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Yiddish Book Center

Celebrating Yiddish Language & Culture

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Focus On Yiddish in the South

What is the “South”? Well, it depends how far north you are. For Yiddish speakers it could mean the southern United States, as it does for many Americans. It could mean countries in the Southern Hemisphere, like Australia, South Africa, or most nations in South America. Or it could refer to the southern areas of Eastern Europe, whose Jewish communities spoke their own dialect of “Southern Yiddish.” To celebrate the Yiddish in all of these souths, the Yiddish Book Center recently launched a call for southern-themed submissions to our online translation series, which this year will be publishing short works every month on our website. This is also a part of our 2023 Decade of Discovery, “Yiddish Around the World,” and a thematic extension of our new core exhibit (opening October 15!), Yiddish: A Global Culture. The translation series is always a treat, bringing to light previously obscure Yiddish works rendered into English by some of the most talented translators in the field. I encourage you to be a part of that, if you can, and certainly to read it. But for now, if you’re looking for inspiration, read on. 

אויסגעקליבן Handpicked Seth Rogovoy

Seth Rogovoy wears glasses and a wide-brimmed black hat, black and white illustration

Each month, the Yiddish Book Center asks a member of our staff or a friend to select favorite stories, books, interviews, or articles from our online collections. This month, we’re excited to share with you picks by Seth Rogovoy, the founding artistic director of the Yiddish Book Center’s annual Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music.

Yidstock Musicians: Selected Oral Histories

I love this page of excerpts from the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project, as it serves as an anthology featuring some of the most popular performers of Yidstock, past and present. Included here are native-born Yiddish speaker Eleanor Reissa, talking about thinking and working in Yiddish and English; trumpeter and composer Frank London, a cofounder of The Klezmatics, speaking frankly about his early, unsatisfying experiences hearing Jewish music; Hankus Netsky reminiscing about listening to old Yiddish 78s in a Philadelphia attic with his Uncle Sam; Lorin Sklamberg about how he found his way from political folk music to Yiddish music and cofounding The Klezmatics; and clarinetist Michael Winograd, one of the leading Yiddish music innovators of “the younger generation.”

40 Years in Yiddishland: A Q&A with Hankus Netsky

The Klezmer Conservatory Band was one of the most important and influential groups in the first generation of the klezmer revival. Founded in Boston by Hankus Netsky the same year Aaron Lansky founded the Yiddish Book Center, the KCB brought klezmer and Yiddish theater and folk music to the airwaves and concert stages at a time when the music, like the Yiddish language itself, was thought to be a relic of the past. But through Hankus’s determined vision and relentless efforts, the genre quickly gained newfound respect as a music deserving not only of revival but of study and innovation. Over the decades, Hankus’s classes at the New England Conservatory and the ranks of the KCB produced several generations of musicians who went on to form their own groups exploring the rich tradition of Yiddish music and updating it to make it speak the language or accent of our time.

Teaching The Klezmatics with Adrienne Cooper

In this short excerpt from a larger interview, the late Adrienne Cooper—who was an essential part of the Yiddish and klezmer revival as a teacher, administrator, and performer—talks about cultural transmission. Specifically, she recounts teaching in YIVO’s summer program while simultaneously learning songs such as “Ale Brider” and “Shnirele Perele” and then teaching them to aspiring musicians, including Lorin Sklamberg and Alicia Svigals, two of the founding members of The Klezmatics. Both songs went on to become Klezmatics’ staples.

Why You Won’t Hear Me Singing about the Old Country

Speaking of The Klezmatics, in this wonderful interview, singer Lorin Sklamberg discusses how the group members decide on what to include in their repertoire. The word “authenticity” gets bandied about a lot in discussions of klezmer and Yiddish music, and Lorin explains how the most important aspect of authenticity for him and his bandmates is not about re-creating an old sound but rather choosing songs, whether old or new, that reflect the musicians’ concerns—songs that speak to the musicians’ themselves and, by extension, to contemporary audiences.

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