Rita Falbel Singing the Jewish Experience

In her second album, Rita Falbel sings the multi-faceted music of the Jewish experience in the Diaspora. Timepieces, Between Jewish Past and Future, released in July 1991 (Global Village Music), features three original compositions and traditional folk songs, in Hebrew, Ladino, Yiddish, Arabic, Spanish, German and English. Falbel’s music follows the wanderings of the Jewish people, examining what is gained and lost in assimilation and acculturation. Songs range from “Shterndl,” poet Moyshe Kulbak’s Yiddish memories of shtetl life, to “Sarika,” a Ladino folk song from the Balkan Sephardic tradition, to “September Song,” Kurt Weill’s ballad reflecting his own assimilation into the New York theatrical culture.

“Singing for as long as I can remember,” she recalls, “I learned from my mother my first songs— the German Lieder of Schubert and Mozart.” She says her voice is a gift that was enhanced through training, which she received from the Vienna Academy of Music.

Something of a wanderer herself, Falbel was born in Vienna and immigrated as a child with her parents to New York City, where she has spent most of her life. Yet, she says, “I don’t have a sense of belonging to a particular place except when the light in some places in Israel seems to evoke deep memory.”

When she isn’t singing, Falbel is engaged in activist projects for women and peace. She is an editor of BRIDGES Magazine, a Jewish feminist journal, and she serves on the coordinating committee of the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Falbel is also Coeditor of Jewish Women’s Call for Peace: A Handbook for Jewish Women on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. She has performed for audiences throughout the U.S., including New Haven, Berkeley, and New York. Her first album is entitled Hitchin’ Rides.