A former opera singer fuses African-American and Yiddish music

Anthony Russell started studying to perform in Yiddish in 2011. (Max Eicke)

(JTA) — Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell has performed Yiddish music around the world. He is part of a musical duo that creates new interpretations of classic Yiddish songs. In 2017, he even won the Yiddish version of “American Idol.”

Still, the singer gets one request consistently that has nothing to do with Yiddish or klezmer music: to perform traditionally African-American music.

“I always got a little defensive about that because if I’m going to literally perform my blackness for an audience, I want it to be on my terms. I don’t want the terms dictated to me,” the 37-year-old former opera singer, who is black and Jewish, told JTA.

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