Singer-songwriter Chava Mirel discovered (and later rediscovered) her love for Jewish music at summer camp. Mirel’s camp roots go back to infancy, when she joined her father, klezmer musician and Temple B’nai Torah rabbi emeritus Jim Mirel, at Temple De Hirsch Sinai’s Temple Camp, where he was the director. By the time she was old enough to sing along, she was drawn to the role music played in fostering community. “I was in awe of the song leaders who stood up in front of the camp and created magical experiences for everyone,” she says.
Mirel’s fascination with music led her as an adult to study African diaspora music and perform jazz, pop, and reggae professionally. While she stayed active in the Jewish community, her jazz identity remained separate. It wasn’t until she returned to Jewish camp years later for Hava Nashira, an annual Reform song-leading workshop in Wisconsin, that her love for Jewish music reignited. “My current self started there in 2015,” she says. She came up with the seeds of her 2015 album, Make the Two Sides Meet, on the way home. “I decided that Jewish music was my passion.”
Four years and two more albums later, Mirel is in her second year as the musician in residence at Temple De Hirsch Sinai and continues to perform jazz for Jewish and secular audiences. In 2018, she released a collection of jazz covers called Into the Light. And for the High Holidays, she will unveil Source of Love, an original album drawing on themes of hope and mindfulness found in Jewish texts and beyond. “I’ve received so many gifts and blessings from the community for my albums,” she says. “I just want to devote my life to uplifting other people the way I’ve been uplifted.”
Chava Mirel performs at a Hanukkah concert at the Stroum JCC December 8.