NYTF Newsletter

June 2020

Folksbiene! LIVE

Folksbiene! LIVE June programming

June is busting out all over and we are so happy to continue providing quality programming for our amazing community.

We begin the month with a living room concert from songstress Maida Feingold who appeared on the radio station WEVD in New York as part of a popular SingAlong series and has also performed all over the New York metropolitan area. Maida will be sharing with us The Songs of Itzik Manger.

Then, we have a special encore presentation of Budd Mishkin’s interview with producing giant Manny Azenberg.

Next, try your luck with Vos-Ver-Vu: The Great Yiddish Theatre Quiz – the English version – featuring Mikhl Yashinsky, of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. Test your knowledge of Yiddish theatre and related topics (no prior knowledge necessary) and win great prizes!

End the month with Great Yiddish Monologues from Motl Didner, Lea Kalisch, Rebecca Keren and Eli Rosen of the Netflix series ‘Unorthodox’. In Yiddish with English subtitles.

But wait, there is more! Zalmen Mlotek’s living room concerts will continue every Thursday in June with a different theme every week and don’t forget Motl Didner’s weekly Yiddish Lesson on Tuesdays, learn Yiddish with a comic twist!

Folksbiene! LIVE

Call For All Music Requests!

Everyone has a favorite Yiddish song and Zalmen wants to play your song especially for you!

To make a request simply fill in the form below  no later than Friday, June 5th and Zalmen will do his best to include your special tune in his All Requests & Dedications Living Room Concert on July 23rd @ 7:30 pm ET.

Be sure to include your name and where you are from AND if you are dedicating it to a friend or loved one, include that info too. We can’t wait to hear from you!

NYTF Radio

Mark your Calendars for these upcoming NYTF Radio Podcasts

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Forgotten Yiddish Stars: Samuel Goldenberg (feat. Zachary Baker)

Multi-disciplinary artist, Samuel Goldenberg was one of the most celebrated Yiddish stars of his day. Alongside greats like Jacob Ben-Ami, he traveled the world performing in the famous melodramas and art plays of the era. 

Toney sat down with Zachary Baker, the Reinhard Family Curator Emeritus of Judaica and Hebraica Collections in the Stanford University Libraries to discuss the life and work of Samuel Goldenberg. Tune in to learn more about this artist’s performance in August Strindberg‘s The Father and his portrayal of Maurice Green in the 1927 production of Yo a man, nit a man


Wednesday, June 17
Yiddish Stars of Today: Daniel Kahn

Toney talks Yiddish music and culture with Daniel Kahn, leader of the band Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird, and the original Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. Listen to them chat about Kahn’s relationship with all things Yiddish, his relationship with the Folksbiene, and of course his memories of Yiddish Fiddler. Find out first hand what it’s like being a Yiddish performer in today’s world. 

Memory Lane

A Shpatsir Iber Der Rialto

A Walk Down Yiddish Theater Memory Lane

Every month going forward, we will share a memory from times long gone. We can reminisce together and enjoy the stories of our past while looking toward our vibrant future.

This month we share with you a tale from our very own Literary Director, Sabina Brukner. Have fun…

Photo By: Jay Rosenberg

My first memory of the Folksbiene is from the fall of 1972, when I was eleven years old.  By that time I had already spent five summers at the summer camp, Camp Hemshekh, run by the Jewish Labor Bund.  I was part of a youth group, SKIF (Socialist Childrens’ League) that met during the year and continued the political and Yiddishist activities we did at Hemshekh.

We went as a group to the Folksbiene’s production of Yoshke Muzikant, starring the legendary Joseph Buloff, directed by his wife Lyuba Kadison.  But we went because our friends from camp, Moishe Rosenfeld and Paula Teitelbaum were in the cast and the production’s music was directed by our camp’s musical director, Zalmen Mlotek, who is now NYTF’s Artistic Director.

I remember exiting the subway at the East Broadway stop and chatting with the vendors in the rapidly-changing Jewish neighborhood.  I remember the theater in the basement of the Forward Building at 175 East Broadway.  I remember the production in Yiddish. I remember how surprised the rest of the audience was that a group of young Yiddish-speakers were among them (this was in the days before simultaneous translation and supertitles).

Now, so many years later and a couple of careers in between, I am the Literary Director of the Folksbiene.  I am working on scripts that will be produced fifty years after that performance in 1972, in particular a series of readings/productions of work by women Yiddish playwrights.  We continue to work to present wonderful Yiddish theatre to a growing, appreciative audience.  We appreciate your continued support.


To NYTF, with Love, from Australia

Looking for something to watch while waiting for a new Folksbiene! Live program? Our friend Freydi Mrocki in Australia recently spoke with NYTF Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek about his family, life, work, and the magical world of Yiddish music. 

In The Spotlight

Madison and Park Hospitality Group’s David Teyf’s labor of love is a real mitzvah.

Serving Up Lox of Love

David Teyf, NYTF Board Member, Executive Chef and Operations Manager at Lox – Cafe Bergson at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust  (where National Yiddish Theatre Folkbsiene is located), has been hard at work preparing pre-packaged kosher meals for Holocaust survivors across New York City. 

“I am personally cooking and delivering these meals,” Teyf says. “I know that my grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors, are smiling down on me. This is something I want to do to honor them and because it’s the right thing to do. It’s in my soul to give back.”

The past few months have been particularly challenging for many Holocaust survivors. COVID-19 is an unfortunate reminder of the trauma they suffered 75 years ago during the Holocaust when food and supplies were scarce and fear and isolation ruled their world. Many Survivors are currently struggling with a lack of resources and lack of community as they remain quarantined in their homes.

According to Selfhelp Community Services, it’s estimated that around 38,000 Holocaust survivors live in the greater New York City metropolitan area, with more than 50% of them living in poverty. 

Teyf has partnered with the Museum and the Met Council, a partner of the UJA Federation, to identify 50 Holocaust survivors in need of assistance. With his small, dedicated team, Chef Teyf is cooking up delicious and nutritious Kosher meals which include healthy salads, entrees, and desserts. Once the meals are prepped, he’s personally driving all across New York City to bring these seniors much-needed nourishment. Teyf’s generosity doesn’t stop there, he is also setting up an arrangement to deliver kosher meals to essential healthcare workers at hospitals throughout Manhattan. 

Teyf was born with a love for tasty, high-quality food and is part of a culinary legacy “My great-grandfather started baking matzah for the Jewish community in Minsk in 1920,” Teyf says. His grandparents were the sole family survivors of the Holocaust. 

“After the Holocaust, my grandfather continued his father’s tradition of baking matzah for the Jewish community, which he had ultimately risked his life during Communist times. In 1979, my grandfather decided to pick up the whole family and leave Minsk for the United States [and] for our Jewish freedom.”

Jack Kliger, President & CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is in awe of Teyf’s philanthropy during this time of great distress. 

“David is doing a real mitzvah,” Kliger says. “The Met Council and David are being generous with their hearts and minds: stepping up to serve others when there is great need in our city.”

From our Friends at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memory to the Holocaust

Tune in to the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust’s online programs. Coming up in June is the launch of a new series, GENerally Speaking, with Tablet Magazine Deputy Editor Stephanie Butnick (co-host of the leading Jewish podcast “Unorthodox”) that will explore the legacy of the Holocaust among younger generations. We’ll also have programs with the author Jack Fairweather, Anne Frank House Director Teresien da Silvain, a program on NYC’s LGBT history in conjunction with Pride Month, and much more. Visit the Museum’s website (mjhnyc.org) or the Museum’s Facebook page for the calendar. Be among the first to know by joining our email list.

From our Friends at the New York Public Library

NYTF Appreciates Our Nurses

This month, take some time to honor and recognize the nurses in our lives with this amazing reading list from our friends at The New York Public Library. 

Titles such as Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink, The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje will captivate and touch your heart.

We owe so much to these brave men and women working on the front lines and caring for us during this critical time in our history. 

Read one (or more!) of these 12 books and get a closer look at how these wonderful human beings shape our lives and help us weather many storms. 

Take a look at the entire list here.

Let's Dish in Yiddish

Each month, Ellen Eisen will take us on a journey back in time to a shtetl far, far away where we will explore the origins and meanings of both well-known and little-known Yiddish sayings.

אַז מען זיצט אין דער הײם, צערײַסט מען ניט קײן שטיװל!

Az men zitst  in der heym, tserayst men nit keyn shtivl!
If you stay at home you won’t wear out your boots!

In our culture of abundance in this country, I doubt that many of us have only one pair of shoes…

But in today’s world where Social Distancing is so very important, it is a great reminder that we should stay in place at home as much as possible.

For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to stay at home to study, work, enjoy our families, or just be in place, we should remind ourselves of the percentages of safety we can enjoy by doing so.

We know that if we are home…our chances of catching the Virus are far more minimal than if we take the risk and go out.

We also know that we can’t always stay in place if we need necessities…BUT the more time we spend at home, the better chances we have of staying healthy!

So let’s put on our slippers, robes, sweats or whatever makes us comfortable, kick back and read a book, study, Google, Netflix, Zoom, or just share family time and leave YOUR shoes in the closet for now!!!

And to those who must wear shoes to go to work to keep us safe and fed, we will respect and honor you and leave the walking path clear for you!

Join the Tradition!

"Our stories are kept alive thanks to the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene – Join me in keeping our stories alive."
–Joel Grey

NYTF Newsletter

March 2020

The Tenth Man

Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925) – Book of Job, appearing in Die Bucher Der Bibel

Modern Judaism & The Folklore Of Dibbuks

By Giacinta Pace

A Dybbuk possession plays a large part in our upcoming production of The Tenth Man by Paddy Chayefsky. Rabbi Avraham Bronstein, from The Hamptons Synagogue was kind enough to give us an interview regarding his thoughts on dybbuks and some background info on the topic. 

In your own words, what is a dybbuk?
In Jewish literature and folklore, a dybbuk is a malicious spirit, usually that of a deceased person, that possesses a living person. The word itself, first used in 18th century Eastern Europe, derives from the root d.v.q., which means to “attach” or “cleave” (in modern Hebrew, “devek” is “glue”.) In Hasidic thought, achieving a state of deveikut, or attachment to the Divine, is one of the aims of religious life. A dybbuk represents the opposite.

The idea became popularized in the Kabbalistic writings of the 15th and 16th centuries, especially those that dealt with gilgulim (reincarnations). In those writings, a dybbuk is a soul that, for whatever reason, found itself stranded on earth after death, in need of a Tikkun, some rectification of an outstanding loose end that would allow it to move on to its next destination.

What symptoms are unique to a dybbuk possession?
A person possessed by a dybbuk might lose control of their body, falling to the ground in convulsions, weeping, or shouting. Sometimes they would act rebelliously, refusing to participate in normal communal or congregational life. Famously, many possessions featured the demon speaking through the host body – in a strange voice, and even describing faraway events or community secrets that the host themself could not have known.

How does Judaism today see the idea of a dybbuk?  Have you ever seen or heard of a real-life exorcism? If so, tell us about it. If not, why do you think you haven’t?

Famously, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe (d. 1979), was once consulted about a possible dybbuk possession – he recommended a psychiatrist. Even within the Orthodox world, my sense is that, though belief in dybbuks in principle may linger, almost anyone would treat the symptoms a dybbuk would present in terms of mental health. That said, In a 2014 article, Asher Elbein collected several contemporary news reports of exorcisms, all within Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Sefardic community, which in many ways, overtly mimics the mannerisms of the Ashkenazi Haredi community. Thus, the tradition that became the Dybbuk originated in the pre-Modern Sefardic community and took its final shape in the shtetl. So, in a way, it has come home – though with a contemporary, digital spin. As Elbin records, one of those recent exorcisms took place over Skype, with video distributed (and disputed) online!

What does an exorcism ceremony consist of?
The core of the ceremony itself is essentially a negotiation in which the exorcist addresses the spirit directly, demanding that it leave its host and the spirit stating its reasons for remaining. Often, the ceremony would take place at the synagogue in the presence of a minyan of ten men dressed in their white yom kippur robes (that doubled as burial shrouds!), who had prepared with a regimen of purification that included fasting and ritual immersion. Incantations, including kabbalistic combinations of Divine names were invoked, the shofar was sounded, and the Ark was opened, revealing the torah scrolls inside – everything creating both a heightened atmosphere of tension and danger, as well as holiness that the spirit could not tolerate. In the end, the spirit would be forced to leave the host, preferably through a toe, and restricted from further nefarious activity.

If we hear of any possessions, who are we gonna call?
A reputable mental health professional. (Though, if you are convinced that the situation is more supernatural, Rabbi Dovid Batzri, head of the Hashalom Yeshiva in Israel, is the only living person today who claims to have successfully exorcised a Dybbuk. 

Fiddler on the Roof

Photos by: Jim Lee Photo, Merete Muenter & Zalmen Mlotek

Postcards From Oz A Fiddler Down Under, Meshuge, neyn?

Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish is on the move again. It started out as the little musical that could and in two years has gone from its humble beginnings at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust to Off-Broadway in midtown Manhattan and now most recently to International waters in Australia. We are very proud of this show and can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Take an exclusive sneak peek at some photos from the auditions in Australia and join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to continue the journey.

Fiddler on the Roof

Host: Toney Brown

Against the odds

In this episode of our podcast, NYTF Radio, we continue explore the oral history of the Folksbiene with longtime company member Itzy Firestone. We learn about the Folksbiene in the 1980s as the company navigates a difficult question: “How do we preserve Yiddish theatre in a world with fewer and fewer fluent Yiddish speakers?”

Let's Dish in Yiddish

Each month, Ellen Eisen will take us on a journey back in time to a shtetl far, far away where we will explore the origins and meanings of both well-known and little-known Yiddish sayings.

Nit a’le tog iz purem

(Not every day is Purim Let’s Party!)

Purim is celebrated March 9-March 10.

Purim is a jolly and very fun holiday for all of the family…The girls dress up like Queen Esther….and children parade around with noisemakers , costumes and masks! When I was young….my Dad would proudly Parade me around the Synagogue all dressed up like Queen Esther and everyone would say such a “Shayna Punim” and he would KVELL!!

For adults we are encouraged to drink lots of wine on Purim to commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish People from a Villainous Haman.

It’s not often we get a hall pass to have so much fun….to really drink in excess and just really enjoy ourselves unconditionally!
But on Purim it is nearly mandatory!

The ‘real’ world of today can wait til tomorrow!

So enjoy Purim, the dancing, the Hamantaschen and the whole Megillah!