Peri Smilow ’82, a College of Letters graduate, will be honored at the Association of Reform Zionists of America’s (ARZA) 36th Anniversary Gala on April 5 at Central Synagogue in New York City.
Known internationally as one of the bright lights in contemporary Jewish music, Smilow will be recognized for her ability to elicit a sense of spirituality and social action in her audiences, drawing on a wealth of personal and professional experiences.
As a composer, Smilow’s music is sung in worship, in youth group settings and at Jewish summer camps throughout the country. As a recording and touring artist, her music has been enjoyed in the U.S., Canada, England, Singapore and Israel. She is perhaps best known for her groundbreaking cross-cultural work with blacks and Jews through The Freedom Music Project. This project brings together African-American and Jewish singers to explore their shared histories of slavery through the music of Passover and the Civil Rights Movement.
Recently audiences are also enjoying Smilow’s new one-woman cabaret act featuring the music of the Jewish American Songbook.
Smilow’s work as a contemporary Jewish musician is influenced by her previous work as a non-profit entrepreneur, developing and launching new organizations that meet the educational needs of inner-city youth during afterschool hours. She also has been influenced by her time living and working in Israel and by her graduate study in education at Harvard University.
She lives in South Orange, N.J. with her husband and daughter.
ARZA, The Reform Israel Fund, is the Israeli voice of the Reform movement in the United States, and seeks to make Israel fundamental to the sacred lives and Jewish identities of Reform Jews. ARZA champions and supports activities that help build an inclusive and democratic Israeli society. This year’s ARZA Gala celebrates 36 years since the founding of ARZA. The theme “honoring our past, securing our future” is reflected in the selection of three honorees representing three generations of Reform Zionists who have made a difference both here and in Israel.