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March comes in with a roar of new Yiddish music



(New York Jewish Week) — As they say in the mameloshn (mother tongue), “Dos Yidish lid iz umetum.” In other words, “Yiddish song is in the air.”

This month a collection of new Yiddish songs will be performed for the first time in America at a Manhattan museum; two Brooklyn blues musicians will release their recordings of old Yiddish folk songs and a new web site preserving the work of a couple who played a pivotal role in promoting Yiddish song is set to debut. 

If all that weren’t enough, the stars of the Yiddish stage will also appear at an event celebrating the woman who was dubbed “the Sherlock Holmes of Yiddish song.”

“Because we all have this weird relationship with Yiddish, every project that people do takes it to a different place,” Alex Weiser, director of public programs at YIVO, told the New York Jewish Week. “Interesting, weird things are currently happening with Yiddish song.”

Read on for ways to get your Yiddish on. 

Sister act

As part of Carnegie Hall’s multi-venue celebration of women in music, on Sunday, March 5,  the Paul Shapiro Quartet takes the stage at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park to perform “Di Shvester: The Sisters.” The sisters (by another mother, anyway) in this concert of Jewish and Yiddish music are Eleanor Reissa, the singer/director/actress who is fluent in Yiddish, and Cilla Owens, the superb jazz vocalist who teaches at Hunter College and can sing in Yiddish as well. 

Reissa and Owens will perform some songs by the Barry Sisters, the Bronx-born trio of the mid-20th century who brought Yiddish songs into the mainstream. One of the songs they will perform is based on a poem by the Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt, aka Woody Guthrie’s mother-in-law. In a cross-genre segue, Reissa and Owens will follow “Zumer Bay Nakht Oyf Dekher” (“Summer At Night On The Roof”) with “Up On the Roof,” the Carole King/Gerry Goffin sung memorably by Laura Nyro.

Shapiro, whose albums for John Zorn’s Radical Jewish Culture series were critically acclaimed, has worked with Owens, who has spent most of her life in Crown Heights, since 1990. Shapiro first started collaborating with Reissa, who grew up in Brownsville, at Yiddish New York in 2017.

“To me they’re both Brooklyn royalty,” said Shapiro, who hangs his fedora in the Lower East Side’s Grand Street Co-ops.

“When I sing with Cilla, I feel like I’m home,” Reissa said

The two vocalists have appeared together several times in Shapiro’s Ribs and Brisket Revue, which began at the now-shuttered Cornelia Street Café. 

Percussionist Ricky Gordon, right, and Jeremiah Lockwood, the front man for The Sway Machinery, form the duet Gordon Lockwood. (Courtesy)

A right to sing the blues

For the entire month of March a free five-song EP titled “Once Upon a Time the Fire Burned Brighter: Ballads from the Yiddish Gothic” is available for download. Created by the Brooklyn-based blues performers Gordon Lockwood, these are re-interpretations of Yiddish folk songs, three of them by Lifshe Schaecter Widman, a Yiddish folksinger who begot the Yiddish poet Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, who begot the Yiddish scholar and former newspaper editor Itzik Gottesman, now a senior lecturer in Yiddish language and culture at the University of Texas at Austin whose Yiddish Song of the Week blog is an important source for lovers of Yiddish song. 

The EP will be accompanied by videos of the five songs, plus additional multimedia that will be viewable online. Gordon Lockwood may sound like a Canadian folk singer, but it is actually a duo comprised of percussionist Ricky Gordon, who performs with Wynton Marsalis and has collaborated with Spike Lee, and Jeremiah Lockwood, the front man for The Sway Machinery, a brass-heavy world music band. Lockwood, a card-carrying ethnomusicologist with a PhD from Stanford, recently produced an album of music that features several Hasidic cantors from Brooklyn. In April, Gordon Lockwood will perform their “Once Upon A Time” repertoire in New Haven and New York.

Yiddish royalty 

On March 23, the life of Chana Mlotek — the late, great musicologist, folklorist and archivist, who curated the Yiddish music collection at the vaunted YIVO archives will be celebrated at YIVO’s West 16th St. headquarters. Nine descendants of the Mlotek clan will participate, along with actors Reissa and Steven Skybell, who played Tevye in the Yiddish production of “Fiddler On The Roof.”

Singers will include Lorin Sklamberg of The Klezmatics and Sarah Gordon of the Brooklyn Yiddish rock band Yiddish Princess. Gordon is the daughter of the late Adrienne Cooper, often referred to as the “mother of the Yiddish revival.” The evening’s musical director will be Zalmen Mlotek, Chana and Yosl’s son and artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.

On March 20, the Workers Circle is expected to launch The Yosl and Chana Mlotek Collection of Yiddish Song, a website that turns the Mloteks’ three-volume “Pearls of Yiddish Song” anthology into a searchable multimedia resource. Consisting of more than 400 Yiddish songs, the web site will include content curated from YouTube and TikTok, according to an email from the publicist.

The Mlotek collection adds another important resource to a field that includes YIVO’s collection of 4,000-plus Yiddish songs, a project directed by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and featuring the field recordings of the late musicologist Ruth Rubin, and many in the Yiddish song scene are looking forward to it.

“We’ve been waiting for this for many, many years,” said Linda Gritz, a retired molecular biologist active in the monthly sing at the Workers Circle in Brookline, Massachusetts. The group has been meeting online during the pandemic and unable to use the couple dozen copies of each Mlotek book, so it has had to create PDFs of 30 songs for its monthly virtual gatherings.

“When it’s online, people could request any song from any book and we could put the URL in the chat and go to it,” said Gritz. “That’ll be an amazing resource.”

Songs for and about refugees

On March 26, “Pleytem Tsuzamen” (“Refugees Together”) will be performed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Two performances of Josh Waletzky’s Yiddish song cycle will mark the American debut of the work, which was first performed in 2019 at the Weimar Republic of Yiddishland gathering in Germany. Performers will come from Latvia, Germany, England and Canada, and Brooklyn violinists Jake Shulman-Ment and Deborah Strauss are part of the cast.

“It’s fitting that we’re doing it a couple of weeks before Pesach [Passover] because there’s a Pesach theme that goes through a lot of the songs,” said singer Daniel Kahn, who lives on a houseboat in Hamburg and plays accordion in the production. “It’s incredible how prescient and universal Josh’s song cycle has proven to be…. Those songs and their themes of displacement and upheaval resonate with the liberational traditions within Yiddishkayt [secular Yiddish culture] and Jewish practice.” 

English and Ukrainian supertitles will make the two-hour concert, co-sponsored by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, accessible to non-Yiddish speakers.

The post March comes in with a roar of new Yiddish music appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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