Report from Yiddish New York

Yiddish New York (YNY) was featured in the Forward’s A Jewish guide to Christmas in New York. I participated in the eighth annual YNY, the nation’s largest festival celebrating Yiddish language and culture. For four and a half days, I joined hundreds online from all over the world along with hundreds more who attended in person at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage.  

There was a full, daily schedule of lectures from 9:30 am to late afternoon by leading scholars of Yiddish history, literature and culture. There was Yiddish language instruction (beginner, intermediate, advanced); Klezmer music lessons and ensembles; Yiddish singing workshops; folk dance; social action and kids and family programming. We learned about Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman.  Eleanor Reissa talked about her new book and described her life on the Yiddish stage.  Hankus Netsky described the role of Folkways Records in the Klezmer revival.   

There were lunch concerts, a daily schmooze, singalongs and a mix of evening concerts and theater performances and late-night cabarets.   

One of the highlights for me was my daily Intermediate Yiddish class with Kolya Borodulin, director of Yiddish Programming at the National Workers Circle.  Conducted entirely in Yiddish, we focused on Yiddish theater.  We discussed the greats including Avrom Goldfaden, Boris Thomashefsky, Maurice Schwartz, Esther Rokhel Kaminska and Ida Kaminska.  There was homework and we were called on in class.  Special guests included Motl Didner, Yelena Shmuelenson, Alan Lewis Rickman and David Mandelbaum who discussed their work in Yiddish Theater and their visions for the future.  

I was amazed at the breadth of resources that have become available for researchers, teachers, students and folks who just want to explore their connection to the Yiddish world.  Books, art, music and theater are increasingly accessible online. 

I was gratified to see so many enthusiastic younger participants with varying levels of Yiddish mastery.  Yiddish is the portal to the world of our ancestors, a source of spiritual and cultural connection.  I came away from YNY with optimism about the future of Yiddish and confidence in BWC’s mission and role in that future. Much of what is happening in the world of Yiddish culture is being reflected in our programming at BWC which just keeps getting better.  Let’s keep up the great work!  

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