Is it chutzpah for Israel to host a jazz festival in Chicago?

Writing on the Israeli Jazz Festival (May 19-23) in Chicago, Tribune arts critic Howard Reich notes that the country of just 8 million "has become a powerhouse in nurturing high-caliber jazz talent."

Lester Young by Menachem Wecker

Lester Young by Menachem Wecker

Listing several Israeli jazz artists who probably won't be known to most readers, Reich suggests that the festival points to "Israel's increasing role as an exporter of jazz talent."

In the Tribune article, Michelle Higgins, director of cultural affairs for the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest, is quoted as saying, "Israel has amazing jazz musicians that Chicago needs to hear -- it just seemed like such a natural fit to do this for the first time in Chicago."

Surely it is in Israel's best interest -- as it would be for any country -- to bring its jazz musicians to Chicago, which is known for its jazz history. But do Chicagoans really buy the consulate's claim that they have a lot to learn from the so-called emergent jazz scene in Israel? Without being too cynical, perhaps the next wave will bring some experts to Chicago whose advice on diners and architecture Chicago residents really need to know?

Filed under: Israel

Tags: jazz

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    Menachem Wecker

    An art critic and painter, Menachem Wecker holds a master’s degree in art history from George Washington University and writes for "Houston Chronicle," as well as various religious publications. He is coauthor, with Brandon Withrow, of Winebrenner Theological Seminary, of the forthcoming book, "Consider No Evil: Two Faith Traditions and the Problem of Academic Freedom in Religious Higher Education" (Cascade Books), and is the former education reporter at "U.S. News and World Report."

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