NYTF Newsletter

October 2020

A four-day festival of family-friendly performances

October 5th– 8th, 2020

You’re invited to our virtual Suke!

We’ve been cooking up something special that you don’t want to miss. To celebrate the intermediary days of Sukkos, we prepared a four-day feast of entertaining and meaningful online programming.

Sukkos is the Jewish festival celebrating the shelters in which our ancestors lived following the annual harvest as they journeyed to the temple in Jerusalem. During this holiday it is a mitzvah to extend hospitality to ushpizin (guests) and break bread together inside our shelters.

We invite you to be our guest and share our cultural bounty with a “festival within a festival” of Yiddish performing arts.

Mark your calendars for October 5th- 8th, 2020!

Festival at a Glance:
During Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days of Sukkos) Folksbiene!LIVE will present Kids and Yiddish: The Reunion Special (October 5th); Tatiana Wechsler in Concert (October 6th); Budd Mishkin’s interview with the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics (October 7th); and, A Bisl Borscht: A Tribute to Mickey Katz, starring Ben Liebert (Motl from Folksbiene’s Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish) (October 8th).

Welcome to Our Suke Festival

Kids and Yiddish:
The Reunion Special

Monday, October 5th at 1:00 PM ET
(Only available for viewing through October 9th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time)

The ‘Welcome to Our Suke’ festival kicks off with a not-to-be-missed virtual concert, Kids and Yiddish: The Reunion Special.

Our beloved family show returns, featuring many of the original Off-Broadway cast members as well as talented new performers.

This will be an unforgettable event. You’ll want to dance and sing along!

Kids and Yiddish was originally a concert created by Zalmen Mlotek with Adrienne Cooper, Joanne H. Borts, and Michael Fox for the Workmen’s Circle in 1993. In 1998, Joanne H Borts teamed up with Zalmen Mlotek and Michael Fox to create a show that was modeled after Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street. It was then presented annually until 2011 at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. With glowing reviews in The New York Times, Folksbiene created a CD called “Kids and Yiddish – A Musical Adventure.” The original cast was just the four creators, but in subsequent theatrical versions produced by the NYTF, children were added along with more actors and musicians, most of whom are performing in this online reunion special. Kids and Yiddish: The Reunion Special was created by two of the then-children of the show, Elisha and Avram Mlotek.

Kids and Yiddish: The Reunion Special is a benefit for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene through permission from Theatre Authority, Inc.

Welcome to Our Suke Festival

Tatiana Wechsler

Tatiana Wechsler’s “Anywhere I Wander” Concert

Tuesday, October 6th at 1:00 PM ET

Anywhere I Wander is an intimate, at-home concert sharing Tatiana’s reflections on the holiday of Sukkot. With Yiddish favorites, English favorites sung in Yiddish, and original material, Tatiana explores themes of home, wandering, autumn, nature, and traditions as we celebrate this festival and the beginning of the Jewish New Year.

“Some of the songs are old favorites of mine, some are connected to moments in my career, and some are new finds for me,” says the talented Tatiana Wechsler.

Tatiana grew up in an African and Jewish household and her childhood was filled with music. On Shabbat and other special occasions, her family would play music and dance for hours. “My parents are both lovers and supporters of the arts and from a young age, I would spend hours upon hours watching movies and TV, listening to albums, and going to shows. So naturally, it was no surprise when I told my parents I wanted to perform in a venue bigger than our basement.”

Tatiana has performed in The Golden Bride and The Sorceress for the NYTF.  

Here’s a sneak peek of her must-watch concert!

Play Video

Welcome to Our Suke Festival

Welcome to our Suke Festival

Budd Mishkin In Conversation with the Klezmatics

Wednesday, October 7th at 1:00 PM ET

Budd Mishkin interviews the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics’ Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg as part of Folksbiene’s popular Conversation series.

“The Klezmatics aren’t just the best band in the klezmer vanguard. On a good night, they can rank among the greatest bands on the planet” – Time Out New York

Since their emergence more than 35 years ago, the Klezmatics have raised the bar for Eastern European Jewish music; made aesthetically, politically, and musically interesting recordings; and helped to change the face of contemporary Yiddish culture.

Often called a “Jewish roots band,” the Klezmatics have led a popular revival of this ages-old, nearly forgotten art form. They have performed in more than 20 countries and released 11 albums to date—most recently the album Apikorsim (Heretics). On their Grammy-winning 2006 album Wonder Wheel, the Klezmatics set a dozen previously unsung Woody Guthrie lyrics to music. They have also recently served as the subject of a feature-length documentary film, The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground. During their third-of-a-century existence, the Klezmatics have collaborated with such brilliant artists as violinist Itzhak Perlman, Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner and Israeli vocal icon Chava Alberstein, plus many other prominent artists working within multiple genres.

Play Video

Welcome to Our Suke Festival

A Bisl Borscht:
A Tribute to Mickey Katz

Thursday, October 8th at 1:00 PM ET
(Only available for viewing until October 12 at 1:00 PM)

A concert featuring songs from the legendary Mickey Katz starring Ben Liebert with Kathryn Krull (Vocalist and Piano). Musical Arrangements by D. Zisl Slepovitch and Zalmen Mlotek; Lyric transcriptions by Sabina Brukner and Zalmen Mlotek; Band: Avigail Malachi (Clarinet), Clyde Daley (Trumpet), and Nicole Patrick (Drums).

Mickey Katz was a clarinetist, saxophone player and comedian known for his unique blend of klezmer music, Borscht Belt humor and irreverent parodies of musical hits. He took his show called the “Borscht Capades” on the road and it became a big hit. Katz’s son, actor Joel Grey, got his showbiz start as one of the cast members.

Watch Ben Liebert’s entertaining concert teaser!


Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek

By Suzanne Shugar

Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek talks about the “Welcome to Our Suke” Festival and his upcoming concerts. He also looks back on special moments is his life, including a life-changing conversation with composer Leonard Bernstein, memories of his childhood home and a touching story about a very special piano.

NYTF: Tell us about the four-day “Welcome to our Suke” festival starting on October 5th.

Z.M. Chol Hamoed Sukes is traditionally a time when Jews celebrate. To kick off our four-event mini festival we will open with the Kids and Yiddish: The Reunion Special. Kids and Yiddish was a beloved family show where parents and grandparents brought their kids and grandkids for a taste of Yiddish. Billed as 90% English, 10% Yiddish – 100% fun, the annual event was modeled after Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street. We’re bringing back some of our best material and many original cast members. We’re also featuring new performers. My sons Avram and Elisha are producing the special, with original writer and director Joanne H. Borts participating and consulting, as well as chief songwriter, Michael Menachem Fox.

On Tuesday, October 6th we present a concert entitled Anywhere I Wander by Tatiana Wechsler. The talented New York actress and singer first performed with us in The Golden Bride a few years ago, and then in a staged reading of The Sorceress. She will present a wonderful potpourri of songs in Yiddish and English.

On Wednesday, October 7th as part of our popular Conversation series, Budd Mishkin interviews Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg of the Grammy Award-winning Klezmer group The Klezmatics. The presentation will include musical moments.

Finally, on Thursday, October 8th we present A Bisl Borscht: A Tribute to Mickey Katz, starring Ben Liebert who played Motel Kamzoil in our Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. The concert features songs by the legendary Mickey Katz whose ‘Yinglish’ parodies of American standards became very popular.

NYTF: What will you be featuring in your Living Room Concerts this month?

Z.M. On October 22nd my Early Yiddish Vaudeville Songs concert will showcase songs like Steam Steam Steam, Gvald di Mountains, and Ikh Bin a Border bay mayn vayb. On October 29th, the theme will be History Revealed through Yiddish Songs featuring music about important moments in Jewish history. The music I perform will include songs of yearning for Zion, songs about coming to the Goldene Medina, and pieces written in the ghettos and camps during the holocaust. I’ll also focus on specific historical events, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire in 1911 and the Kishinev pogrom in 1903.

NYTF: Many of the songs presented in your concerts had been lost and were unearthed by your parents.

Z.M. For more than 43 years, my parents wrote a popular column in the daily Yiddish Forward called “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” where people would send in their memories of poems and songs, or snatches of songs, and ask them to identify them and publish them in the paper.

They received mountains of submissions and my childhood home was constantly brimming with new mail, which included notes, letters and cassette recordings.

My parents examined every submission and they tirelessly rescued and recreated hundreds of songs and identified their authorship. Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer called them the “Sherlock Holmes of Yiddish songs”.

Their findings eventually formed the basis of their several Yiddish song anthologies, which were published by The Workers Circle. My mother also compiled and cataloged thousands of sheets of music for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, where she worked as an archivist for over 50 years.

NYTF: Describe what it was like to be raised in a home that was filled with music.

Z.M. Music was the language most spoken in my home besides Yiddish. My mother played the piano and my aunt, her sister Malke Gottlieb, was my first piano teacher. We would play four hands of Beethoven Symphonies, Mozart, Schubert – as well as popular American songs, folk songs, Gilbert and Sullivan, the songs of Tom Lehrer and Yiddish musicals.

My mother was a singing teacher and musically directed Yiddish musicals when I was a small child, with a group called The Mothers Club. It consisted of young mothers who formed a Yiddish musical workshop. Under the direction of theater professional, Josef Glickson and his wife Zipporah, with my mother as musical director, they produced plays in the Amalgamated housing section of the Bronx near Cortlandt Park, where I grew up. These were the highlights of the winter season for the community.

As a kid, I sat in on all of my mother’s rehearsals at the house at night and heard her teaching them, coaching them. My desire to conduct and work with singers came from those early rehearsals she had and I went on to study classical music at various music conservatories in the city, and studied conducting at Tanglewood.

NYTF: You studied under the famous Leonard Bernstein. Was he an influential person in your life?

Z.M. Leonard Bernstein was an extraordinary teacher and he made a remark that challenged me to follow my heart. It changed my life.

After one of his famous Tanglewood concerts, when I visited him backstage, he said, “Who needs another Traviata conductor when you know and perform your music better than anyone?”. He had heard and attended performances of mine, performing Yiddish theatrical music in New York.

His words left a lasting imprint. After guest conducting with various orchestras, a pattern started to emerge. I kept thinking of works from the Yiddish world and they kept calling me.

So thanks in some measure to Leonard Bernstein, I reconnected with my roots and decided to continue the work of my celebrated parents by bringing Yiddish theatre and music to the stage.

NYTF: People will be touched to learn that you use your mother’s piano at work.

Z.M. Her first piano is in my home in New Jersey. But in my office, I have the last piano that my mother had at her home, which I use for work. I’ve never cleaned out the piano bench as it has many of her handwritten artifacts of music and beloved music she played. I love sitting at that piano, as I remember, in her final days, I would come visit her in the Bronx, and just go to the piano and play for her. She would sit, then quite ill, and just listen and smile. It’s a nice memory for me.

History Revealed through Yiddish Songs

NYTF Radio

On today’s episode, the past and present of Yiddish theater collide as we explore the life and performance of renowned Yiddish musician and comedian Mickey Katz.

We are joined by Ben Liebert, who is making his return to Folksbiene!Live on Thursday, October 8th with A Bisl Borscht: A Tribute to Mickey Katz

Coming Soon

It Can't Happen Here

We are proud to announce our participation in a very special play reading

Wednesday, October 28TH at 1:00 PM ET
(Viewable through Sunday November 1, 2020 at 1:00 PM)

Debuting on October 28th, Folksbiene will present “It Can’t Happen Here”  a dramatization of the 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis that imagines the ascent of a demagogue who becomes president of the United States by promising to make the nation great again.

“It Can’t Happen Here” was adapted for the stage by John C. Moffitt and Sinclair Lewis and presented simultaneously by 21 theater companies under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Theater Project. These productions included translations into Yiddish, Italian and Spanish.

The event will be presented in partnership with other theater companies, including Kairos Italy Theater, Turkish American Repertory Theater and Entertainment, New York Classical Theatre, New Heritage Theatre Group/ Impact Repertory Theatre, Israeli Artists Project, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, and Repertorio Espanol among others, for a multi-lingual reading – in Yiddish, English, Spanish, Italian, Turkish and Hebrew – of this landmark play in order to bring attention to the need for greater support of our industry, which has been impacted deeper than most industries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It Can’t Happen Here” is a benefit for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and the other partner theatre companies through permission from Theatre Authority, Inc.


On The Roof 

Samantha Hahn, the youngest member of our cast, penned a book about our production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. She takes the reader behind the scenes – from rehearsals that end in tears and screaming in elevators, to the beautiful bonds between company members as strangers turn into family.

We asked Samantha to tell us more about her recently published book.

Hello from the youngest daughter of the Folksbiene’s Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. I’ve been a part of the warm and joyful Folksbiene family since 2018 when I made my Off-Broadway debut in the Joel-Grey-directed  Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish in Battery Park.

While I was in Fiddler, I could feel how special of a production it was, and I wanted to make sure I remembered every single part of it. From performing in the historical Museum of Jewish Heritage, to working with theatre icon Joel Grey, to getting to perform Fiddler in the language it was meant to be spoken in, to becoming a part of a new mishpokhe. It all felt like a dream.

I started writing the book as we moved uptown with the show – putting down my impressions and experiences into words and interviewing my cast-mates backstage. Now, just like the meshuggah feelings of surprise I felt when our little show kept getting extended, I’m feeling so wildly excited to tell you that my book has been published for everyone to read. Thank you Joel Grey, for your great review!

“When we opened, something sort of miraculous happened. There we were – a hit. Our youngest member has written this altogether delightful recounting of the experience. Samantha Hahn is not only a gifted performer but a delightful documentarian; she takes you through our auditions, rehearsals, backstage life, mishaps, and relationships, and shares stories and intimate thoughts from the entire team. Come, sit in on a rehearsal or two…” 
– Joel Grey

A ber lernt men oykh oys tantsn
Even A Bear Can Learn To Dance!

October is a month with several Jewish Holidays …Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.

We celebrate the Harvest with a Beautifully decorated Sukkah filled with Fruits and Flowers of the Fall Season. We shake the Lulav and Etrog in delight. We usually invite many Friends to enjoy the Abundance of Good Food and Celebration after our story of Wandering in the Desert.

On Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah we celebrate and rejoice by song and dance.

This year we may not be able to enjoy the delights of these holidays with Friends, have Meals in the Sukkah with Friends, or Dance with Friends.

But we can still enjoy the Glorious meanings of these Holidays and Pray for more Dancing to Come Soon.

We should not hibernate and become discouraged…but be positive and look forward.

Everyone and ANYONE can find something to Dance About.

Wishing you many Simchas in 5781 !

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

September 2020

Sholom Aleichem to the Folksbiene community (finally!)

Dominick Balletta, Executive Director – NYTF.  Photo: ©Russell Peborde

My name is Dominick Balletta, the relatively new Executive Director of the  National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.  I jumped feet first into the life of Folksbiene on November 1 of last year and had just gotten my sea legs when the pandemic hit.  

And so, as we make the turn into fall and take our initial steps towards coming out the other side, I thought this would be a good time to introduce myself and chat with you all for a few moments.

A little bit about me – I was a New York-based nonprofit and commercial theatrical producer for many years, taking a 10-year hiatus to simultaneously grow the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY, and be with my wife and two sons while they grew up in this small village that was home to a significant cinema and education center.

As they graduated from High School (my oldest now studies History at Lehman College, while the younger one has just graduated High School and has his eyes set on NYC) I decided to look for opportunities back in the city.

What makes Folkbiene most attractive to me is the programming, the location within the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, and of course, the devotion and resilience of the Folksbiene audiences. Which is why it was exciting and not entirely unexpected that Folksbiene would have an immediate response to connect with all of you as soon as we were ordered to shelter in place.

Literally days after that order was given, Folksbiene! Live was established, thanks to the inventiveness of Zalmen and the artistic and marketing teams.   Now with close to 35 hours of original programming (and more to come) online, we have been able to keep our community of artists, producers and fans engaged and enchanted, with everything from concerts to play readings to Yiddish quiz shows and Motl’s most humorous and rigorous 15-minute Yiddish classes.

So as we enter the month of September, I’m happy to give you an update as to where we are:

Now that the Governor is allowing museums to reopen, our home base will begin a slow limited restart on September 13th.  However, as many of you know, the theater industry is closed until at least January, and so we will continue to program virtually through at least the end of the year.

Elsewhere in the newsletter, you will hear about all of the great programming that Zalmen and the artistic staff are devising, as well as a virtual celebration of Folksbiene being planned for December.  From family-friendly programming to great interviews to concerts and play readings, Folksbiene is keeping a very busy schedule.

We are planning (with all fingers crossed) to be back on stage in April of 2021 with the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie‘s stunningly powerful opera The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, based on the book.  If you haven’t seen the Academy Award-winning film, make a point of finding it.  Its themes of antisemitism and attitude of ‘It can’t happen to me’ during the rise of Mussolini, are still painfully relevant in today’s world.  For this special event, we are proud to co-produce with New York City Opera, bringing ‘The People’s Opera’ together with Folksbiene ‘The People’s Stage’.

I also want to let you know that we are forcefully committed to both HARMONY, the new Barry Manilow/Bruce Sussman musical exploring the lives of the Comedian Harmonists and our world premiere of the Yiddish translation of Paddy Chayefsky‘s THE TENTH MAN, which was about to go into rehearsal when the world turned upside down.  More about those as we know it.

In order to even be in the position of announcing these future plans, I have to commend the board and staff of Folksbiene, who stood by me as we made some very difficult decisions these past few months.

Along with that, the generosity of the Folksbiene community, with your notes of support, viewing of our programs, and gifts large and small, has been that third component of stability for us.

As we enter our 106th season (!!!), this little Yiddish theater that could is staring down its fifth pandemic (1918, 1956, 1968, and 2002) along with numerous global conflicts and financial meltdowns.  History shows us that we come out of these events stronger, and I have no reason to doubt that today.

Many thanks for all that you do as we continue on our journey.


Dominick Balletta
Executive Director,
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Concert: Magda Fishman "A Sweet New Year"

Spotlight: Magda Fishman

By Suzanne Shugar

Cantor Magda Fishman, star of Folksbiene’s Soul to Soul, will usher in the Jewish New Year with some of her favorite Yiddish, Hebrew and English songs. Mark it on your calendar: Wednesday, September 16 at 1PM!

Renowned for her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice on both the Bima and international stage, Senior Cantor Magda Fishman joined B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Florida as its first female cantor. The trailblazer is also an actor and trumpet player. Notable venues where she performed include the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery of Canada, the 92nd Street Y, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walter Reade Theater, and the State Opera in Prague where she played a lead role in The Picture of Dorian Gray. She also appeared with Placido Domingo and Melissa Manchester at the Saban Theater in Los Angeles; in Cabaret Convention at Town Hall and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Gala Concert at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center. She co-stars in Folksbiene’s popular annual concert, Soul to Soul, and has wowed audiences in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Houston, Miami, Toronto and Bucharest. Blending traditional and contemporary styles, her repertoire includes liturgical music, Yiddish songs, jazz music, musical theater and her own compositions. She is part of the acclaimed cantorial group, Divas on the Bima.

NYTF: What inspired your music selection for the concert?

M.F.: I am going to sing a mix of songs that have great meaning in my life. From Over the Rainbow, to Israeli and Yiddish songs. Each song will represent a period of time, a place, and a message that I feel strongly about. This concert is particularly special to me because it represents different parts of my life and my personal journey and I am so honored that the talented Maestro Zalmen Mlotek will accompany me. Thanks to the magic of technology, Zalmen will be in New York City and I will be in Florida.

NYTF: Will you also play the trumpet?

M.F.: Yes, absolutely! I love playing the trumpet and I learned how to play from an early age and performed in the Israel Defense Forces Orchestra. I grew up in Big Bands in Tel Aviv with Maestro Avraham Felder and Albert Piamenta. More than anything, I want this concert to enliven spirits and bring sweetness during the High Holidays and these challenging times.

NYTF: Speaking of sweetness, will your adorable 7-year-old son perform in the show?

M.F.: I invited Yair to be a guest performer and he said yes! He grew up surrounded by music, prayer and people. He loves to sing and spread joy to the world and he loves the songs that I sing, including those he heard in the womb before he was born. Now he is developing his own taste and style, which is a mix of the various styles of music he listens to. Yair has his own agent now. Imagine!

NYTF: Yair must be looking forward to Rosh Hashanah.

M.F.: Yes, he is looking forward to the music, singing with mom, and of course sweet holiday foods. But due to the pandemic, how we celebrate will be very different this time. Yair won’t be singing with me on the Bima like he has for the last three years. And of course, we cannot be with family members who live in Israel. But we are grateful that we will connect with them on Facebook, FaceTime and other platforms.

NYTF: Due to the pandemic, many synagogues are reimagining their High Holiday services. What are you planning at B’Nai Torah?

M.F.: B’Nai Torah Congregation is offering a pre-recorded service and livestream services. We have been working non-stop to prepare them! For the pre-recorded service, our singers and choir members will be joined by musicians performing from Israel. It’s a huge technical undertaking. Video teams, including visual and audio editors are involved. We want our services to be a great success, to connect as many people as possible. Nowadays, when isolation can be so painful for so many, we want to bring them love and connection.

NYTF: Do you have final thoughts to share?

M.F.: Yes, I have been performing as part of Folksbiene’s Soul to Soul family for many years, and I can’t wait for us to be back together again in 2021. It’s one of my favorite productions and I adore the team that I perform with. Yiddish theater is part of my heart, soul and life. In fact, I hope Yair will want to learn Yiddish. I would also like to say that I am grateful to be in a position that allows me to connect with people, to sing, to be inspired and I pray for healing in this world. Take care of yourselves and each other. We are all the same, we are all going through similar feelings and experiences. I wish you all good health, strength, love and connection with family and friends. May it be a good, sweet year.

NYTF: Shanah Tovah Umetukah

In Conversation with Budd Mishkin: Robert Klein

Comedy Legend Robert Klein

Journalist Budd Mishkin interviews none other than comedy legend Robert Klein!

Known for his unique brand of Jewish humor, the Bronx-born celebrity will talk about his life and remarkable career as a comedian, singer and actor.

Not to be missed! Tune in on Wednesday, September 23 at 1PM.

Robert Klein is comedy’s bridge, from the Borscht Belt to comedy clubs to television specials. He worked in the Catskills as a busboy and lifeguard and was influenced and intrigued by the comics he saw on stage. Once Klein himself took to the stage at comedy clubs and college campuses, he was one influencing future generations of comedians. Klein was the first comic featured in HBO’s initial standup comedy special in 1975 and has subsequently starred in numerous comedy specials, television shows, movies and on Broadway. His work is absolutely beloved by generations of admirers who can recite many of Mr. Klein’s bits word for word, including our interviewer Budd Mishkin.

Zalmen Mlotek’s Living Room Concerts

From Zalmen’s home to yours

Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek features Songs of Spirituality and the New Year, Songs from The Golden Land, and other musical gems this month.

Sit back, relax and watch his entertaining Living Room Concerts on Folksbiene! LIVE.

From his home to yours, Thursdays at 1PM!

Sept 3 Labor Day Concert – Songs of Work and Hope

Sept 10 Songs of Childhood

Sept 17 Songs of Spirituality and the New Year

Sept 24 Songs of The Golden Land

Memory Lane

Memory Lane: Catskill Memories

By Giacinta Pace

It’s that time again and oh do we have some very special Yiddish theatre memory videos for you…summertime in the famed Borscht Belt, also known as the Jewish Alps!

This month, we asked two of our #NYTFriends to record themselves talking about their favorite Catskills memories. We introduce you to, Marty Goetz & Rick Grossman

Play Video

Emmy nominated, Marty Goetz has been called a modern-day psalmist. His songs are scriptures beautifully set to music, leaving listeners spiritually moved, inspired, and educated. With melodic and fresh acoustical/classic arrangements.

As half of “Bert & Marty”, he sang at clubs and dinner theaters around Pittsburgh while studying English at Carnegie Mellon University. There was even a non-singing guest appearance on “Mister Rogers” as Smokey Bear.

After graduation, he and Bert set out for New York City, determined, as Marty remembers, “to give it two weeks to become a star or I’d go back to Cleveland and the family furniture business.” Just one week later, Marty and Bert found themselves performing at hotels in the Catskill Mountains. At the end of the summer, they were named “Best New Act of 1974”.

Marty has been recording music steadily since 1985, and today lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jennifer. They have one married daughter, Misha.

Play Video

Rick Grossman is a NY based actor/director who started his career as a child actor/performer in the Yiddish Theatre, as well as in nightclubs and hotels throughout the country.

He has appeared on Broadway National Tours of Dirty Dancing, Bullets Over Broadway, Man of La Mancha, Enter Laughing, Come Blow Your Horn, and Milk & Honey. Off-Broadway appearances: The Canary, The Manufacturer’s Daughter, Awake & Sing, Feldman & Sons, Harry & Eddie: The Birth of Israel, Damn Yankees (Lincoln Center Outdoors). TV/Film: House of Cards, College Senior (L.I. Film Expo Best Film/Best Actor nominee), Demons, Paper Planes, The Pitch, The 30 Year Old Bris (Tribeca FF), Finding Oscar, Tell Me That You Love Me.

Over the last 40 years, Rick has directed nearly 200 productions in regional theaters throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Looking Ahead

Welcome to Our Suke/Sukkah

On the horizon for October is Folksbiene! LIVE: “Welcome to Our Suke/Sukkah”, a four-day festival of family-friendly performances during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days of Sukkos) from October 5th to 8th.

The presentations include Kids and Yiddish: The Reunion SpecialTatiana Wechsler ConcertBudd Mishkin in conversation with the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics; and, Bisl Borscht: A Tribute to Mickey Katz, starring Ben Liebert (Motl from Folksbiene’s Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish) with Special Guests.

Sukkos is the Jewish festival celebrating the shelters in which our ancestors lived following the annual harvest as they journeyed to the temple in Jerusalem. During this holiday it is a mitzvah to extend hospitality to ushpizin (guests) and break bread together inside our shelters,” said Motl Didner, Folksbiene’s Associate Artistic Director.

Monday October 5, 2020
(only available for viewing through October 9 at 1PM Easter Time)
The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene presents Kids and Yiddish: The Reunion Special. The beloved family show returns as an online production featuring original Off-Broadway cast members as well as new voices.
*Kids and Yiddish is a benefit for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene through permission from Theatre Authority, Inc.

Tuesday October 6, 2020
Tatiana was featured in The Golden Bride and starred as Curly in last year’s radically reimagined Oklahoma! at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Wednesday October 7, 2020
Continuing in our popular Conversation Series BUDD MISHKIN interviews the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics.

Thursday October 8, 2020
A concert featuring songs from the legendary Mickey Katz starring Ben Liebert (Motl Kamzoyl from Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish) with Special Surprise Guests.

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.

Though this year has been unprecedented for most of us…..

We want to wish our Folksbiene Family A SWEET AND HAPPY 5781!


And may you and yours have “A GUTTEN KVITTEL” … A GOOD INSCRIPTION on Yom Kippur.

And many “NACHES” in the New Year!

We look forward to Dishing more about Yiddish in the Years to Come!!

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

August 2020

Folksbiene! LIVE

Folksbiene! LIVE August Programming

It is August and the summer is winding down, but our Folksbiene! LIVE programs are not!

All virtual events begin at 1 PM ET and can be viewed anytime after that at NYTF.org/live.

August 5th test your knowledge once again with Mikhl Yashinsky and The Great Yiddish Theatre Quiz (Vos-Ver-Vu).

August 19th welcomes Tony Perry, star of our amazing Soul to Soul Concert, with his eclectic variety concert, “The Way I Feel”.

Tuesdays with Motl can’t be beat! Learn for the first time OR brush-up on your Yiddish – 15 minutes (more or less) at a time. 

Finally, Thursdays in August will have you singing-along to many of your favorite, treasured Yiddish songs. Join beloved maestro Zalmen Mlotek on the following dates…

August 13: Yiddish Summer Camps Part 2: Kinder Ring, Kindervelt, Kinderland
August 20: Special Requests and Dedications (Part 2)
August 27: Songs My Parents Loved. Favorites of Yosi and Chana Mlotek 

15 Minute Yiddish (more or less): Tuesdays, August 11, 18 & 25 at 1PM

Lunch and Learn

Time flies when you are having fun and Season 1 of 15 Minute Yiddish (more or less) is fast approaching. Look for Episodes 13, 14, and 15 before classes let out for the fall. We will miss Motl and all of his zany characters, but we hope for a triumphant return after the holidays for a Second Season. Don’t miss the final few episodes and if you are behind in your viewing, catch-up on previous classes ‘on-demand’ at nytf.org/live.

The Great Yiddish Theatre Quiz (Vos Ver Vu): Wednesday, August 12 at 1PM

Yiddish Trivia Genius!

This month, we are so excited to introduce to you a NEW and IMPROVED Quiz Show with Mikhl Yashinsky. Three pre-chosen contestants will vie against each other for the title of “Yiddish Trivia Genius”. We even have buzzers now! Pick a contestant to cheer for and see if you can guess the answers at home. Pop Quizzes have never been so fun.  Tune in on Wednesday, August 12 at 1PM.

Concert: Zalmen Mlotek's Living Room Concerts: Yiddish Summer Camp Songs - Part 2: Thursday, August 13 at 1PM

A Shpatsir Iber Der Rialto

By Giacinta Pace

It’s that time again and oh do we have two very special Yiddish memory videos for you…it’s summertime and summer always reminds us of CAMP! This month, we asked two #NYTFriends to record themselves talking about their favorite camp memories

Avram Patt was at Camp Hemshekh, in Hunter NY, from 1966-1968 and also had been a camper at Camp Boiberik before that. His parents and his grandfather were active in the Bund in Poland and in New York continued to be active and leaders in Jewish labor and Yiddish cultural organizations.

Avram grew up in the Bronx and moved to Vermont in 1970, in part inspired by his having spent so many summers in the country. He spent ten years in an appointed position in state government, overseeing community-based anti-poverty, anti-hunger and energy efficiency programs.

He has served two terms in the Vermont House of Representatives and is currently seeking re-election. Patt is the go-to person for anything Yiddish in Central Vermont. In the Legislature, he can often be found translating family letters, singing songs of hope for the opening “devotional” in the House Chamber and teaching the power and subtlety of Yiddish curses. He also enjoys singing and drumming in the Nisht Geferlakh Klezmer Band. He and his wife, Amy Darley, live in Worcester VT.

Jessica Chanin also attended Camp Hemshekh. For 8 seasons, Jessica and her twin sister Carrie enjoyed the culture this Yiddish Camp brought them.  She currently resides in New Jersey and is an immigration lawyer.

Relive YOUR own special camp memories.  Join us on Thursday August 13th at 1 pm ET for Part 2 of “Yiddish Summer Camp Songs”, performed by Zalmen Mlotek.

Tony Perry in Concert: Wednesday, August 19th at 1PM

Spotlight: Tony Perry

By Giacinta Pace

Tony Perry in concert

August brings the heat and it also brings the much anticipated NYTF concert with singing sensation Tony Perry on August 19th at 1PM!

Tony is a Yiddish Theatre veteran, actor and singer-songwriter who appeared on the Folksbiene stage in 74 Georgia Avenue, one of three one-act plays by Murray Schisgal that also comprised Spiel! Spiel! Spiel! Since then he has traveled the world with the National Yiddish Theatre’s concert production “Soul to Soul” which features Yiddish and African American songs.

In New York he also has appeared in Bastard Jones, Raisin, Allegro, Shelter in Our Car, Martin: A New Beginning, The Groove Factory and Repo: The Genetic Opera.

Regionally, he has appeared in Memphis, Ain’t Nothing But the Blues, Parade, Cross That River, Ain’t Misbehavin, Five Guys Named Moe, Dreamgirls, Big River, Me and My Girl, Smokey Joe’s Café, The Rocky Horror Show, and A Grand Night For Singing. He has appeared in the films Mickey and Finding Oz: A Journey Home.

He has three folk-rock CDs available on iTunes, and is a member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA.

Recently, we were lucky enough to chat with Tony about his life, career, #blacklivesmatter and his upcoming online concert on August 19th at 1 pm ET.

How did you first get started as a performer?

I’ve been singing pretty much all of my life. When we were little, it wasn’t uncommon for my father to preach and mid-sermon call my sister and my cousin and I up to sing a song in church. I had a career as a journalist, but at some point I bought a guitar and started going to open mic nights and singing in coffee houses. And then for a good while I had a folk-rock band and we played all over the northeast. I studied acting and started doing musical theater, and eventually moved to New York to make that my full-time pursuit.

When and how did you initially discover the Yiddish Theatre?

A good friend of mine, Adam Shapiro, appeared in a Folksbiene production, and I think that was the first time I’d ever encountered this specific organization. The next year, the company was doing a series of one-act plays by Murray Schisgal, translated into Yiddish for the first time. And one of the plays, 74 Georgia Avenue, had a role for an African American man in it, and the role spoke English and Yiddish. It sounded like so much fun that I auditioned. I had Adam tutor me on the Yiddish pronunciation and went for it and I got the part! Since then, I’ve done a few projects, including Soul to Soul, which is a terrific concert featuring Yiddish songs and Spirituals, and really looking at the immigrant experience through the eyes of two cultures who have so much in common. I’ve made so many dear friends since being involved in the Yiddish theater.

What do you like most about the Yiddish language?

I lived in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn for the first 10 years of my life, before my family moved to Pennsylvania, so I was used to hearing people speak it from time to time. I think some people would be surprised to know how many of our slang words and idioms come from Yiddish. And how many African American entertainers, like Paul Robeson and Cab Calloway, were greatly influenced by the language and the culture.

What projects are you currently working on? And have you learned anything new and exciting during quarantine?

The quarantine has helped a lot of artists refocus their efforts. The opportunities to perform are few, but that means the opportunities to create are great right now. I’ve been writing songs and practicing my guitar and taking classes to sharpen some of my skills.

What can the Yiddish community do to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement?

You know in the 50s and 60s, the Yiddish community was an important ally of the Black community and I think we could be a strong ally against anti-semitism too. I believe the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted many people to stand up and be counted against all forms of racism and bias. That’s beautiful to see. Silence is what kills people. We all need to speak up, not just now, but whenever we see someone being marginalized.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’m really thrilled to be doing this concert. It may be the first time that all of the styles of singing I do have come together in one program. I’m happy to share my singer-songwriter side with my Musical Theater friends. I’m happy to sing a Yiddish theater standard for my pop-rock loving fans. And I’m always happy to sing Sam Cooke! I’ve really enjoyed this concert series and I’m honored to be included!

Special Requests and Dedications - Part 2. Thursday, August 20 at 1PM

You all sent us so many great song requests a few months ago that we had to add a second performance to showcase your requests and dedications.

If you didn’t hear your special song during the July concert, don’t fret and tune in on August 20th for Part Tvsey of Zalmen’s Special Requests and Dedications program. We can’t wait to share this timeless music with you.  And remember, all previous episodes are available to watch ‘On Demand‘ at NYTF.org/live

Songs My Parents Loved - Thursday, August 27 at 1PM

A Loving Tribute

By Giacinta Pace

Zalmen Mlotek with parents Chana and Yosl

Through the years, the Mlotek family has become somewhat of a dynasty among the Yiddish community. Yosl Mlotek was the patriarch and Chana Gordon Mlotek was the matriarch of the Mlotek family. Their oldest son Zalmen is a successful composer, conductor and arranger, as well as the artistic director here at The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene (NYTF) and his younger brother Mark (Moish) is on the NYTF Board. Zalmen’s oldest son, Avram Mlotek, who is one of five grandchildren of Yosl and Chana is a rabbi, cantor, writer and actor and the lineage continues to grow with four great grandchildren. The Mloteks are truly icons who have helped to preserve Eastern European heritage, especially Yiddish and its vibrant culture.

Joseph “Yosl” Mlotek was born in Prozevice, Poland on July 25, 1918. Many words have been used to describe Yosl’s life and career. “Der address far Yiddish” — The address for Yiddish, “Vegvayzer” — Spiritual Leader, “Lerer” — Teacher, “poet”, “Khaver” – Friend. All of these descriptions are accurate, but no one word can truly describe the man or the pain and suffering, and trials and tribulations that he endured or his own passion and energy to overcome those obstacles leading to his tremendous achievements.

Chana Mlotek was born on April 9, 1922 and grew up immersed in Yiddish culture. In 1944, she began working for the founder of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Dr. Max Weinreich, first as his secretary, then later as the assistant to the research director.

Not too long after that, she met Joseph. She had heard him playing Yiddish songs on the mandolin for a group of her friends and almost instantly the two lovers of Yiddish music began a romance. They married in 1949.

Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer dubbed Joseph and Chana, the “Sherlock Holmes of Yiddish Music.” and over the years, Mr. & Mrs. Mlotek culled together information on thousands of songs — so many, in fact, that they were able to publish three well-respected anthologies: Mir Trogn a Gezang (We Are Carrying a Song), Pearls of Yiddish Song and Songs of Generations. Mir Trogn a Gezang alone has sold over 25,000 copies and is one of the best-known Yiddish anthologies of its kind.

Avram Mlotek

In 2015, Avram Mlotek, grandson of Joseph and Chana, co-founded Base Hillel, a new model for Jewish practice that reaches out to unaffiliated young adults. Base Hillel is now operating in nine cities. Rabbi Mlotek currently works as Spiritual Director for the international program. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, The Forward, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz and elsewhere. The New York Jewish Week has called the young Rabbi a “leading innovator in Jewish life today” and in May 2016, Mlotek was listed as one of America’s “Most Inspiring Rabbis” by The Forward. His new book, Why Jews Do That, published by Skyhorse, is available for purchase by clicking here. You can follow Rabbi Mlotek at Instagram: @avrammlotek. Twitter: @RabbiAvMlotek.

Rabbi Mlotek was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his grandparents’ legacy and to share his personal memories of them with us.

In your own words, tell us about the first time you realized your grandparents, Chana and Yosl Mlotek, were important cultural figures in Yiddish circles?

I wish I could say there was one moment, but none come to mind! I do remember our Bubby and Zeyde‘s home being adorned with lifetime achievement awards from various cultural institutions. The closest moment would be being in elementary school and learning about the Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. I remember visiting my grandparents’ home and seeing a picture of my Zeyde with Golda; I realized shortly thereafter that not all of my classmates’ grandparents had similar photos hanging on their walls (not to mention photos with the most famous Yiddish writers of the time). I also remember seeing their books or song sheets from their books printed at Klezmer gatherings like KlezKamp or KlezKanada, but again, as a kid, I didn’t think twice about it.

What is your Bubby and Zeyde’s legacy to the Yiddish world?

I think the fact that anyone who wants to learn a Yiddish song will need to purchase my grandparent’s books at some point tells it all. I think their imprint on the respective organizations they were part of – YIVO, The Forward, The Workmen’s Circle, The Folksbiene – are everlasting. My grandfather was a poet, writer, organizer and connector. My grandmother’s encyclopedic mind made her the foremost authority on Yiddish song. Together they were a powerhouse team, publishing columns and later books that served as the basis for much of the Klezmer revival’s song repertoire. Their work gets captured beautifully in a short film that was premiered at a Folksbiene gala many years ago which honored my grandfather.

What are some of the songs that you remember them loving?

I remember Zeyde singing ‘O Kum Shoyn Shtiler Ovnt’ and Bubby loving ‘Arum Dem Fayer’ ‘In Der Kuzhnye’ and ‘Vos Dergeysdu Mir Di Yorn’ (Mina Bern and Ben Bonus sang this) are others. That being said, whenever my cousin Missy or my siblings, ElishaSarah or I sang, they were pretty elated, no matter the song or language.

What is your fondest memory of them?

There are too many to name! Bubby and Zeyde relished in our accomplishments and who we were. Yes, they were these icons in the Yiddish cultural svive (community) but to us, they were simply Bubby and Zeyde, loving and adoring.

My favorite memories include visiting them for dinner on Sunday evenings and playing Boggle or other word games my Bubby invented. That and every gathering my family had always featured music – Yiddish songs, of course, certainly Holocaust songs, but also showtunes, Gilbert and SullivanTom Lehrer and more!

What is the most important thing that you learned from them?

The centrality and preciousness of family. My zeyde’s parents, siblings, niece and nephew, were ruthlessly murdered during the Khurbn (the Holocaust) along with a near civilization of Eastern Europea Jewry. With my Bubby, though, he rebuilt his life. Zeyde used to wait for calls whenever we got home to let him know we got home safe and sound. While their accomplishments in the Yiddish cultural world remain incomparable, it was their love of family that nourishes me to this day.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

As a rabbi, I think there are so many different entry points into Jewish life, not only through a religious lens. My Bubby and Zeyde’s life and work reminds me of that truth every day.his

On Thursday August 27th at 1 pm ET, Zalmen will perform “Songs My Parents Loved” at nytf.org/live as a loving tribute to the memory of his revered parents.

NYTF Radio

The life works of Avrom Goldfaden featuring Professor Joel Berkowitz

Foreground: Professor Joel Berkowitz. 
Background: Samuel Goldenberg (Photo source: Museum of the City of New York.)

HOST: Toney Brown 

On today’s episode, we pay tribute to the forgotten stars of the Yiddish Theatre by learning about the actor Samuel Goldenberg. We will learn about his life, his famous roles, his contemporaries, and wonder, “How did he perhaps get lost to time?” We are joined on the program by scholar Zachary Baker. Zachary Baker is the Reinhard Family Curator Emeritus of Judaica and Hebraica Collections in the Stanford University Libraries. He has two pieces about the life of Samuel Goldenberg published at the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project. One article is titled “Enough about Strindberg! Let’s talk about Goldenberg” and the other article is titled “A Piquant Curiosity: The Gender Bending Drama Yo a Man, Nit a man.”

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.

Hodeven Kinder Muz Men Hobn Rothschild’s
Raykhkayt Un Shimshon’s Shtarkayt !

For Raising Children you need Rothschild’s Wealth..
And Samson’s Strength!

As we approach August and September we are usually in the midst of preparing our kids for “Back to School” whether in Kindergarten , College or all the grades in between.

We know the importance of a good education to prepare our Children for a Successful and Well Rounded Future..

But many of us will be instead Preparing for the Challenge of Either Educating our Children at Home…be it online or directly from Us…
or making the Decision what is best for them in these Uncertain times to Attend their Schools if Open.

As this difficult time comes to pass.. I am sure that even with this ‘bump in the road’ with our Firm Guidance our Resilient Children will Grow, Learn, and Work Hard to get back on track in Securing a a Proper Education.

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

July 2020

Folksbiene! LIVE

Folksbiene! LIVE July Programming

July is finally here. The temperature outside is heating up and so are our Folksbiene! LIVE shows. All start at 1 PM ET and can be viewed anytime after that at NYTF.org/live.

July 7th, test your knowledge once again with Mikhl Yashinsky and The Great Yiddish Theatre Quiz (Vos-Ver-Vu) – Part Tsvey. Enjoy this friendly competition for fabulous Folksbiene prizes and meet new friends.  Click here to register and play!   

July 15th is a great day for great conversations. Join Television and Radio Personality Budd Mishkin and meet Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, widow of Al Hirschfeld and former President of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. Hear all about her life, career and everything Al Hirschfeld.

July 22nd welcomes the return of songstress Maida Feingold and her Sing Out For Peace and Justice living room concert. These great folk songs of significance will be in both Yiddish and in English. You won’t want to miss this!

July 29th The temperature continues to get turned-up with more of NYTF’s summer songs. The Golden Bride herself, Rachel Policar and special guest Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish’s Feyedke, Cameron Johnson, will be singing lullabies and love songs that will have you all swooning!

Tuesdays with Motl can’t be beat! Learn or brush-up on your Yiddish – 15 minutes (more or less) at a time. (Exceptionally presented on Wednesday, July 8 at 1PM)

Finally, Thursdays in July will have you singing-along to many of your favorite, treasured Yiddish songs. Join beloved maestro  Zalmen Mlotek for Yiddish Theatre Favorites on July 9th, Songs of Yiddish Summer Camps Sboiberik & Hemshekh on July 16th and on July 23rd and 30th listen to your special requests and dedications.

Folksbiene! LIVE

Folksbiene! LIVE “On Demand”

Seen everything on Netflix already? Looking for some quality programming? Well look no further, it is time to Yiddishflix and chill!

Over 20 hours of Yiddish and Jewish-themed programming especially for your entertainment. Watch videos on demand anytime, anyplace, anywhere. In the mood for music? We have Zalmen’s Living Room Concerts. Love the stage? Check out our theater offerings. Want to learn the mamaloshen? Check out Motl Didner’s Yiddish lessons with a twist!

And if you thought it couldn’t get any better, you were wrong! We are now introducing a new playlist system so that your favorite programs are organized better and easier to find. Topics include, Yiddish Lessons, Zalmen’s Living Room Concerts, Fiddler on the Roof, Historical and Spiritual Talks, Concerts and Events and so much more…New episodes are added weekly so there is always something new to see.

Don’t spend another boring night at home, start binge watching your favorite Yiddish programs for FREE right now!

Participate in the fun

Sign-up to participate!

Special Event: Tuesday, July 7 @ 1PM ET

At the Passover seder, you ask four questions. At Vos-Ver-Vu: The Great Yiddish Theatre Quiz, Yiddish theatre personality Mikhl Yashinsky will ask you dozens, and offer some laughs and music, too. Play against hundreds of other fans from around the world, as Mikhl poses a range of trivia puzzlers related to drama, film, music, New York City — all under the glittering marquee of Yiddish theatre (no prior knowledge necessary).

Details: The event will take place online via Zoom Webinar. You will receive instructions on how to join the meeting in a confirmation email once you complete the registration form.  

NYTF Radio

Yiddish Stars of Today: Daniel Kahn

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, and currently residing in Berlin, Daniel Kahn is an actor, musician, playwright, poet, and translator of the Yiddish language. We discuss his career in the performing arts, translating English into Yiddish, and his time performing with the Folksbiene. Did you know Daniel is a viral internet sensation? Tune in and hear all about it. 

Memory Lane

A Shpatsir Iber Der Rialto

A Walk Down Yiddish Theater Memory Lane

Play Video

This month we listen to a tale from the very talented Yiddish performer, Avi Hoffman. Avi is an Actor, Singer, Director and Drama Desk Award Nominee. He hails from the Bronx and has been speaking Yiddish on the stage since he was 10 years old. Find out more about Avi at https://www.avihoffmanactor.com/ and click on the image above to hear about his first show with NYTF.

Recommended reading

Tikkun Olam –
Jewish Women (and Men) Pave the Way as Activists for Racial Equality

By Giacinta Pace

During its 105 years history, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene has always been a beacon of light for social justice and change. The past few weeks has caused our organization along with many other organizations to examine our practices to see where we can do better for more just world. We won’t always get it right, but we will keep trying to seek out equality and justice for all and we want to help lead the way.

This month we speak with Dr. Debra L. Schultz, Assistant Professor of History at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York to explore the connection between Jewish Women (and men) and racial justice and pinpoint some ways the bond can grow stronger.

Dr. Schultz teaches civil rights, women’s history, and 20th century history and is the author of Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement (New York University Press). She is also a founding program director of the Soros Foundation’s Network Women’s Program. Her work on the history, theory, and practice of intersectional anti-racist feminisms encompasses both U.S. women’s civil rights activism and European Romani women’s rights activism. Dr. Shultz’s current research examines public memorialization of the U.S. civil rights movement.

Your book Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement is about Jewish women involved in the civil rights movement. What made you decide to write this book?

I went to graduate school and studied women’s history in the 1990’s when Black feminists were challenging white feminists to demonstrate a real commitment to anti-racism. I wanted to study women who put those values into action. This was the heyday of multiculturalism, challenging me to grapple with what being a Jewish woman meant to me. Combining those two lines of inquiry, I realized that researching Jewish women in the civil rights movement was my path.

I also had the great fortune of studying with the political philosopher Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, whose mentor had been Hannah Arendt [philosopher and political theorist who is best known for tackling the nature of power and evil]. Therefore, I had support for trying to understand how one very specific group of people—Jewish women civil rights activists—made the decision to stand up against the evil of racism in this country. They are a niche group and it was a niche topic, but they represent a much larger group of righteous people who take risks to fight for justice in causes not immediately their own. We need to better understand what motivates and enables such people.

How does the Black Lives Matter movement today compare to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s? How is it different and how is it the same?

It is incredibly exciting to see multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational crowds outside day after day insisting that anti-Black violence and systemic racism must stop. Similarities include the fact that a singular searing event of unbridled brutality—Emmett Till’s* and George Floyd’s murders—seem to have catalyzed mass action in ways that many previous lynchings and crimes of the exact same nature did not. Why? The role of media is important. I think of Mamie Till’s courageous decision to have an open casket funeral—images of Emmett’s sweet face horribly disfigured sparked outrage all around the world. While we have all seen images of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and so many others, having to watch an 8-minute video of a white cop nonchalantly squeezing the life out of George Floyd moved even the hardest hearts, as well as those in denial.

Other similarities include the fact that the movement is being led by young Black people; that local organizing laid the groundwork for the present moment; that people of other races, ages, and backgrounds want to be allies; that because of COVID 19, people actually are putting their bodies on the line to say enough is enough.

What is different is the integration of gender into the movement. By this I mean both unquestioned recognition of women’s leadership and the noncontroversial inclusion of LGBTQ people as integral to the cause. I find it intriguing that three queer-identified women with years of organizing experience behind them started Black Lives Matter.

Are you optimistic about the future of racial justice?

I am extremely optimistic about the future of racial justice, not because it is going to be easy, but because the country and the world have broken through denial. I am a historian so naturally I see grappling with our nation’s racialized history as central to moving forward. But now people from every part of society, including former President George W. Bush, speak of the need to address “slavery, our nation’s original sin.” Confederate statues toppling represents not only respect for the black community but actual comprehension of what the Civil War was about. I’m also optimistic because organizations like NASCAR, which is requiring removal of Confederate symbols from racing cars, see their economic interests threatened if they do not “get with the program.” This is the 21st century version of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

How does real change happen and what can a 105 year old Yiddish theatre company do to make a difference?

My life’s work as a historian of social movements, a teacher, and a practitioner in the nonprofit and philanthropic worlds has been to demystify how social change happens. First of all, it must be a sustained effort over a long period of time. There’s the conscientization piece—getting a critical mass of people to recognize the wrongness of what is happening—which often requires public protest and sacrifice. But then there is the much harder and less glamorous work of translating ideals into public policy and practice. It’s great that every corporation in America is issuing a statement about their commitment to racial justice but I’ll trust it when their boards are comprised of 50% women and people of color.

A 105 year old Yiddish theatre company can make a tremendous difference. Part of the reason I wrote Going South was to make visible a tradition that secular Jews created. It is a tradition they can be proud of—that can inspire and sustain our activism. Chapter Four of my book is called “Many Ways of Being Jewish.” One hegemonic segment of the Jewish community shouldn’t define and represent to the entire society what being Jewish means. By affirming Yiddish culture, you are sustaining tradition, and representing values that can be accessible to all Jews, as well as many other groups. Recent immigrants go through similar struggles. I teach about the 1902 Jewish immigrant women’s kosher meat boycott** and Anzia Yezerska’s The Lost Beautifulness***, (published exactly 100 years ago in the collection, Hungry Hearts) a story which highlights immigrant struggles in America, to community college students, many of whom are immigrants from the Caribbean, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. They get it because they too fight for what their families need, including a little beauty in their daily lives. Your company can reach out beyond Jews who are nostalgic for Yiddish to many other groups who can see themselves in these stories.

Why do you believe so many Jewish women (and men) are passionate about social justice?

Ah, this is my whole book, but I will try to exercise self-control with my answer. Jewish people are passionate about social justice because we have a long history of oppression and therefore identify with oppressed people. The [civil rights] sit-ins started only 15 years after the Holocaust ended. Our current moment started a year and a half after the killings at Pittsburg’s Tree of Life synagogue. Thus, as good progressives, young Jewish activists need not only assert that Black Lives Matter, but to grapple with the fact that our communities need allies too. In addition, religious and secular traditions emphasize helping others most in need. Tzedekah (charity) is an integral part of religious services and life. Tikkun olam (the Jewish imperative to repair the world) appeals to secular Jews who may not otherwise identify with religion or mainstream Jewish politics. In my book, I also make visible and claim a tradition of Jewish radicalism, particularly Jewish women’s activism, which is an integral part of Jewish cultural DNA.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

When Dorothy Zellner, one of the women in Going South, finished read the final draft, she said, “I didn’t realize we were so funny.” There is humor and joy in these activist lives. I hope others will be as inspired as I was in getting to know these women, and in having cross-generational conversations about the practicalities of being a white anti-racist ally. But they taught me so much more–how do you construct a meaningful life as a Jew when history calls you to take action?


*To read about the death of Emmett Till, click here 

**To read more about the 1902 Jewish immigrant women’s kosher meat boycott, click here 

***The Lost Beautifulness can be read by clicking here

Links to purchase book:



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.

Ven ale mentshn zoln tsien af eyn zayt, volt zikh di velt ibergekert.

If everyone pulled in one direction, the world would tip over.

First came the Pandemic with sickness, death and loss of employment now we find our World thrown into more turmoil with racial injustice and violence.

We should realize that equality for the diverse and beautiful people of our Planet is necessary in order to repair the world.

We must all work together to achieve peace and not tip the world over.

Perhaps if we try to walk in another’s shoes, we can all Stand Tall.

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

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 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!