Singing in Yiddish

Highlights from the Wexler Oral History Project

In celebration of Yidstock: the Festival of New Yiddish Music this month as well as our Decade of Discovery theme, Yiddish Music, music is on our minds and in the air. Here we share interview excerpts from four women musicians in our collection who are carrying on the long tradition of Jewish folk music in Yiddish. They each reflect on their deep, personal connection to Yiddish music.

Yiddish Is the Music That I Have to Give

Rachel Weston, a London-based singer, answers the question “Why sing Yiddish?” by recognizing the power of folk music across cultures. She considers how integral singing is to processing human experience and explains why, with her own ancestry, Yiddish doesn’t just resonate with her by chance—it’s an inherent part of her.

Watch her full interview and excerpts. 

“A Restless Language”: How the Personality of Yiddish Influences Music

Sasha Lurje, a singer born in Riga, Latvia, discusses how language influences the way we think. She describes Yiddish as a restless language with a relaxed melody, and she reflects on how understanding music—especially folk music—is much more than playing notes on a page.

Watch her full interview and excerpts. 

“We Can’t Be Preserved in Amber”: Change and Progress in Yiddish Music

Singer Elizabeth Schwartz reflects on the changes in the Yiddish music scene since she began her career and what to expect moving forward, speaking to the question of who gets to perform Jewish music and how change is essential to keeping music alive.

Watch her full interview and excerpts. 

Olga Sings Miriam Nirenberg’s “Dos Patekhl” and Plays the Accordion

Olga Avigail Mieleszczuk sings a Yiddish folk song using a Ukrainian open voice technique that, she says, “comes from the spirit of the mountains.”

Watch her full interview and excerpts.