When he was a kid, Roger Bennett inherited his mom’s record player and with it came her collection of LPs. Among the jackpot of Beatles on vinyl was the 1959 recording “Bagels and Bongos” by the Irving Fields Trio.
That little-known gem of mostly Jewish songs set to a Latin tempo “tells us the boundaries between communities were porous, and traditions were mixed and matched and borrowed,” says Bennett, who co-curates the Skirball Cultural Center’s new exhibition exploring American Jewish life in the post-World War II suburban boom through vintage recordings.
But “Jews on Vinyl” – now on view through Sept. 5 – is about more than a cross-cultural back-and-forth between American Jews and Latinos or African-Americans. In its examination of Jewish recorded music, comedy, historical narration and lectures of the 1940s to the ’80s, it tells a broader story about generational change, identity and community while revealing some surprises along the way.