8, 1948 – November 7, 2020)

“A distinguished religious leader’s stirring case for reconstructing a shared framework of virtues and values.”

When Jonathan Sacks was ordained Chief Rabbi of The United Kingdom and The Commonwealth he told his well-wishers at the ceremony that they did not need another posek. There were plenty of worthy rabbis available in Britain to do that. He saw his role as being the Jewish voice to the community at large.

And he exercised that voice in more than 30 volumes, and weekly parashat ha’ shevuah drashot that became his trademark. His books offered his take on what our society’s challenges are, and how we can address them to our benefit.

‘Morality’ tops off his career gently, but forcefully. It’s a tough word to define, and make compelling. But its absence as a guide to our fractured world is obvious. He shows us how far we’ve strayed, but also tells us he tells us how to regain our moral compass. That’s a powerful epitaph.

He presents the problem from a number of perspectives, and a vast array of academic and professional sources…his bibliography runs to 20 pages…to illustrate how far we have fallen, but offers a solution that is clear, simple, and sure. If we follow through, we can be sure of renewal and redemption. What better legacy!

What’s wrong with our world? In his view, we have reverted from a ‘we’ to an ‘I’ society. Aided by social media in particular, we are obsessed with our own image, needs, status, and expectations, do not see the humanity in others, and thus have lost sight of the common good, and the communication skills that are vital to it. And we are paying dearly for it. As a society we feel depressed, suicidal even.

>>>Click here to watch this video<<<

We do not build the bonding skills vital to the development of trust that is the foundation of a moral, free society. To be fully human we need to learn to be open to others, through, as he puts it, “the minuet of conversation”. That, he says, is where morality is born. “We need to turn outward, one life at a time, to become sensitive, generous, caring.” To not do so, Sacks says, will see us lose all our freedoms at the hands of dictators, and thought control.

“We need to act as an interdependent community, not as independent individuals, to achieve a society rooted in fairness, and compassion.”

Sacks does not bring that many Jewish sources to bear for his solution. But when he does, they are instantly recognizable, like, dada, The Covenant. He does not mention Sinai specifically, but we recognize its centrality, a divinely ordained set of principles and commandments whose aim is a society imbued with hesed with mishpat, whose method is civil discourse, and gives as an example a wonderful talmudic tale, of Rav Yohanan who convinced Resh Lakish to turn from a life of crime and become his chevruta. In a fit of pique when they were discussing a point of law one day, Rav Yohanan demeaned Resh Lakish, who was so hurt, he fell ill and died. Rav Yohanan was inconsolable. The chevruta his students replaced Resh Lakish with to help him recover only made him feel worse. Resh Lakish, he said, always had a valid rebuttal to his argument, and together they determined the law. They argued for the sake of heaven and thus found practical solutions to knotty human problems. He did not want to discuss a point of law with someone who always agreed with him.

By way of contrast Sacks mentions Korach, whom he describes as the first populist, challenging Moses and Aaron’s leadership as designed for their personal benefit and not for the people’s. But Sacks point out, Korach was all bluster. He had no alternative plan. He sowed discontent to transfer power to himself.

Sacks, in the end, challenges us to follow though, to renew the covenant that is crucial to our well-being. And he quotes from, of all people, Mark Carney, the former head of the Bank of Canada and the Governor of the Bank of England, to prove his point, thus: “We need to act as an interdependent community, not as independent individuals, to achieve a society rooted in fairness, and compassion.” That will happen when two or more people come together and their souls touch, Sacks says. Start small, in other words, to win big. “The choice is ours,” Sacks concludes, “and the time is now.” The glory of Man is that God may command, but he cannot compel us to be moral, that is, just and caring. He gave us the will, the means. The rest is up to us. Amen to that. Rest in peace, Rabbi Lord Sacks, our comfort and our guide.

Ralph Wintrob is a former journalist, teacher-librarian

Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times by Jonathan Sacks, is published by Basic Books, 2020

>>Click here to hear Leonard Cohen’s song, “You Want it Darker.”<<<

Credits: rabbisacks.org, leonardcohen.com, YouTube, Ralph Wintrob, Basic Books.


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