THE KLEZMORIM > Bio > Support > David Nadel 

David NadelAROUND THE TIME David Skuse and I began our musical collaboration, David Nadel opened up Ashkenaz in Berkeley as a center for Eastern European and Israeli dancing. The funky hall, fixed up by Nadel to resemble the wooden synagogues of Poland/Russia, showcased Bay Area live bands — Balkan, Slavic, Greek, Turkish, klezmer, punk, reggae, zydeco, salsa. The dancers could be insufferably snooty (they got upset if a live performance didn't sound just like the record), but the scene was thrilling. I'm sure I'm not the only person who received a musical and/or sexual education at Ashkenaz.

Nadel himself was a powerful presence, a tireless worker who slept on the floor in his small office above the dance hall. An old-line '60s activist who cut sugar cane with the Venceremos Brigade in Cuba, David carried his socialist populism forward into the '90s. Ashkenaz served as his bully pulpit on local political issues, nationalist struggles, and global environmental concerns. The man was no hypocrite; he walked the walk. Landlords, commercial property developers, politicians, cops, even the UC Berkeley Board of Regents trembled before David Nadel's righteous wrath.

He had a sweet side, too. He cared about the comfort and safety of his dancers. He generously provided opportunities for obscure bands to promote their records and build audiences — although, paradoxically, he felt that money inevitably corrupted art. He was a major early supporter of The Klezmorim; we performed at his dance hall innumerable times until the demands of touring — and our desire to make a living from music — pulled us away from the Ashkenaz scene.

In 1996, Dave Nadel died as he had lived — on the dance floor at Ashkenaz. He ejected a drunk who'd been harassing women; the man came back with a gun and shot David in the head.

Nadel's compassion for the disenfranchised made him seem an angry Old Testament prophet, reveling in controversy. But when I think of David now, I see him joking... playing the spoons... doing silly dances. He was my friend. I miss him.