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Next@19th's Jenni Person: Miami's Jewish Culture is "Bigger than Just Religion"

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    Jenni Person, director of Next@19th - the new center for Jewish culture which officially launched in December - said she is out to prove to skeptics that Jewish culture, particularly its music, doesn't have to be a religious experience (so to speak).

    "It's not just Fiddler on the Roof and Barbara Streisand, it's much more diverse," Person told Niteside. "I think when people think of Klezmer, they think of old bearded man in black suits sitting on stools singing at a Bar Mitzvah."

    "It's a whole other world that I hope alters people's negative perceptions, or stilted visions, of what this culture is."

    Tonight they're out to do just that. Aligning with the Miami Jewish Film Festival this week, Next@19th will host an after party following the screening of band documentary "The Klezmatics" at South Beach Regal Cinema, which will include a jam session from band member Frank London.  And Person - who hopes to inspire maintaining and merging cultures - said anyone who shows up with an instrument is welcome to jam on stage with the crooner.

    "I think it's really important because clearly we have a strong Jewish community here in Miami, but its bigger than just religious communities," she said. "The Jewish culture is a very significant part of who we are, and for many people that's the way its connecting to their Jewish identities, is through the culture and the music --  music stays in our bones, and radiates in us our whole lives."

    She added, "I always like to say to people, we have an African American theater and dance companies, a Haitian band, or a Spanish or Latin dance company, what have you - on that same vista, why not have a way of showcasing Jewish culture outside of the synagogue and the JCC?"

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