Ashkenaz (music venue)

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The Ashkenaz is a live music and dance venue located in Berkeley, California in the United States. It is a non-profit organization. It focuses on world music. In 2011 it was voted the best place to dance by readers of East Bay Express.[1]


Ashkenaz opened in 1973 and was founded by performance artist and activist David Nadel. After relocating from Los Angeles to attend University of California, Berkeley, Nadel formed a dance troupe. The troupe started renting spaces on San Pablo Avenue. Nadel, along with six other people, would go on to buy the building where Ashkenaz is located today. He named the organization after his Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. The original building was a series of old retail shops. Nadel and friends built the wooden facade that is seen today.[2] It is supposed to resemble an Eastern European synagogue.[3] It totals 5,000 square feet.[4] In 1993, the city of Berkeley named the Ashkenaz a city landmark.[5]

In 1996 a drunken patron was kicked out of the club by Nadel. The patron threatened to shoot Nadel. The man returned after Nadel closed the club for the evening and shot Nadel point blank in the head. Nadel died from the gunshot wound at the hospital and the man was never found. In wake of Nadel dying, a group of Ashkenaz patrons bought it, and then formed it into a nonprofit.[2] It re-opened six months later, on June 21, 1997.[6]


It caters to world music, both local and international. Music genres range from hip-hop to Cajun music.[2] They also host events focused around Judaism, including holiday celebrations and klezmer concerts.[4] The majority of concerts start with a dance lessons based around the style or genre of the music.[2] They host benefits for local organizations and activists, such as the American Indian Movement and Nature Conservancy.[6] The organization aims to be a zero waste business. They recycle everything and provide customers glasses of water instead of water bottles. They have a television program on Berkeley Community Television called Ashkenaz Live, where they showcase performances and history of the performers genres. Ashkenaz has a live children's program where musicians play to local children on Sundays.[2] The venue has a stage, alcohol serving bar, a dance studio, and a vegetarian restaurant. A space upstairs where Nadel used to live is an office space.[4]


  1. ^ "Readers' Poll Winners: Arts and Culture". Best of the East Bay. East Bay Express. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mills, Robert. "Ashkenaz provides music, "living room" for activists". Berkeley History. Berkeleyside. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Ashkenaz". East Bay Express. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Rosenblatt, Eli. "A Place Called Ashkenaz". Arts & Culture. Forward. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  5. ^ Katz, Leslie. "Slain Ashkenaz owner recalled for his sense of justice". Local. J Weekly. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b Bowman, Catherine (14 June 1997). "Ashkenaz Reborn 6 Months After Owner's Slaying". News. SFGate. Retrieved 31 October 2012.

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Coordinates: 37°52′48″N 122°17′44″W / 37.8801°N 122.2955°W / 37.8801; -122.2955