For over 50 years, Zalmen Mlotek has been a leader in the revival of Yiddish music and culture. Under his stewardship, NYTF has become a global force in preserving the history of Yiddish and bringing the language and culture to new generations—both those who have familial connections to the language and those who never heard it spoken before.
Zalmen sat down with journalist Budd Mishkin to discuss his journey, from his parents and their passion for Yiddish, to his decision to make a career in Yiddish theater, to the ground-breaking production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish.
Zalmen has lifelong roots in Yiddish. His parents built notable careers in Yiddish culture. His own decision to pursue a career in Yiddish theater is a continuation of “the family business” that not only honors his parents and their work but also protects and promotes a culture that was nearly decimated.
Today, “there’s more interest in Yiddish and Yiddish culture all around the world,” Zalmen says. “Thanks to the Yiddish language classes and klezmer festivals and Yiddish festivals going around—we’re benefiting from that and contributing to that Renaissance.”
A Yiddish Renaissance is a culmination of this revival and a celebration of what’s to come.