Thursday, November 15, 2018

Reincarnation of a Frog and Other Anthems

(Read my latest Rokhl's Golden City about transmigrations and Socalled now)

Last night Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird brought their roaring blend of klezmer folk punk to Littlefield, part of a North American tour for the new CD, The Butcher's Share. I'm not ashamed to say I yelled my lungs out singing along with the instant anthem 99% Nayn-Un-Nayntsik. (99% is songwriter Josh Waletzky's celebration of class solidarity as well as the song that coined the essential new word fuck-u-nity. It's extreeeemly catchy. Anyway...)

Painted Bird was supported by Brooklyn radical klez phenomenon Tsibele. I felt a bit of an insider-outsider vibe when part of the crowd got really into yelling 'daloy capitalism' (down with capitalism) then talked loudly over Tsibele's incredible instrumental numbers.

Look, I'm all about a good anti-capitalist chant. We all need some catharsis these days. But I can't help getting salty about the people who are only there for the chants and get bored when it's time for a  juicy terkisher. You can't separate the one from the other, or at least, you can't where I come, which is the same place Tsibele and Daniel Kahn come from: the world of Klezkanada and integrated Yiddish folk art. But... not everyone is from that same place. And I want lots of success for my extremely talented friends, but that also means their work is going to be received by people who don't know what a terkisher is and frankly, may not even care.

Which, you know, that's obviously their prerogative. But when it comes to the political stuff I hold on to my saltiness. I have seen for the last couple of years how Dan's work, anthemic and powerful as it is, has been picked up by young Jewish radicals looking for cultural touchstones. Of course as an old fogey, I am conflicted that his work, which is so deeply playful and and nuanced and interconnected... I'm worried about that work being flattened into one crude political reading without any of the nuance that's been pre- baked into his projects. Dan loves anthems. He did a whole album of them with Psoy Korolenko called The Unternationale. The point wasn't an endorsement of Communism. Or socialism or Zionism or Bundism,  but the construction of a dialectic by putting all those anthems in the same room.

Anyhoo... I'm the gatekeeping asshole who will call you out for holding a Yiddish sign with spelling mistakes at a demo if you don't actually speak Yiddish. Sorry. You're free to hold whatever sign you want, of course. I'm not the police and I've been given no special power to stop you from doing whatever you want to do. But I will use whatever platform I have to remind Jews that you cannot divorce the politics from the language and the language from the history, and if you like the politics, and you like the slogans, I promise you'll get even more out of it if you learn how to spell them correctly.

This is all a preamble really to tell you to read my latest profile for Tablet, this one of my friend Josh Dolgin. Josh and Dan are the same age and are both fucking geniuses in their own way, as well as having been nurtured by the same cultural scene. In my review of Josh's latest album di Frosh, one of the things that struck me was that he closed the album with the mid-century pro-Israel, Yiddish language anthem Am Yisroel Chai.  It took me by surprise because while Josh has a sense of humor in everything he does, his work is most definitely not in the ironic or subversive mode you'll find on a CD like The Unternationale. It felt almost strange to encounter Am Yisroel Chai by itself, unbalanced, as it were, by an anthem of equal and opposite political verve.  Are we even allowed to be this earnest in 2018? Earnestly Zionist, even? According to Josh, at least, the answer is why the hell not?

Keep in mind that the origins of di Frosh go back to an invitation Josh got from his hometown synagogue to help celebrate their 50th anniversary with a set of new Yiddish songs. Perhaps Temple Israel in Ottawa isn't quite the place to wheel out a Yiddish IWW workers song (should such a thing even exist, for example) just for balance. But also, Josh's work is subversive in its own way, as I get into in my profile.

In any case, di Frosh is a sonic delight on every level and you should get it immediately. Right after you read my article about it.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Yiddish Tevye That Might've Been...

There's a rumor (ahem) that the Folksbiene's smash production of Fiddler oyfn dakh is getting extended and moving to an off-Broadway theater next year. [I've been told the New York Post got the details wrong and nothing is certain yet ... but... ]

If and when it happens, this Fiddler's move to off-Broadway isn't that surprising, Fiddler is a gem of American musical theater and this cast (with my fave Jackie Hoffman as Yente) is superb. Now, don't get me wrong, Steven Skybell's Tevye is a powerhouse; his scene with the rebellious Chava had me in tears. But, oh, what I wouldn't give to see Broadway's original Tevye, Zero Mostel, do Fiddler in Yiddish. My friend Shane Baker hipped me to this rare clip of Zero singing in Yiddish. Though the audience is laughing, his performance had me in full body chills. The man had chops. But don't listen to me. Just watch.

(The song is called Mit a Nodl, On a Nodl/With a Needle, Without a Needle)

(and the lyrics)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Isaac Bashevis Singer Doesn't Have a Cold

You know that classic celebrity profile ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’? Gay Talese spent months tailing Frank Sinatra, trying to get an interview. He never got it, but the resulting portrait of the man, and the celebrity apparatus surrounding him, became a New Journalism classic. Now imagine that, but me and Shane Baker, waiting at a very swanky, very gay Upper East Side piano bar. He’s arranged for me to meet a famous Yiddish speaking, Israeli faith healing psychic who’s in town for a few weeks. 

Shane and ‘Guy*’ had met earlier at the same bar where Guy regaled him (in Yiddish) with tales of his childhood job delivering flowers to Habima greats, including the Dybbuk’s original Leahele, Hannah Rovina. Rovina (whose wax figure still sits eerily on the second floor of the Migdal Shalom in Tel Aviv) was a demanding presence on the Israeli stage, supposedly so strict that she would stop a performance to scold youngsters eating sunflower seeds. Guy had actually met La Rovina. He spoke a beautiful Yiddish. He could heal my aura. He had great stories. Was I dying to meet him? You bet.

Just one problem. ‘Guy’ never showed up. It had seemed bashert; dybbuks were in the air. A few weeks earlier Shane and I saw the magnificent new Gesher Theatre Dybbuk at John Jay College. Gesher brought this production to North American for just a handful of performances in Toronto and New York. Which is an absolute shame, because writer Roee Chen and director Yevgeny Arye have created something not just sumptuously beautiful and different, but smart, scary, and good. This Dybbuk isn’t beholden to the somewhat wooden German Expressionistic style of the 1937 movie. It disposes of the prologue story and takes us right to the drama of Leah and her thwarted love Khonen, filling out the story of not just Khonen and Leah but her loutish father, Sender. This Dybbuk makes its characters into real people while still telling an otherworldly story. 

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a Hebrew Dybbuk, but it only took me a few minutes to get used to seeing this very Eastern European story with a Modern Hebrew accent. Though the Gesher company has returned to Israel, this Dybbuk is in repertory and if you’re in the Tel Aviv-Yafo area you might be able to see it; make sure you check their website for updated information.  …

The Dybbuk has dominated the category of Yiddish gothic so thoroughly since its debut on the stage in the 1920s that few stories have been able to compete. Which is why, when I was in Toronto for this summer’s Ashkenaz festival, my one absolute cannot miss event was the screening of Dean Gold’s new Yiddish language horror short, Shehita.  Shehita is an original, a genuinely creepy armrest gripper, the kind of movie that makes you realize most modern horror could be trimmed by 90 minutes and lose absolutely nothing. 

Shehita tells the eerie story of a Hasidic couple living on an isolated Canadian dairy farm where something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Horror movies depend on the transgression of categories: living and dead, man and animal and so on. Traditional Judaism is preoccupied with the maintenance of category boundaries, making it ripe for horror exploitation, which Shehitadoes so very well.

I was somewhat apprehensive  about Shehita. Would the Yiddish be any good? Would it lean on corny, exoticizing tropes about Hasidim? I was relieved on both counts, and the casting of my friend, Yiddish theater stalwart Avi Hoffman, as a man caught between science and faith, secular and insular, was absolutely brilliant. I don’t want to give t away more than that as it looks like there will be more chances to see Shehita this summer, whether via streaming platforms, film festivals, or both… 

Someone who always brought the spooky, of course, was Isaac Bashevis Singer. We’re having something of a Bashevis moment. With a bit of fanfare the Yiddish Book Center recently announced that they’re collaborating with the Singer estate to finally make Singer’s books available in the original Yiddish.   

This is big news. Among the millions of pages of Yiddish literature now available digitally, the Singer oeuvre was conspicuously missing. This won’t be everything of course; there are still stories that were published in places like the Forverts and never collected for publication, for example. But it’s an exciting start.

Dramatizations of Singer’s work have been kind of hit or miss. But I had an insight at the fabulous Yiddish Book Center-NYPL launch event a few weeks ago. The night was built around an all star panel of Bashevis scholars and writers. Which was terrific. But what blew me away was the ultra-rare screening of a movie starring the man himself, Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard. It was shot by legendary photographer Bruce Davidson, and the collaboration came about because Davidson and Singer lived in the same Upper West Side building. 

What to say about Mrs. Pupko’s Beard? Blending a Bashevis short story and an improvised meta-narrative about a Yiddish writer on the Upper West side,  it’s somewhere between a Saturday Night Live short film and a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but with Yiddish. Mrs. Pupko’s Beard might be one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of weird films. Its tale of two men’s obsession with a bearded lady cries out for contemporary gender analysis. And the biggest revelation? Bashevis is a total ham. He loves being on screen. He’s spry as hell. I’m a Bashevis fan but clearly no script can top the magnetism of the man himself. I’m hoping this Bashevis moment will include a revival of this lost gem…

If you liked Bad Rabbi, you will love a new walking tour called Mystics and Fortune Tellers of the Lower East Side. Widows and single women led precarious lives in many ways and this tour uses primary historical texts and location sites to bring you into their lives. Some are familiar to us, like the women who turned to psychics to find the husbands who had abandoned them, (the infamous farshvundene mener  or disappeared husbands gallery.) Some are less well known,  like the ones who used mentalism and witchcraft to support themselves. Highly recommended.   []

*No, it’s not Uri Geller.

WATCH: If you’re in Toronto this month you can catch a screening of Shehita at Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto, November 9th at 9pm as part of their Renaissance Film Festival
MAKE SOME YIDDISH NOISE: In Whitechapel Noise: Jewish Immigrant Life in Yiddish Song and Verse, London 1884-1914. [1] Vivi Lachs tells the story of Eastern European immigrants in turn of the century London. It’s a fascinating and funny tour through their Yiddish popular culture: poetry, bawdy music hall song and theater. You have one more chance to see her present her research in person before she returns to London.  Sunday November 4, 1:30pm at the Sholem Aleichem Center, 3301 Bainbridge Avenue, Bronx. (in Yiddish)  You can get her two CDs featuring the funny, and sometimes heartbreaking songs of those East End immigrants.  or tune in to her episode of the Yiddish Voice podcast here 

November 1 the Workmen’s Circle is hosting what looks to be a fascinating talk on the Soviet yiddish writer Der Nister. 7 pm, free for members (This event is for advanced Yiddish speakers)…  … On Saturday November 3rd you’ll have the opportunity to catch the radical women of Tsibele as part of Haimish Harmonies at the Philadelphia Folk Society deadline for the Yiddish New York art exhibit is November 10. Theme: Eros and Spirituality …Tuesday, November 13th, 2018, at 8 pm you can ‘Meet a Yiddish Celebrity’ at An Evening with Yiddish Princess Sarah Gordon at Deutsches Haus at Columbia University, 420 W. 116th St. (between Amsterdam Ave. and Morningside Dr.)… and finally, the best news of the new year is that Tehila, The Kosher Diva is back, and better than ever.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Skepticism and Yearning

I have a new piece up over at the Lilith blog called Caught Between Skepticism and Yearning on the Holidays

It's about that time I was so anxious about the approaching holidays I asked a dog for advice. And if you know me, you know I'm not a dog person.

"...every year, as one holiday flows into another, my cozy, extremely Jewish corner of the world starts to feel like a prison. The neighborhood is so Jewish that my usual haunts feel more like stations in a Yiddish panoptikon, patrolled by bored Jews in itchy clothes and crocs. On Yom Kippur in particular, I can’t help but suspect they’re all judging me as I make my way to the cafe, judging me for choosing to be less miserable than they are. But if I’m choosing to be less miserable, why am I still so miserable?"

Lilith has been killing it this year with their unique Jewish feminist content. Click over to read my piece, but make sure you're subscribing, and getting all their updates and following them on your social media channels of choice.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Let's Talk About Coffee Talk

Up now at Tablet, my first GOLDEN CITY of the fall season: two decades on, why we're still getting 'verklempt' over Linda Richman. Click for my deep dive on the roots of 'verklempt' and what lies between joy and grief, Yiddish and American, homage and parody.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Finding Happiness at the Maison du Bonheur

Self-care can mean a lot of things: staying hydrated, meditating, saying 'no' as often as necessary... what I discovered this summer is that seeing beautiful films, in a beautiful setting, is at the core of my self-care. And for me, that means temples of cinema like Metrograph and Quad Cinema. A few weeks ago I saw a movie so beautiful and striking that I went straight to the canteen (at Metrograph) and started writing a review. My review of MAISON DU BONHEUR is up now at Lilith magazine and I hope you'll give it a read.

I also talk a bit about another summer pleasure, the recent Miriam Schapiro show at the beautiful Museum of Arts and Design. Viva la femmage!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Kingdom for a Quest Bar

*This post not sponsored by Quest Bar, though it could be. Call me, Quest people.

My new GOLDEN CITY is up over at Tablet and it's got some great stuff. I review the latest incarnation of Jacob Gordin's The Jewish King Lear and gush over the unveiling of the Ruth Rubin Legacy archive.

Two great events that didn't make it in, but you need to know about, BOTH ON THURSDAY MAY 10th DON'T ASK ME WHY!

First, at the New York Klezmer Series at Funky Joe's, it's Jordan Hirsch's Overnight Kugel. When Jordan brought his big band to Yiddish New York in December I literally thought the floor was going to collapse under us from all the insane dancing and we would definitely not be invited back to the Town and Village Synagogue. Thank god the night ended, floor intact.

Overnight Kugel is inspired by the music of clarinetist Rudy Tepel- an undersung journeyman clarinetist who only came to klezmer after a touring career as a big band member. He's part of that post-war mid-period American klezmer scene when the music shifted noticeably to a more chasidic style. This is the lost weekend of American klezmer, the terra incognita that came before the great klezmer reclamation of the mid-70s. This is straight ahead party music- wear comfy shoes.

Jordan Hirsch's Overnight Kugel at New York Klezmer Series
455 West 56th Street, Funky Joe's
Workshop starts at 7 and concert and jamming at 9

I swear, I'm not making this up- I was just wondering what the deal was with Andy Statman's Village residency when I happened to click onto THIS on Facebook:

I'm sorry, if you don't know who Andy Statman is, you're just going  to have to do a silent google of shame. And then make plans to see him and his power trio (if you're not going to the NYKS that is...)
Andy Statman Trio
Charles Street Synagogue Synagogue, 8 pm


Finally, Monday, May 14th, 7pm at YIVO, an intriguing new piece of Yiddish theatre in translation. It's a staged reading of EYNE FUN YENE by Paula Prilutsky (spouse of noted folklorist Noyekh), first produced in Warsaw in 1912 by the Ida Kaminska theater. The huge cast has something like 12 women and 3 men which OMG is alone worth making the trip to YIVO. Are you intrigued? I'm intrigued. More info here

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Khanike iz freylekh!

Khanike iz freylekh...

Well, to be honest, the world feels like it's spinning out of control, like an errant dreydel dancing on the edge of your coffee table and everyone's just holding their breath for as long as humanly possible. And yet, amidst all the mishegas, life goes on. Candles are lit, blessings are said, gifts are exchanged. We all gotta breathe, eventually.

This week over at Tablet my Golden City has a khanike tam. I have some advice as to what to give  the Yiddishist in your life, and just as importantly, what not to give. I snuck in some political commentary, too. You'll just have to click over and read it.

Living in New York I’m acutely aware how lucky I am to be in the pipik of global Yiddish culture. It’s sort of like your mom telling you to clean your plate because kids in Africa are starving. I guilt myself for not appreciating what my non-New York Yiddishist friends would kill for. So, in the spirit of not wasting a drop, I returned to the IPC and the marvelous Russian Revolution, A Contested Legacy exhibit for a special evening of spoken word and song. Using the memoirs of African-American and African-Soviet writers, Yevgeniy Fiks has created a program that brings to life the difficult negotiation of race and religion in a place where racism and anti-Semitism were supposedly a thing of the past. Yelena Shmulenson read from the memoirs of my new obsession, Lily Golden. Operatic bass Anthony Russell’s breathtaking a capella performance of Izi Kharik’s Mayn Yugnt alone made the trip across town worthwhile. I swear no one breathed until his final note. It’s amazing how one song, in a language almost no one in the audience understands, can say just as much as a stack of memoirs...

I’m FINALLY catching up on season three of Hulu’s Difficult People and, knowing the show won’t be coming back for another season (boo!), I’m savoring every minute. This season is even more Yiddish than the last. Highlights include Jackie Hoffman’s character Rukhl staging a Yiddish dybbuk exorcism when she mistakes her IDF drop-out husband Gary (now hiding in their basement) for an evil spirit. Difficult People’s minyan of ten JSwipe matches is the new shul I won’t daven in.

On strong zeitgeisty recommendations I also started watching the new Amy Sherman-Palladino ode to late ‘50s New York, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Where Difficult People wants you to fall in love with a bunch of mean, narcissistic jerks, Mrs. Maisel tries way too hard to make you fall in love with the excruciatingly lovable Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel, the Manic Pixie Divorcee who leaps from abandoned housewife to liberated woman in the time it took me to warm up soup.

The makers of Mrs. Maisel spent a king’s ransom on exquisite sets and costumes and it’s probably worth watching just for the period porn. But none of the characters actually talk like it’s 1958, rather, it’s a 2017 sounding 1958, with no racism or homophobia and only the mildest of sexism. The Jewishness of the Maisel and Weissman clans is ersatz, reconstituted from a freeze dried packet of cringy cliches that never quite taste right. I understand American Judaism is eclectic, but when you make ‘Yom Kippur dinner’ a dramatic plot point, with the rabbi as a guest, and then don’t show even one character in shul, excuse me, Temple, on Kol Nidre, I must cry foul. Feel free to @ me...

One of my Golden City gift recommendations was Eddy Portnoy's terrifically fun BAD RABBI. As Eddy points out in the introduction, “The prewar Yiddish press, a complex mix of shtetl folklore and urban poverty, reveals multitudes of mediocre Jews... And for the most part, historians have ignored them.” Which brings me to my final recommendation. Podcasts are the final frontier for oral history, especially among the less than reputable among us. Some of you may recall my love for The Rialto Report, a podcast devoted to interviews with stars and producers of the Golden Age of porn. The history of porn has a distinctly Jewish flavor, mostly (but not entirely) in its producers and financiers. A new podcast focused on the seedy era of 42nd Street, Tales of Times Square,  is even more Jewish, featuring interviews with everyone from theater owners, film bookers, over the hill boxers and more, many with a distinct Yiddish tam, all taped in the early 80s, when the area was on the cusp of its radical revitalization.

Unlike The Rialto Report, Tales of Times Square heavily privileges its male voices. Nevertheless, I found myself with a lump in my throat listening to the story of one Uncle Lou, a limo driver and devoted fan of the strippers and burlesque queens on the scene. While paging through his beloved scrapbook of polaroids, Lou reveals how his connection with the girls stems from being an orphan and identifying with the vulnerable. Born in Poland in 1933, Lou’s parents were murdered and he was sent to the United States at age 6, where he lived in an orphanage until he was 16. It’s an unexpectedly moving moment on the city’s sleaziest street. Podcasting at its finest.

Wishing everyone a joyous festival/איך ווינטש אײַך אלע א פריילעכן

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Moyde Ani

#TooBlessedToFress. Another Thanksgiving has come and gone here in the States. My latest Rokhl's Golden City is all about how massively lucky Jewish music lovers are this year and how much we have to be thankful for. We've seen some exciting releases from Yerushe, Tsibele, Radiant Others, Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird, Josh Waletzky and oh, I'm sure I'm forgetting some. But if you've been reading the column the last couple months (and clicking through to the music!) I'm sure you're up to date. One of the things I want people to understand, above and beyond the music, is the variety of factors that have made this cultural windfall possible.

As I wrote in this latest column:
Over the years I’ve heard many well-meaning speeches by many (extremely) well-meaning people, all of whom want to “save” Yiddish. (I’ll keep this vague to spare the well-meaning guilty.) What connects these would-be saviors is that the idea of an already thriving new Yiddish culture seems utterly foreign to them. Since they themselves often don’t speak Yiddish, they assume no one else does, nor would they really want to. But Yiddish doesn’t need saving; what it needs is strategic investments, especially in people. The NYSCA grant that has supported Josh Waletzky’s work is just one example how small amounts of money can have a tremendous impact. A much larger example is Klezkanada, a yearly Yiddish arts retreat held together by a few superhuman volunteers in Montreal, a scandalously small budget, and the dedication of the thousands of students and teachers who have benefited from a yearly piece of Yiddishland.

Speaking of Klezkanada...One of the things I'm particularly enjoying this year is a new podcast called Radiant Others, featuring key players of the modern 'klezmer revival'. It's helmed by trombonist Dan Blacksberg and benefits from his insight as both a working music insider as well as a member of the younger generation of klezmorim with a unique perspective.

One of his latest interviews is with ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin and was recorded at Klezkanada. I was shocked to learn it was Slobin's first time at KK. I'm glad to see such a glaring absence was finally rectified. I also learned a lot about Slobin himself, though I've been a fan of his work for years.  It's not hyperbole to say that without Slobin's work there would be no 'revival' as we know it today. He brought out the English edition of Moshe Beregovski's Old Jewish Folk Music, a profoundly important resource for Jewish music that even today has no peer. Written resources for older European Jewish music are incredibly rare and much of what we know about the tradition today comes solely from Beregovski. Everything else comes from 78s, folios and music passed from musician to musician.

Consider this. When Mark Slobin was growing up in Detroit in the late 50s and early 60s, he never once heard the word 'klezmer'. He grew up in a Jewish community with a strong immigrant and Yiddish speaking presence. As he recalled it, at weddings there would be 'Jewish tunes' but 'klezmer' as a category? Absolutely not. In 1973 Slobin went to Afghanistan for enthomusicology fieldwork. Not long after he returned he met Lev Lieberman of the Klezmorim in San Francisco. That was the first time he heard the word 'klezmer' - in the mid 70s. By the late '70s the term 'klezmer music' was starting to be used in English to refer to a defined playing style and repertoire. Until that point, the Yiddish word klezmer, with a very few exceptions, referred solely to Jewish musicians.

So, in 1970 the term 'klezmer music' didn't even exist. By 1978 Slobin and a small, but growing number of enthusiasts, were playing something called 'klezmer music' and inaugurating what we now refer to as the klezmer 'revival'. In 1990, when I was in high school, I somewhat randomly became aware of this new and fascinating music, and that random discovery (in what felt like total isolation) changed the course of my life! Now in 2017, there is a whole generation of kids on the Jewish music scene who have grown up in a world where klezmer music has always been a thing. Not just a thing, but a birthright. Many of them have grown up at places like Klezkamp, Klezkanada and the like. It's kind of astonishing when you think of the rate at which American (and global, to a degree) Jewish culture has reacted, grown, and changed to encompass a whole new/old dimension of Jewish expression.

One of the things that jumped out from the Slobin interview was how pivotal moments in the 'revival' depended on grant money. Take 1978. The 'revival' is already underway and the young revivalists have begun to find the elders who would pass on style and repertoire. Most notably, Zev Feldman and clarinetist Andy Statman connect with Dave Tarras. At that point, Statman, Feldman and Tarras went on tour, with Slobin acting as academic advisor. The tour would turn out to be a landmark in the 'klezmer revival' and a venture only made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. As Slobin says in the podcast interview, it was at that moment that they realized there was a real, intergenerational audience for this music, and a phenomenon that would extend far beyond their cadre of enthusiasts.

I bring up the issue of money because, obviously, money makes the world go round. I've never understood why the Jewish community has been so reluctant to put money into music and culture when those are things that so tangibly connect Jews to their heritage and community. (Well, I have some ideas, but that's for another time.) I saw recently that the Jim Joseph foundation approved a $1.1 million grant to the National Yiddish Book Center for their Great Books program. I mean, bravo, honestly, I think that's wonderful.  Teacher training and curriculum development for Jewish literature is the kind of nuts and bolts thing that's necessary for deepening Jewish education for young people. But I can't help but be disappointed that an organization sitting on an enormous endowment gets yet another huge grant, and it's not even for Yiddish pedagogy. I wonder what might be possible if big Jewish non-profits put even a fraction of that money into thriving programs with proven track records for engaging young people with Yiddish language and art. Look at the world changing art that flowed from the 1978 Dave Tarras tour. Look at what was possible when young musicians and researchers found a home and support at the YIVO sound archive. The establishment of Klezkamp was made possible by the YIVO sound archive, its resources, and the group of people who gravitated there to do this new, exciting work. Think what more could be achieved with substantial mainstream Jewish support for the Yiddish language and arts community?

Anyway... I'm thankful to be alive at this wonderful moment in Jewish creativity, thankful to the elders and resources that have made it possible, thankful to be part of such a wonderful global community.

(This is Sarah Gorby accompanied by an instrument called the crystal baschet)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Freedom is a Verb

Hey klez friends,

I meant to post this a couple days ago, so you'd have time to buy a plane ticket to Berlin to see Daniel Kahn celebrate the release of his new album, but life has a way of getting in the way. But on the bright side, I saved you the price of a ticket to Berlin!

Instead, enjoy the video for the first single (do we even say that anymore?) off his new album THE BUTCHER'S SHARE. I've been listening to it non-stop since I got it (direct from Berlin!) and friends, you will be, too. Daniel and the Painted Bird will be touring North America in May-June 2018, so hopefully you'll have a chance to catch them live, then.

If you're new to Kahn's music, read my profile from 2009 Partisan or Parasite and then catch up on his music here. How to describe it? The DNA is Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and the baddest midnight Klezkamp jamband you ever heard. It's a Brechtian shove with a Yiddish tam. Don't wait, just click.