Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, an ethnomusicologist and executive director of Tufts University Hillel, was honored with a Grammy nomination last week for his album, "Abayudaya – Music from the Jewish People of Uganda." The album, one of five contenders for the Best Traditional World Music Album award, was produced, compiled and annotated by Summit for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
The Abayudaya are a community of Jews who live in rural Uganda and converted to Judaism in 1919. National Public Radio's Ned Wharton also selected the album as one of his "Director's Cuts" last year.
"This award is a tribute to the spirit and creativity of the Abayudaya community. I love this material because it challenges our stereotypes of what Jews look and sound like. It makes people think in more expansive ways about culture, religion and music," Summit said.
Summit is also one of the main contributors to Hillel's new Holocaust-era cabaret initiative, "Cabaret at the Edge of the World: Performing in the Shadow of the Holocaust." Summit previously staged a Warsaw Ghetto Cabaret at Tufts. Hillels worldwide will perform the cabarets this spring as part of their Holocaust education activities surrounding Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).
Summit is the author of "The Lord's Song in a Strange Land: Music and Identity in Contemporary Jewish Worship" (Oxford University Press, 2000). He received his master's and doctoral degrees in ethnomusicology from Tufts University and his rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. In addition to leading Tufts Hillel, he is also an associate chaplain and associate professor in the department of music at the university.