Keywords:1960s; anti-Vietnam War activism; anti-war activism; Hebrew University; history major; Israel; Oakland, California; radical politics; Rubin Academy of Music; Six Day War; two-state solution; UC Berkeley; University of California, Berkeley
Keywords:Arcadius Kahan; Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett; Benjamin Harshav; Benjamin Hrushovski; Columbia University; David Roskies; Eastern European Jewish history; Ezra Mendelsohn; graduate program; graduate school; Jewish Theological Seminary; JTS; Khone Shmeruk; Max Weinreich Center; Mikhl Herzog; multilingualism; Ph.D.; PhD; University of Chicago; Yiddish culture; Yiddish language; Yiddish learning; Yiddish literature; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Keywords:"Partisans of Vilna"; Andy Statman; career; classical music; Columbia University; Henry Sapoznik; Jewish music; Josh Waletzky; Joshua Waletzky; Lazar Weiner; Max Weinreich Center; mentorship; Michael Alpert; musical collaborations; New York City, New York; Paula Teitelbaum; Perl Teitelbaum; Sam Norich; singing; song; teacher; teaching; Volf Yunin; Wolf Younin; Wolf Yunin; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research; YIVO summer program; Zalmen Mlotek
Keywords:"Ale brider [All brothers]"; "Shnirele perele [String of pearls]"; Alicia Svigals; Ellie Kellman; Henry Sapoznik; KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program; Klezmatics; Lawrence Glamberg; music; musician; Yiddish music; Yiddish singing; Yiddish song; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research; YIVO summer program
Keywords:"A Winter's Tale"; "Songs of Paradise"; "The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln"; Astor Place Theatre; Bronx, New York; Frank London; Great Small Works THeater; Itzik Manger; Jenny Romaine; La Mama Theater Annex; Miriam Hoffman; music; musician; Riverdale, New York; The Public Theater; Yiddish theater; Yiddish theatre
Keywords:Arbeter Ring; Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett; career; Center for Cultural Jewish Life; Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; klezmer music; Museum of Chinese in America; music; musician; political activism; work; Workmen's Circle; Yiddish singing; Yiddish song
PAULINE KATZ: This is Pauline Katz, and today is December 28th, 2010. I am here
at KlezKamp in the Catskills with Adrienne Cooper, and we are going to record aninterview as part of the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project.Adrienne Cooper, do I have your permission to record this interview?
ADRIENNE COOPER: You do.
PK:To begin with, I'd like to ask you to briefly tell me about where your family
AC:I was born in Oakland, California. My mother was born in Chicago, Illinois;
my father, in Hamilton, Ontario. And my grandparents on my father's side come 1:00from Poland and Lithuania, on my mother's side come from Russia and the Ukraine-- specifically, from a town called -- my grandfather from Rohachiv or Rogachyovand my grandmother from Pyatigorsk.
PK:And what was it like growing up in Oakland?
AC:It was an interesting community. My parents came there because my father was
stationed in the Navy during the war, and so they moved from Chicago anddiscovered the Golden Land -- the goldene medine -- in California, and reallyfelt like it was the goldene medine. And we were always involved in the heart ofa Jewish community. My mother was a Yiddish and Hebrew singer in the area aslong as I remember. And we were -- you know, belonged to synagogues -- and in my 2:00formative years, first in an Orthodox synagogue and then in a Conservativesynagogue that was very influential in my life, Temple Beth Abraham. And therabbi was Harold Schulweis, who was an inspiring social justice figure, aYiddish speaker -- a native Yiddish speaker from New York -- and a stellarJewish community leader.
PK:Were you frum [devout]?
AC:We were not frum, but kept kosher at home. I was shomer shabes [Shabbos
observant] when I was growing up. And it was a kind of full, aesthetic Judaism.I think I spent five days a week in shul studying -- and later, as a teachermyself -- in that Hebrew school. 3:00
PK:Did you go to public school?
AC:I did go to public schools in -- first in Oakland when I was little, and --
you know, in various places that we moved to in the Bay Area, and graduated fromOakland High School. And I went to the University of California at Berkeley fora couple of years, and then moved to Israel -- and finished my university atHebrew University.
PK:You said the shul was important to you. What type of things did you do with
AC:It was really the source of my Jewish literacy. I was very studious and I was
very interested, and it was like a parallel education. So, when I came back intopublic school, there was history that I knew that nobody else (laughs) knew.There was a bigger context for me. I was also involved in Young Judaea at thetime, and that was a kind of studious -- you know, we'd read the "The Zionist 4:00Idea" and you'd read the -- you know, various socialist -- basically, socialistZionist texts. I considered myself a -- you know, a socialist Zionist. And so,that's where my -- the excitement, I think, in my education came in my Jewisheducation, and that informed the other.
PK:And did you start singing around then?
AC:My mother was kind of the singer in our community. And, you know, I always
sang. But, you know, I sang in the youth movement, in shul, in school, and, youknow, participated -- singing throughout.
PK:Who were your friends in your various spheres?
AC:I had very good friends in school, but I think best friends in Young Judaea,
5:00in the Zionist movement. And we -- I actually did not go on Year Course. I wentfirst to university at Berkeley for two years, and then when I did -- after twoyears at Berkeley, I did go to Israel. I have a very specific memory, becausethe student movement at the -- the student strike at Berkeley happened while Iwas there in -- I was there from '64 to '66, and I remember -- I think it wasJerry Rubin coming to my house -- he was a leader of the student strike --coming to my apartment and urging me, actually, not to go (laughs) to Israel.You know, criticizing what was not ideal about it. At that time, I used to leave 6:00teaching on Shabbos at Temple Beth Abraham with Michael Lerner, who later becamethe founder of "Tikkun," and another guy named Norman Adler, who was a psych PhDstudent, and we would go into the Oakland ghetto and tutor black kids. So, Iwould, you know, move from having taught Hebrew school in the morning totutoring in East Oakland. And so, the -- when I moved to Israel, where Iintended to stay -- I lived there for five years -- I graduated universitythere, but I came informed with all of this kind of political -- radicalpolitics, and looked for that in Israel as well. 7:00
PK:What kind of a radical politics are you talking about?
AC:It was, you know, a basic -- at that time, an anti-war -- anti-Vietnam War
politics. And in Israel, I was really quite idealistic. I really, from thebeginning, wanted a two-state solution. I lived there during the Six Day War. Mywhole family was there. My brother was in university; my other brother was inhigh school. And we did think of settling, permanently. All of us graduated fromvarious schools there: my brother from medical school, me from HebrewUniversity. And I attended the Rubin Academy of Music as well -- my youngerbrother graduated from high school there. So, I had a very clear kind of 8:00socialist Zionist, pro-two-state solution to the -- the period after the war --point of view.
PK:Had your parents also moved to Israel?
AC:My mother did. My parents weren't together, so my mother did, and stayed for
a number of years. Worked in educational TV and so forth. And so, we all livedthere in overlapping periods over a period of many years.
PK:Now what were you majoring in?
AC:I majored in History and in English Literature. At that time, at Hebrew
University, you had to have two majors, so those were my two.
PK:And why those two?
AC:Why those two? I was always interested in history. When I was at Berkeley, I
was a psych student, and one of my professors sort of said, "Now go out and 9:00study humanities and fill out your -- the breadth of your background so you canbe a good shrink." And I never came back. (laughs) I kind of went into historyand kept going.
PK:Why did you leave Israel?
AC:I left to come to graduate school in the States. I left also because it felt
very -- like I knew exactly what my life -- the parameters of my life would bethere, and I wanted at that time to broaden them some. I had begun to work inmusic. I was on a parallel academic track at Hebrew University and began amaster's program there. And at the same time I had been studying at the RubinAcademy of Music and doing some music theater in Israel, and felt that I wanted 10:00to broaden my horizons a bit. So, I came back to the States and went to theUniversity of Chicago -- in History -- in a PhD program.
PK:At the musical theater, what type of performances -- what type of musical
theater were you performing?
AC:I was in a phenomenal theater directed by Arieh Sachs, who was a very
adventurous literature professor and theatrical mensch at -- he was at HebrewUniversity and in a circle of really interesting poets and authors and people in-- arts people in Jerusalem. So, we did a Hebrew language -- quite a bawdy andwonderful Hebrew language production of "Everyman," the medieval play. And youknow, some other stuff -- chamber operas at the Rubin Academy. So, there was a 11:00range of things.
PK:Now what did you go to Chicago -- what was your major in Chicago?
AC:I was in a History PhD program. So, I got my master's there, and I had the
amazing -- and that actually is what led me to Yiddish. I began to study Yiddishat Chicago with one of the librarians, who was the wife of Bolek Ellenbogen, whowas the kind of manager of the building at the YIVO -- he was a fantastic olderBundist. And his wife, Halinka, taught -- his sister, I'm sorry -- his sister,Halinka, taught Yiddish at -- outside of the regular faculty at the library.There was a group of students that studied with her. And she was married to 12:00Arcadius Kahan, who was a -- the descendant of a prominent Bundist family. Hewas a political economist at the University of Chicago. And I took one of myorals fields with Kahan, on Eastern European Jewish history. And he suggestedthat I go to the YIVO summer program. My ABD -- my unfinished PhD -- was onHebrew and Yiddish writers in the United States. And knowing very little, I feltlike I had invented this topic for myself. And once I came to the YIVO afterhaving finished doctoral orals at Chicago, I sat down -- again -- to studythrough the Max Weinreich Center. So, we were sent to -- we had access to 13:00classes -- both at the Max Weinreich Center at YIVO -- so I studied with BarbaraKirshenblatt-Gimblett and with Mikhl Herzog and with Khone Shmeruk and BenjaminHrushovski. And we had access to classes at Columbia, and at JTS I studied withDavid Roskies and with Ezra Mendelsohn and all these great historians. But itwas kind of wrong-headed (laughs) -- in which I had already finished a doctoralorals (laughs) and then sat down for another couple of years to study Yiddishliterature and language and culture and East European Jewish history some more. (laughs)
PK:Now why had you decided on Yiddish and Hebrew literature?
AC:I think that I was in an interesting disconnect. When I came back from
14:00Israel, I found myself kind of on a language bridge between Hebrew and English.And I actually had difficulty expressing myself verbally (laughs) in graduateschool. Because I had been functioning for four years -- four or five years inan academic setting in Hebrew, and so I found myself between these languages.And as I began to study Yiddish, I found myself in another -- yet another Jewishlanguage, and I felt this enormous affinity for Yiddish writers in the UnitedStates who were isolated linguistically. And so, it was a little mysticalconnection, and it led to an enormous well. 15:00
PK:And what was it that led you to learning Yiddish in the first place?
AC:I have no idea. It was the -- Kahan. It was the suggestion -- and I think
because I was trying to, for myself, I think, fill out a picture. You know, Ibelieve that everybody does a PhD (laughs) out of some kind of, you know, desireto complete a thought process that they're having about themselves or withthemselves. My main field was American intellectual history, and as a veryidentified Jew, I think that I wanted to fill in the background for myself. Andso, I believe that that's what led to it.
PK:So, after YIVO, did you go back to Chicago to finish?
AC:No. I sunk into the YIVO. I came there -- first to the summer program, then I
16:00did go back to Chicago. And then, I was offered a -- they were great talentscouts in those days, and they had -- and the YIVO had funding from the NationalEndowment for the Humanities for a fellows program -- and from various Jewishfoundations -- from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and the NationalFoundation for Jewish Culture. And they were often very generous doctoralstipends, so basically I was supported -- between these NEH fellowships and theNational Foundation and Memorial Foundation -- to, you know, sit down andcontinue to study. But it was quite an exciting time, because the faculty wasunbelievable and the resources were amazing and the seduction (laughs) of really 17:00a generation of young scholars and then artists to a really broad field of workin Yiddish. So, I went from, you know, looking at academic papers in the --papers for my academic work in the archive to exploring the other floors, inwhich there was the music archive, the sound collection, my colleagues workingon "Image Before My Eyes." And then, I was offered a job. So, I began to do thisacademic work, but then I was offered a day job (laughs) at some point, and thatshifted the balance.
AC:The job was to be the assistant director of the Max Weinreich Center -- and,
after a couple of years, to direct the YIVO summer program. So, I went fromteaching singing on the lawn (laughs) to directing the program: helping selectthe students, distributing scholarships, hiring faculty, and managing thatprogram -- the relationship between YIVO and Columbia University -- for a numberof years. And then, to the position of assistant director of the YIVO. SamNorich was the executive director at that time, and we worked together and wemanaged, you know, planning and supervising, exhibitions, staff work, and so forth.
PK:When you were teaching singing at YIVO, what songs were you teaching?
AC:Well, it was a really interesting experience, because I was at the same time
learning some songs from different people. I had a number of mentors, and -- youknow, in my artistic life. So, the first thing, I think -- among the firstthings that happened when I came to the YIVO is I was invited to sing at a YIVOdinner. So, I got up and I did things that I had been actually working on inChicago and performing in Chicago. So, I, at that time, was working a lot inclassical music in my musical life, and I did some Jewish music, but it wasthrough a classical framework. So, I got up at this YIVO dinner and sang Lazar 20:00Weiner's and Glatstein's "Tsela-tseldi," and up out of the audience, you know,kind of holding onto my arm, came Lazar Weiner, the composer. I had no idea thathe was there. He was very gratified to hear a couple of his songs, and they'revery sophisticated art songs. And he gave me a scholarship to his course at the92nd Street Y, he invited me into his home, he coached me, and we had awonderful relationship for a number of years. Wolf Yunin, who was a teacher atthe YIVO -- and a marvelous -- one of the Yung-Vilne Yiddish poets -- also kindof, you know, (laughs) took me home to Forest Hills and coached me. So, I hadaccess to these remarkable artists as mentors. And then, within the building, it 21:00was Henry and Michael and Josh Waletzky and other people who were more or lessof my generation who were doing other kinds of work. And so, I began to workwith them on music projects. We -- Josh was putting together "Partisans ofVilna" around that time -- Josh and Henry. And so, I worked on the recording --not the film, but the recording. And those were very carefully prepared, deepexperiences that were -- that had enormous reverence for the material. We 22:00prepared that recording for the better part of a year before we walked into thestudio -- explored all aspects of the Partisan repertoire from Vilna and then,you know, went into the studio to record it. I was involved also in a wonderfulproject that was funded by the National Endowment on the Arts that -- with anearly generation of younger -- or were thought of as younger Yiddish performersat that time -- Andy Statman and Perl Teitelbaum and Josh and others. And thatwas called "Vaserl [Stream]." And the -- some of the Schaechters were involvedin that. I met Zalmen Mlotek at that time, performing in the Bronx. I was told 23:00that when I got there -- I didn't need to rehearse, 'cause when I got there Iwould meet the pianist and we would do fine with, you know, just having a littlemeeting before the performance. And that was my meeting with Zalmen. And then,we stood up on stage, you know, an hour later, and (laughs) performed a concert.So, that world of colleagues opened up out of that set of experiences.
PK:Back to your mentors --
PK:-- why do you think they grabbed you and took you home with them?
AC:Well, I guess my approach to all music is kind of the same. So, I have an
enormous interest in the psychology behind the song and in language. And I haddone a lot of work in -- you know, in German lider [songs] and in French art 24:00songs. And the stuff of the texts was always what I was about, and not so muchperformance and not so much the vocal pyrotechnics -- but I had a well-prepared,you know, vocal technique. And what I found was, you know, this -- another kval,another source of amazing texts, and I could go back to my family's repertoireand re-experience it and kind of take it back for myself. So, I guess what -- Ithink that what they saw was somebody who was mindful -- and, you know, I gotthem and they got me. So, (laughs) we understood each other. 25:00
PK:And of your partnerships -- I'd just like you to talk a little more about the
partnerships and the collaborations and the colleagues and the world that youwere living in.
AC:Yeah. I guess I've always seen music as a collaborative activity. And you
know, I think that (laughs) most people do. But what it gave me, I think, was anopportunity to -- you know, to explore with a community. And I think that's the-- you know, the old socialist in me -- is, you know, with a community ofcolleagues -- co-equals -- and we could kind of plunge in and explore together. 26:00And -- yeah.
PK:Why do you think there were so many people of the same age interested in this
AC:Well, first of all, there was, you know, this kind of "Roots" phenomenon. But
there was also support for it, frankly. So, there were a number of centers where-- you know, there was government support available. Our arts money was beinggiven to retrieving this music and so there were folks who were being encouragedand supported to work in this field. In Europe, as well, there was moneyavailable to record, to tour. There were audiences, and there was a -- and this 27:00was, like, the mid-to-late '70s -- and there was a world opening up of all thisrange of possibility, from people to work with, people to learn from, mentors towork with. Just like the instrumentalists had, we on the vocals side had as well-- people were available to us and we knew how to find them. They wanted to befound. And I was able to, you know, go back to my own family and understand whatwas there -- what was there in my mother's background, especially -- and to takethat back.
PK:So last -- you had started working at YIVO; you were working with Zalmen; you
were working on all those collaborations.
AC:Well, what next was that in working in the summer program -- first, I had the
opportunity to teach a number of people who were, you know, these lovely youngpeople who had come to the summer program. Among them, sitting on the lawn, wasLawrence Glamberg and Alicia Svigals -- taking the Yiddish summer programbecause they had begun to work in the Klezmatics and they were looking for --you know, to learn Yiddish and to learn Yiddish song. So, on the other end wasEllie Kellman, who was teaching at the summer program. She taught me "Shnireleperele [String of pearls]," and I, you know, walked out onto the lawn and taught 29:00"Shnirele perele" to Lauren and to Alicia. I learned "Ale brider [All brothers]"somewhere, went out to the lawn, taught "Ale brider." And so, this wonderfulchain of relationships yielded, you know, what we know it yielded. So, that was,you know, something that started out quite simple in a chain of communicationthat ended up in an altogether other world -- that has opened up another world.The other thing that happened that was significant -- and that brings us towhere we're doing this interview -- is that I worked closely with Henry at theYIVO. And we had endless conversations about, Well, what if we looked at the 30:00example of the summer program, which was five days a week, three hours a day oflanguage class -- immersion language class -- and then afternoons filled withcultural activities. So, you could go to a Yiddish film and discuss it; youwould go to a translation workshop; you would have a conversation circle in theafternoon; you would be exposed to native speakers; you would be taught singing;you would have a theater workshop. And we said, Okay, so this works for fifty,sixty, seventy people who are able to devote six to eight weeks of a summer todoing this full time and having an immersion experience. What if -- like Henry'sexperience of old-time music camp or Balkan music camps -- what if you took the 31:00model and you flipped it and you had an immersion arts experience -- animmersion experience of klezmer music and Yiddish song -- and you added to thatimmersion experience a language class that people would go to for an hour or twoduring an intensive week. Could we try to do that? So, out of the YIVO --because I had an administrative position and Henry was the head of the soundarchives -- we attempted to launch a program. We went to the old -- I think itwas Boiberik, which would become something else -- and another kind of new agecamp retreat grounds and we put out a brochure, looked for registration -- to 32:00break even. And to make it work, we needed about 125 people; I think we got inthe vicinity of, you know, ninety-nine, a hundred. We couldn't make it work thatfirst year. We tried again the following year, and we, you know, started outwith 150 people or so, and KlezKamp was launched. And that was twenty-six yearsago. And it grew every year after that. We didn't do it at the place that hadbeen Boiberik; we did it at the Parksville -- at a hotel in Parksville. And youknow, that was the beginning of this. But it came out of looking at the programand saying, Well, we could do this for more people in a more kind of accessible format.
PK:How did you get involved in the Yiddish theater?
AC:That was serendipity. Miriam Hoffman was -- had been asked to create an
entertainment for the -- a YIVO dinner. And she decided to do a version of ItzikManger's "Songs of Paradise." So, myself and Michael Alpert and I think EleanorReissa and another couple of folks put together a primitive version (laughs) forthis dinner of "Songs of Paradise." And once we did it, we took it up to a --the JCC in Riverdale. And somebody invited Joseph Papp to come see it. And so,he came to the JCC at Riverdale, he saw the production, and he invited us to do 34:00a -- I think it was supposed to be a month of weekends or something at thePublic Theater. And once we brought it down to the Public Theater, it ended uprunning for six months, eight times a week. (laughs) So, I would go to my dayjob and then fling myself downtown. (laughs) And you know, my poor daughter hada period of six months of being dragged to the theater when she was, I don'tknow, eight years (laughs) or nine years old, doing her homework under thetable, getting to see people doing "A Winter's Tale." Mandy Patinkin wasactually doing "A Winter's Tale" in the next theater over -- in the bigger houseat the Public Theater. But we ran there for six months full time and then movedthe show across the street to the Astor Place Theatre, ran another few months, 35:00toured internationally with it to Holland and Germany and all kinds of otherplaces. And after that, I did some other projects -- an amazing project withJenny Romaine at Great Small Works Theater -- a production of "The Memoirs ofGlückel of Hameln" that also had a similar success. I was a co-creator of thatproduction with Jenny and with Frank London. We wrote ballads together -- musictogether -- and developed, again, over a period of a couple of years, developedthis really remarkable piece of work. And it ran at the La Mama Theater Annex 36:00for an extended period of time and then toured throughout the States and Europe.
PK:How did you end up at the Workmen's Circle?
AC:Somebody called me. I -- between my work at YIVO, I had worked -- and I think
it's relevant -- I worked for seven years at the Museum of Chinese in theAmericas. So, I worked in ano-- I brought -- I was actually recruited therebecause people on the museum staff knew that I had been trained by BarbaraKirshenblatt-Gimblett (laughs) and people like that, and they really wanted anintegrated, multicultural approach to their own work -- an interdisciplinaryapproach to their own work. So, I was recruited as program director and had an 37:00amazing experience learning that community and really applying thisinterdisciplinary approach that -- to Yiddish culture and Eastern EuropeanJewish -- American Jewish life -- to my work at the -- in the Chinese Americancommunity, and in this wonderful museum that's since developed into a remarkableplace. When I left there after seven years, I did a project for -- under aFederation grant at a synagogue, bringing spirituality to the synagogue throughthe arts. And again, I brought -- you know, we founded a klezmer band there; Ihad a Yiddish singing group; we did exhibitions (laughs) and family history. So, 38:00it was, again, the kind of YIVO mindset about how you enliven a community bygiving it back its own culture. And when I was there, somebody called me -- aheadhunter called me and asked me to recommend someone for the job that ChavaLapin was leaving at the Workmen's Circle to direct the Center for CulturalJewish Life there. And I said, "Well, I don't want to recommend anybody. I'dlike that job. (laughs) I'd like to apply for that job." And so, I did, and got it.
PK:Had you been keeping up your political activism in between?
AC:Not as straight political work, but through my arts work. My arts work was
always informed by that. Since then, I served on the board of Jews for Racial 39:00and Economic Justice and was supportive, over the years, of various socialjustice projects and organizations. But it was mostly through my arts activism.
PK:I'd like to -- well, first of all, how did your feelings on Yiddish and
Yiddish culture or just the arts in general change after having your daughter?
AC:That's a great question. So, I remember (pauses) -- first, I remember singing
to her -- you know, of course, in Yiddish -- from the beginning. And that was my 40:00formative experience, as well. On my new CD, I have a sound collage. And one ofthe things in the sound collage is my grandfather singing liturgical music, mygrandmother singing a version of the Sholem Aleichem lullaby, and I can be heardin the background -- my father had a wax disc recording machine in the house,and so he recorded -- I come from a line of singers: my grandfather, mygrandmother, my mother, my grandmother's uncle. And so, in this piece ofrecording, my grandmother is singing, and I'm going, "(makes singing noise)" --and (laughs) there's this child's -- baby's voice. So, it was clearly in my earfrom the time that I was born. And that's kind of what I reproduced with Sarah. 41:00We did some Yiddish conversation and vocabulary, but I didn't really speak withher on an -- you know, on an ongoing basis. But you know, songs she heard, andshe had some access to Yiddish vocabulary. I was -- when I first came to NewYork, I had, you know, those various Hebrew school jobs and then Yiddish schooljobs. So, I taught in the Yiddish school in Bergen -- I think in Bergenfield --Bergen County, New Jersey. And when they decided to form a West Side Yiddish 42:00school -- it ended up being a Workmen's Circle school -- I was the foundingdirector of that school. Yankl Salant was a teacher there; Roz Perry was bobereyzele [grandmother Reyzl] and would come in and teach and do storytelling withthe kids. I developed curriculum for that school and had a marvelous group ofmostly Yiddishist parents -- a lot of people from Hemshekh, from the Bundistsummer camp. And so -- and Sarah was, you know, a little kid in that school. So,I just -- I was looking last week at photographs, 'cause I was working at theYIVO right after she was -- just after she was born. I was -- you know, had been 43:00a student, and then began to work. So, there's these wonderful pictures of hersitting at what was Max Weinreich's (laughs) desk, with his library behind her,talking on the telephone. (laughs) She used to make up little budgets. (laughs)And she was, you know, like, three, four years old in these photographs, in alittle red plaid dress. So, a lot of what was happening was osmosis. Some of theYIVO students were her babysitters. (laughs) And so, what came out was both aset of relationships, but an early, you know, exposure to everything that wasgoing on around her. And when we founded KlezKamp, it was the last Christmas she 44:00ever saw (laughs) outside -- in the outside world. She was about five and a halfyears old, and has been coming here ever since now -- works here and directs thechildren's program. So, what she -- it's not so much what changed in me as, shegrew up in this world. And so, you know, this is her community. It's a formativecommunity. And everything that goes on here, from language to music to theserelationships, you know, was formative, from the time that she was, you know,four years old or so.
PK:What was it like to work on a CD with her?
AC:Oh, it was wonderful. Well, we've worked before -- when she was a littler kid
-- I think she was about twelve -- Guy Laflamme was preparing "Remember the 45:00Children" for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. And so, a numberof -- Sarah and -- I don't -- I think Dudl Waletzky -- I'm not sure if he was onthat or it was "Partisans of Vilna" or something, but I remember her in her roompreparing an audition tape (laughs) for "Remember the Children." And so, weworked on that -- kind of parallel, not together. She had her own songs. And Ithink that she -- she's accompanied on that -- I know by Jeff Warschauer. So,again, those relationships formed in that context. So, that was the first CD(laughs) recording that we were on toge-- more or less together -- both of us 46:00were on -- separately. And I very much wanted -- when I prepared this CD thathas just come out, called "Enchanted" -- it was a real collaboration. First ofall, she pushed me a lot to get it out, to get it done. And I wanted thisintergenerational conversation -- over, you know, time and lender [space, lit."countries"]. And she is a really important and thoughtful part of thatconversation. So, we did everything from the Glückel mother-daughter bird songtogether to "Volt ikh gehat koyekh [If I had the strength]," in which -- fromthe time that I adapted this Hasidic song into -- I made it into a peace song -- 47:00she was already working as a Yiddish translator, or a writer of Yiddish songsand a translator of Yiddish texts into English, and she had done a wonderfulEnglish language verse for this song, and so we sing it together, and in anamplified chorus of other younger musicians and friends and collaborators.
PK:Why do you think she followed you down this path into Yiddish -- Yiddishkayt?
AC:(pauses) Well, I think first of all, there seems to be a family tradition
(laughs) of voices. And she would have to speak for herself, and probably will.But I think that it's something that she values enormously. It means something 48:00to her; it's a core part of her Jewish identity. I think similar things in itinterest us both: its breadth and its -- you know, its kind of being in thegreat argument of Jewish civilization, of a full Jewish civilization that runsfrom, you know, liturgy to spectacular apikorses [heretical texts, lit."heresy"], that runs from music to foodways, that runs -- you know, that canmake a life. And so, I don't know. You know, it's her mystery. But what I doknow is that she was at Sarah Lawrence College; she went for a year to study at 49:00Hebrew University; she -- at the end of that time, she sent me an email saying,What I'd like is, get me an application to the YIVO summer program. So after ayear immersed in Hebrew and in -- living in Israel, what she wanted (laughs) wasan application to the Yiddish program. So, it must have filled out something inthat full experience of living as a Jew in a Jewish country and then wantingthis to be -- to come to another level. And then, she attended the summerprogram a number of times -- went from the intermediate level to the advanced 50:00and I think took that a couple of times, began to write in Yiddish, began toteach in Yiddish shules [Yiddish secular schools]. You know, there's that kindof interesting trajectory between studying and then teaching -- taking theresponsibility to teach -- and, you know, looking over your shoulder at yourstudents and discovering what it is that you have to communicate, and I thinkdiscovering a lot more about the culture by teaching, through teaching.
PK:That brings us nicely to today and your Yiddish classes. Why do you -- or
your singing classes.
PK:Why do you think people are interested today in Yiddishkayt, Yiddish culture?
AC:Well, I think that it provides a -- in part, I think it provides a vehicle
51:00for growth -- for a certain kind of growth. I think it provides an enormousopportunity for people to understand themselves by connecting to a community --by connecting to a contemporary community that is creating living Jewishculture. And it's more than Yiddish culture; it really is a living,participatory, Jewish life that is, I think, amplified in a way that -- thatsome synagogue experiences are, but they choose a particular zone. And here, youcan both experience a contemporary community -- contemporary Jewish creativityalong a huge spectrum -- and the opportunity to look back and see how you are 52:00connected to this, where you come from, where your ancestors come from. And justthat -- both depth -- you know, it's a kind of wild mind experience, because youexperience yourself and your family history, you know, deep over time, and thenthere's this vista that opens out of where you can participate now -- how youcan bring that forward to fill out an identity. And I find that the students'experience of both making something in the moment, either by -- anything, fromlistening to somebody else to having a conversation that -- you know, overgenerations with people -- to developing a skill that meets an adult where they 53:00live, from traditional papercutting to deepening a language skill to makingmusic to using your body to dance and to absorb that sound and express yourselfthrough it -- is, you know, a remarkable experience for students. They are ableto connect through communication, through emotion, and through a developingskill set. So, it's quite the full experience for an adult learner. In master 54:00classes, people have a very expansive experience of that, and I find that inrepertoire classes, that's -- it provides me an interesting experience everyyear to take a topic -- to look at the lens of -- create a lens for looking atYiddish music, Yiddish vocal repertoire. And so, I try to kind of solve a puzzleor answer a question or open a door. So, we do everything from one year lookingat Gebirtig repertoire to this year looking at what happens in Yiddish song ifyou look at the forest, the field, the river, the town, and then you look at howindustrialization and urbanization and immigration creates a new world of thefactory, the dance hall, the train station, the -- you know, a world that's 55:00transformed technologically -- how that will have informed these songs. Butagain, it gives you that -- you know, those lateral planes of your own family'shistory, your own family's journey, and then what you're able to integrate as aperson encountering this puzzle. Let's solve this puzzle together.
PK:I'd like to go back to your mentors for a bit --
PK:-- and actually ask you how you feel about being the mentor today.
AC:Well, I think part of it is that was the experience of that -- it probably
56:00is, you know, both the -- now I understand, you know -- when you look from aparticular perspective in your lifetime, I understand what that socialistZionist community was, and then the YIVO community as far as kind of talentscouting -- you know, identifying people (laughs) who could be recruited andthen who would passionately embrace the cause, right? And so, you know, I becameone of them. (laughs) I was made into one of them. And I so delight in knowing astudent, in knowing a colleague, in trying to answer some of these questions 57:00together in the mutual exploration or in being able to frame an opportunity forthat exploration, for that discussion -- everything from a job opportunity(laughs) to looking at somebody else's project, to identifying a collaboratorand inviting them into a project, to being invited. And so, you know, they're aset of relationships to the extent that I'm in a position to invite somebody in.You know, it's a gift that passes in both directions.
PK:Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about?
[BREAK IN RECORDING]
AC:About twelve years ago, the American Jewish World Service established a
58:00program that was meant to secure a cultural community in the former SovietUnion. It was really a brilliant project, because instead of just encouragingemigration, instead of only doing social service projects, the AJWS reallylooked at the former Soviet Union and said, Well, what would really supportcommunities there? And they settled on education and culture. And so, when theydecided to do this, they literally brought coals to Newcastle. They broughtteachers from the United States who had worked in programs in Yiddish teaching 59:00and in performance, in arts -- and they brought us to St. Petersburg and to Kievand later to Moscow. So, I remember, you know, getting on an Aeroflot plane withZalmen and going to St. Petersburg. And we had no idea who we were gonna findthere, but because both of our families had come from -- parts of our familieshad come from places in Russia, we were very excited. We walk into theseclassrooms and meet these squads of people who could have been us. Had ourfamilies not emigrated, we would have been these people. And we begin to -- youknow, to teach. First of all, they're spectacular students -- they'respectacular tools for learning and for absorbing. And what the experience was of 60:00meeting people with a very thin thread, but not a broken thread altogether -- sothey were living in the places where this culture had developed, they had someaccess to it, but it was really weakened, and you felt like you were knittingthat thread really delicately back together. The experience that was amazing wasthe amount of eagerness and off-the-hook joy. So, I remember that we taught thesong "Shprayz ikh mir [I am walking]" -- which is a song about a -- you know, aguy getting on a horse and going to an inn and wanting a drink and intending togo and buy horses but spending all his money on drink. And the experience coming 61:00back was of the room rocking with joy. It's a joyous song, and the amount of joyin these students -- along with enormous discipline -- was absolutely -- like,took our breath away. So, we spent a lot of time weeping (laughs) in these cla--every so often -- but also having this, you know, kind of sucked up with suchenthusiasm and energy. And I've gone back over that period of twelve years toteach at various programs. After a good, I would say, four years, these peoplehad already turned into Yiddish culture creators. They were writing songs; theywere teaching other people; they became -- they learned Yiddish -- from scratch,in most cases; some of them became teachers themselves. So, this exchange -- 62:00from being able to re-seed something -- so there are bands and they go tofestivals and they've now become our colleagues, and in some cases, again,teachers and mentors of others in these programs. That was an enormous gift to-- you know, for us to receive and for us to be able to give. The model of theseprograms, which was really based on the original kind of KlezKamp model -- thefact that we learned, or we developed a way of teaching this music, and we'vebeen able to -- and culture -- and we've been able to pass it on through thefounding of these other, similar kinds of programs means that there are these 63:00projects which are pretty modest in scale and easily supported, easilytranslated from one community to another. So, they exist now in England and inFrance and in Germany and in -- and I've taught in these places, where sometimesyou're teaching all Jews and sometimes you're teaching very few Jews. In theprogram in Weimar, there would be two or three stray Jews who would wander intothis program, and you're teaching mostly Germans. That's a different kind ofexchange. But the ability to open up worlds for the experience of Yiddishculture and to discover who it is who wants that and who needs it and who is 64:00connected to it, who can connect to it, is -- you know, has been a remarkable experience.
[BREAK IN RECORDING]
PK:Well, I would like to ask one last question. What's your advice to future generations?
[BREAK IN RECORDING]
AC:What I'd like future generations to know is that this culture belongs to
them. That they have a right to take it, to explore it, to create something oftheir own in it. There is a potentially very destabilizing kind of experience innot knowing language, in not being able to possess a set of skills that -- and a 65:00fluency -- that makes them feel secure and that gives them the right toparticipate. But I really hope that they'll be, you know, kind of bold andfearless -- that Jewish culture and Jewish literacy and Yiddish culture andYiddish literacy is hard come by. It's work. And because we don't live in ayidishland [Yiddish context, lit. "Yiddish country"], right, in a fullenvironment -- for an adult who's smart and fluent and spontaneous, there is an 66:00awkwardness to expressing oneself, to feeling competent, to feeling brave aboutrepresenting this culture. But the only way that it's going to persist is inthat courage. And it's a lot to ask of people. But they have every right. And ina way, they have a responsibility if they want to take that on. And I wish forthem that kind of courage and recklessness -- you know, to just throw themselvesat it and to own it. Because, you know, the culture needs them. There is noyidishland, there will be no Yiddish culture makers after a certain, you know, 67:00point in time who were born in a fully functioning Yiddish world. And it is acrazy project to try to live and create something of this culture. But there areall kinds of sources for receiving it and for participating. And it's a generouscommunity. So, you know, people will be -- will continue to be invited in. Theproject is hard, and -- but I think that it fits the project of Jewish life. 68:00What I love about Yiddish culture, what I love about modern Jewish culture, isits golesdikkayt [diasporic nature], is its off-balance quality. I think there'san enormous opportunity to live in that modesty, where you're not, you know,culturally dominant, and where the culture needs your energy and needs yourdesire and needs your participation.