Thursday, May 29, 2014

Money, Love, and Shame!


I saw Money, Love, and Shame! on Sunday night. Now, full disclosure, Yelena and Allen are old friends (and colleagues) of mine. However, I would not say this if it weren't true: I laughed from beginning to end. I loved this show. And I'll go even further: Money, Love, and Shame! exemplifies what Yiddish theater can, and should, be in the 21st century. To pull off a show like this you need a deep understanding of historical context; you need a certain kind of genius to reinterpret what would otherwise be dated and boring; and, most important, you need the comedic chops to pull it all off.

Money, Love, and Shame isn't a one off thing. It is part of an ongoing artistic project, and the product of hundreds of hours of research by Allen and Yelena, slogging through, let's be honest, a lot of crappy, turn of the century shund. Whether we like it or not, this stuff is also part of our heritage. It's truly a joy to see a work of art that takes a hard look at that trashy past and finds something so wonderful.

This production has it all. Don't wait. Two more shows, Tuesday and Wednesday night.

News from the first couple of modern Yiddish theater, Yelena Shmulenson and Allen Rickman. They have a new show and it looks terrific:

("Gelt, Libe, Un Shande")

Sex!  Alcoholism!  Corruption!  Sickness and Death!  Weddings!

On the night before she is to take her immigrant widower father to Denver for his Galloping Tuberculosis, young Sonia Eydlman is ‘ruined’ by lawyer Albert Liebhartz in a fit of drunken madness.  Albert had promised to marry Sonia, but is forced instead to marry Barney Bender’s daughter Cecilia, the nymphomaniac.  Slumlord Bender plans to promote Albert to the bench so that Albert can help him kick the “chiselers” out of his tenements.  And while innocent Sonia finds a new life as an alcoholic prostitute, Harry, Cecilia’s lovesick boytoy chauffeur, makes his own plans... 

Isaac Zolotarevsky’s legendary (notorious?) 1910 melodrama, once a staple of the popular Yiddish stage, has not been seen in New York in many decades.  In a new English translation by Allen Lewis Rickman it will be seen for four performances only (June 8-11) at 7:30 pm at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City.  The play will also feature live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner, of Film Forum fame.

MONEY, LOVE, AND SHAME! is being presented as part of Target Margin Theater’s Lab series, which runs from June 4-14,  and is the final project in the theater’s two-year exploration of Yiddish theatre derived material.  Among the other projects in the series are an adaptation of Osip Dymov’s “subway dream play” BRONKS EKSPRES and plays based on works by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholem Aleichem.

Tickets are $15 and are available here:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Future of American Judaism Depends on the Elimination of Yiddish: So Sayeth the German Reform Elite

My friend Dov-Ber hipped me to a gem from the JTA Archive. It's a report from the 1923 Golden Jubilee Convention of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations

Yiddish Denounced As “jargon” at Reformers’ Jubilee

In an effort to reclaim Jews to Judaism, regardless of the orthodoxy, conservatism or radicalism of the synagogue”, a series of obstacles will have to be overcome, chief among them the use of Yiddish by the Jewish masses, declared Rabbi Jonah B. Wise, of Portland, in addressing the Wednesday session of the Golden Jubilee Convention of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
“In New York there is the largest jargon-speaking population in the world”, he said, That this language is legitimately Jewish in America I deny, and shall deny though a million voices be raised in raucous denunciation of that denial. (Emphasis mine)

Does anyone still believe that the only way forward for American Jews is to destroy the 1000 year culture and history of the majority of American Jews? Wait, don't answer that...

As I've written before, the German-Jewish elite (minority) set the terms of integration for the Eastern-European majority. Such a dysfunctional relationship must be understood to take account of American Jews today.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Not New, But Newsy

UPDATE: Ari's podcast recap of the conference is available here. It's a fast paced 12 minutes. Check it out!

My Identity paper got some more love this week, getting cross-posted over at the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education blog, as well as being archived for posterity at the Berman Jewish Policy Archive. Both sites are great resources for the latest, and not-so-latest, thinking in Jewish education and policy. Check 'em out and bookmark, if you haven't already.

We're still waiting on science podcasting superstar Ari Daniel to release his recap of the Brandeis Rethinking Jewish Identity and Education conference. I'll be sure to let you know as soon as it's out.