Yiddish New York’s faculty and speakers include some of the most prominent cultural leaders in today’s Yiddish world! Confirmed faculty/speakers/featured performers to date are below, check back soon as we update the faculty list.
2016 Faculty & Featured Performers:
Aaron Alexander (percussion) – one of the leading drummers on the contemporary klezmer scene and the founder and curator of the weekly New York Klezmer Series, Alexander has toured internationally with The Klezmatics, the Klezmer Brass-All Stars, Hasidic New Wave, Kleztraphobix, Klezmer Fest and his own Midrash Mish Mosh project of original avant-garde klezmer which recorded for John Zorn’s Tzadik label. His latest project is the Klez Messengers with accordionist Patrick Farrell and clarinetist Michael Winograd, which recreates the sound of Dave Tarras’s mid-20th century trios.
Shane Baker (theater) is known as the best-loved Episcopalian on the Yiddish stage today. His translation of Waiting for Godot, which the New York Times proclaimed ‘even more depressing than Beckett’s original,’ has been staged Off Broadway and internationally by the New Yiddish Rep, with Baker himself in the role of Vladimir. He has appeared in numerous other Yiddish productions, and tours internationally with his programs of Yiddish recitations. Most recently he has been performing a tribute program commemorating Sholem Aleichem’s yortsayt. In addition to acting in, translating, and adapting works for the Yiddish stage, the multi-talented Baker also serves as director of the Congress for Jewish Culture, a Yiddish publishing and educational organization based in New York.
Judith Berkson (vocals): Mezzo soprano, pianist and composer Judith Berkson uses voice along with analog and digital keyboards to create pieces that cross the boundaries of classical, electronic and experimental music. She has collaborated with Kronos Quartet, City Opera, and has performed works by Chaya Czernowin, Joe Maneri, Rick Burkhardt, Gerard Pape, Julia Werntz, Aleksandra Vrebalov, and Milton Babbitt. She has presented solo works at the Picasso Museum Malaga, Le Poisson Rouge, Roulette and the Concertgebouw. Called “an intriguing young singer-pianist,” her solo album Oylam (ECM Records, 2010), was described as “standards and Schubert and liturgical music, swing and chilly silences. I can’t get enough of it,” by the New York Times. In 2012 she completed The Vienna Rite, a chamber opera based on the friendship between Franz Schubert and Viennese cantor Salomon Sulzer. She is currently working on a recording of pieces for voice and electronics.
Kurt Bjorling (clarinet, musicology) is the long-time clarinetist of the internationally renowned Brave Old World ensemble, and the founder/music director of the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble. He has toured and recorded with The Klezmatics and Ithak Perlman, and was commissioned to write new works for several orchestras including the Concordia Chamber Symphony at Lincoln Center, the Huntington Symphony and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. Bjorling has had a key role in teaching and disseminating klezmer from early twentieth-century sound recordings that he has meticulously restored. He recently edited and published a new edition of Soviet-Jewish ethnomusicologist Moshe Beregovski’s seminal treatise on klezmer.
Aaron Blacksberg (Accordion, Piano)* – a scion of the Brandwein klezmer dynasty (which produced NY clarinetist Naftule Brandwein, Krakow Yiddish theater musician Leopold Kozlowski and Philadelphia clarinetist/Yiddish cultural activist Bob Blacksberg), Blacksberg has played klezmer accordion and piano for most of his adult life, performing with klezmer luminaries at KlezKamp, KlezKanada, the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, Golden Fest, and elsewhere. He lives in Washington D.C. and has played with klezmer and Balkan ensembles at folk festivals throughout the area. He previously ran the KlezKanada Scholarship Program and will happily answer any questions about that. By day, Aaron works as an attorney in Washington.
Dan Blacksberg (trombone) – also a scion of the Brandwein klezmer dynasty and recipient of a prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Blacksberg performs with a wide range of musicians from avant garde jazz composers Anthony Braxton and Joe Morris to Frank London and Alan Bern’s Romani/Jewish Other Europeans project. Based in Philadelphia, Blacksberg additionally has been performing with his innovative project Deveykus, a Hasidic doom metal ensemble.
Rabbi Aviad Bodner (religion/spirituality) – born in Israel, Bodner became Rabbi of the Stanton Street Shul in November 2014. He previously worked as a corporate lawyer while serving as rabbi for the Moishe House in Tel Aviv, Israel. At the Moishe House, he provided halakhic advice, led Torah classes and learning groups, and helped build an inclusive, pluralistic community for olim and native Israelis. Rabbi Bodner received semicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and an LLB from Bar-Ilan University. Following the traditions established by his rabbinic predecessors at the shul, Rabbi Bodner is committed to ensuring that the Stanton Street Shul continues to develop as an inclusive center for spiritual growth with prayer,chesed, social activities, classes and learning opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Nicole and Edy Borger (vocals, coordinators) – a Sao Paulo-based chanteuse, Nicole Borger creates fresh interpretations of Yiddish song classics, setting them to a kaleidoscope of Brazilian musical styles. Her most recent album, “Raízes/Roots – A Recording of Jewish Songs Reinvented With a Brazilian Sound,” was produced by Frank London. Along with her husband Edy, Nicole founded and directs the Kleztival, an international klezmer festival in Sao Paolo, as well as the Instituto da Música Judaica Brasil. South America’s largest annual Yiddish cultural festival, the Kleztival is in its eighth year. When not performing, Nicole works as a practicing attorney.
Nikolai “Kolya” Borodulin (Yiddish language) – a master Yiddish teacher, Borodulin runs Yiddish language and culture programs for children and adults at The Workmen’s Circle, KlezKanada and other national and international venues. He is the author of Yiddish Year Round – a Curriculum for Young Beginners and a set of Yiddish games, Alefbeys Tsimes. Borodulin grew up in the Yiddish autonomous region of Birobidzhan.
Joanne Borts (vocals, theater) is a beloved Yiddish actress and cabaret singer, well-known for her work with the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater. Borts recently finished a long run with the Tony-winning Broadway production of Once. Her Broadway debut was with Fiddler on the Roof in 1991. Borts taught for many years at KlezKamp and KlezKanada, and directs the Folksbiene’s acclaimed program Kids in Yiddish. She has been featured on a number of recordings including the Milken Archive’s compilation of Yiddish Theater’s greatest hits.
David Braun (Yiddish language & history) is a language teacher and researcher of theoretical linguistics whose work focuses on Yiddish and English. He has taught at Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, NYU, Hebrew University and the Yiddish Book Center. Braun additionally works as an editor/proofreader, and language pronunciation coach for performers. He is co-chair of the board of the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center.
Zoe Christiansen (clarinet, accordion)* is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and improviser who has taught and performed klezmer and Balkan music at festivals world-wide. Born in Vermont and now based in Boston, Christiansen graduated from the New England Conservatory, where she studied with klezmer legend Hankus Netsky, and is additionally a talented visual artist.
Bob Cohen (violin, ethnomusicology) was born in New York in 1956 to a Hungarian mother and Moldavian father. In the late 1980s, he commenced his research on Hungary’s Jewish musical heritage, including songs, dances, and musical instruments. In 1993, he founded the influential Budapest-based ensemble Di Naye Kapelye (The New Band) with accordionist Christina Crowder and bassist Géza Pénzes. The musicians present klezmer music in the style in which it was originally performed in Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century. Their 2008 release Traktorist ranked high on Songline World Music Magazine’s “Top of the World” list of best new albums. Cohen served as a consultant, speaker and featured artist at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. He is currently touring as part of the Brothers Nazroff ensemble, which recently released their first album on Smithsonian Folkways; the band is featured in the new documentary by Hungarian filmmaker Csaba Bereczki entitled “Soul Exodus.”
Christina Crowder (accordion, ethnomusicology) – leader of the Bivolita Ensemble and a founding member of the renowned Budapest-based Di Naye Kapelye, Crowder has conducted decades of important research into the klezmer traditions of Romania and Moldova. A former Fulbright scholar, Crowder is currently performing with internationally-acclaimed classical clarinetist Alex Fiterstein and tsimblist Zev Feldman.
Josh Dolgin (a.k.a. “Socalled”) is a pianist, producer, rapper, singer, journalist, photographer, filmmaker, magician, cartoonist and puppet maker based in Montreal, Quebec. The subject of “The Socalled Movie”, a feature documentary produced by the National Film Board of Canada, his “Socalled Seder” was hailed as one of the greatest records of new Jewish Music, his “Hiphopkhasene” won a German Grammy for world music album of the year, while the video for his song “You Are Never Alone” was viewed by almost 3 million people on YouTube. He has lectured and led master classes in music festivals around the world, from Moscow to Paris, London to LA, and has performed on every continent in the world except India. His list of collaborators knows no boundaries: over the years he has played or recorded with David Krakauer, Gonzales, Fred Wesley, Boban Markovic, the Mighty Sparrow, Lhasa, George Clinton, Roxanne Shante, Irving Fields, Killah Priest, Matisyahu, Theodore Bikel, Enrico Macias, and Derrick Carter. Dolgin is the recipient of the 2015 Adrienne Cooper Dreaming in Yiddish Award.
Jewlia Eisenberg (vocalist, composer) – is the founder of the celebrated ensemble Charming Hostess, and collaborates with guitarist/singer Jeremiah Lockwood in The Book of J. She is interested in the particular emotional, erotic and spiritual terrains that the voice can traverse. Her work explores the intersection of text and the sounding body, pushing for translation strategies between verbal and non-verbal languages. Collaborators include anarcholits Fantom Slobode, choreographer Jo Kreiter and filmmaker Lynn Sachs. Commissioned work includes Harmonices Mundi, an opera about Kepler’s mother, and Red Rosa, a song cycle based on the letters of Rosa Luxemburg. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at MIT and University of Denver; she has studied with Bukharian sozanda Muna Nissimova, Fred Frith and Daniel Boyarin.
Walter Zev Feldman, Ph.D. (ethnomusicology, dance, tsimbl) – a pioneering instigator of the international klezmer revival through his work from the mid-1970s with Andy Statman and Dave Tarras, Feldman is a leading scholar of both klezmer and Ottoman music. His new book Klezmer: Music, History, and Memory (Oxford University Press) is the first comprehensive study of the musical structure and social history of klezmer. As a tsimbl (cimbalom/hammered dulcimer) player, Feldman co-founded the influential Khevrisa ensemble with violinist Steven Greenman, and performs with clarinetist Alex Fiterstein. He serves as co-director of the An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture.
Ken Frieden, Ph.D. (literature) – a specialist in Yiddish and Hebrew literature, Frieden is the B.G. Rudolph Professor of Judaic Studies and a full professor in the Departments of English, Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, and Religion at Syracuse University. The former director of Syracuse University Press, he helped created the series Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art, which has produced more than 50 volumes. Frieden has authored a number of books, including his latest publication, Travels in Translation: Sea Tales at the Source of Jewish Fiction. Frieden is additionally an accomplished klezmer clarinetist who performs frequently with the bands The Wandering Klezmorim and Klezmercuse at festive events in Central New York.
Jill Gellerman (dance, dance ethnography) is a leading Yiddish dance pedagogue and scholar whose research is situated at the intersections of Jewish studies, gender studies, and performance studies, including folk and popular culture, music, and dance history. Jill has documented men’s and women’s dance traditions amongst a number of Hasidic sects, and taught for many years at KlezKamp.
Paul (Hershl) Glasser, Ph.D. (linguistics) received his doctorate in Yiddish Linguistics from Columbia University in 1990. He has co-edited original Yiddish works and is editor of the English translation of Max Weinreich’s 4-volume masterpiece History of the Yiddish Language, which was published in 2008. His most recent publication is the new Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary, co-edited with Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath. For many years, he was Dean of the Max Weinreich Center at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
Sonia Gollance (dance, dance ethnography) is a PhD candidate in Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania. Supported by an AJS Completion Fellowship and a Center for Jewish History Graduate Research Fellowship, she is currently completing a dissertation on Jewish mixed-sex dancing in German and Yiddish literature. She has given public presentations on Yiddish literature and culture in the United States and internationally, including at KlezKanada and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
Sarah Gordon (educator, vocals)** – featured as lead vocalist with the acclaimed Yiddish rock group Yiddish Princess, Sarah has recorded and performed with many of the top Yiddish groups in the world including The Klezmatics, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird and others. A youth educator holding a M.Ed. from Bank Street, she teaches third grade in Brooklyn. Gordon is the daughter of the late Yiddish singer and activist Adrienne Cooper and Cantor Jonathan Gordon.
Esther Gottesman (kids program) is a native Yiddish speaker. She is currently pursuing a dual M.Ed. in general and special education at Bank Street, where she also teaches third grade. Prior to classroom teaching Esther spent 5 years working in New York public schools as a school gardening specialist. Esther grew up singing Yiddish folk songs with her father Itzik Gottesman and grandmother, renowned Yiddish poet Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. Gottesman received a prestigious New York State Council on the Arts folk arts apprenticeship through the Center for Traditional Music and Dance to study Yiddish folk song with Josh Waletzky.
Itzik Gottesman, Ph.D. (folklore & literature)** – internationally recognized as a leading scholar and activist for Yiddish language and culture, Gottesman currently teaches at University of Texas-Austin. He was previously managing editor of the Yiddish Forverts and authored the book Defining the Yiddish Nation: the Jewish Folklorists of Poland. Gottesman edits and writes the Yiddish Song of the Week blog for the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. He is the son of the renowned late poet/songwriter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman.
Sheldon Harnick (theater) – Best known for Fiddler on the Roof, Sheldon Harnick is one of the most distinguished lyricists in the history of musical theater. Working alongside composer Jerry Bock he produced some of the best loved musicals of the mid-20th century, including The Body Beautiful (1958), Fiorello! (1959), Tenderloin (1960), She Loves Me (1963), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), The Apple Tree (1966) and The Rothschilds (1970), garnering multiple Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Harnick collaborated with numerous artists over the years, including Richard Rodgers, Glenn Close, Jerome Robbins, Tom Bosley, Hal Linden, Alan Alda and Barbara Harris. Harnick’s translations include English-language versions of the librettos for Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale, Lehár’s The Merry Widow and Bizet’s Carmen. Harnick has also written original librettos for Jack Beeson’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, Thomas Z. Shepard’s Love in Two Countries, and Arnold Black’s The Phantom Tollbooth, among others. He wrote the theme-song lyrics for the films The Heartbreak Kid and Blame It on Rio, and his song The Merry Minuet was popularized by the Kingston Trio.
Jordan Hirsch (trumpet) started playing in the fifth grade in his native Monsey (a shtetl in Rockland County, New York). He progressed through classical and swing ensembles, eventually studying with well-known teacher Murray Karpilovsky. Jordan’s yeshiva training, beginning in the ninth grade, led him into the Orthodox music field, where he came into contact with veteran trumpeters Marty Bass and Shelly Gordon, whose smooth stylings became a strong influence, along with swing/klezmer star Ziggy Elman. Hirsch is constantly in-demand as a performer for simkhes around the metropolitan region, and frequently concertizes with bands such as Kleztraphobix, Klezmerfest and his own Overnight Kugel ensemble.
Miriam Isaacs, Ph.D. (Yiddish language & literature) – born in a D.P. Camp, Isaacs taught Yiddish for many years on the faculty of the University of Maryland. Most recently she has held fellowships from the State Department’s Fulbright Scholars program to research Yiddish in Sweden and the Yiddish Book Center to translate her father’s memoir. Isaacs received a fellowship from the United States Holocaust Museum which enabled her to work with the Center for Traditional Music and Dance to make accessible to the public an important archive of recordings of Holocaust survivors made by Ben Stonehill in New York in 1948.
Daniel Kahn (vocals, accordion, piano, theater) is the Berlin-based frontman of the punk-folk-klezmer band The Painted Bird, and a founding member of The Unternationale (with Psoy Korolenko), The Brothers Nazaroff (with Psoy, Michael Alpert, Jake Shulman-Ment, and Bob Cohen), and the Semer Ensemble (with Alan Bern, Sasha Lurje, Lorin Sklamberg, and more). In 2015, Kahn played Biff in New Yiddish Rep’s critically-acclaimed off-Broadway Toyt fun a Salesman (Death of a Salesman in Yiddish). His Brothers Nazroff ensemble released their first album on Smithsonian Folkways and is featured in the new documentary by Hungarian filmmaker Csaba Bereczki entitled “Soul Exodus.”
Ben Katchor (culture & cartoons) – a famed cartoonist best known for his comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, Katchor has contributed comics and drawings to The Forward, The New Yorker, and numerous other publications. He is the recipient of prestigious Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships, and was described by author Michael Chabon as “the creator of the last great American comic strip.” A fellow of the American Academy in Berlin, Katchor received an Obie award for his collaboration with Bang on a Can, and teaches at Parsons School of Design.
Tine Kindermann (visual arts)** is a German-Jewish visual artist and singer who lives and works in New York City. Her artistic work and recordings of old German folk songs draw inspiration from the darker side of folklore and deal with the timeless themes of love and loss, longing and loneliness. Kindermann’s dioramas and paintings have been shown at Stephen Romano Gallery, NY Studio Gallery, Metaphor Contemporary Art, NYU Galleries, the Toy Theatre Museum, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office and other places. She has been teaching in the visual arts program at KlezKanada for many years.
Irena Klepfisz (literature, culture) – Born in the Warsaw ghetto, Irena Klepfisz is a poet, Yiddish translator, and teacher of English literature, Yiddish language and literature, and Women’s Studies. She is the author of the poetry collection A Few Words in the Mother Tongue and Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches, and Diatribes. Klepfisz is additionally a co-editor of The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology and Jewish Women’s Call for Peace: A Handbook for Jewish Women on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict, and served for many years as Yiddish editor for Bridges magazine. She has been a long-time activist whose work has addressed homophobia in the Jewish community, women and peace in the Middle East, and secular Jewish identity. She taught for 10 years at Bedford Correctional Facility for Women and has been teaching Jewish Women’s Studies for 20 years at Barnard College. Klepfisz is being honored this year with the 2016 Adrienne Cooper Dreaming in Yiddish Award.
Psoy Korolenko (vocals, poet, piano) is a poet-singer/songwriter, scholar, journalist and musician from Moscow, Russia. He has performed on stage since 1997. Known as a ‘wandering scholar’ or ‘singing professor’, Psoy created his unique multilingual cabaret, combining traditions of Russian and European (especially French) popular and urban folk song, and Yiddish folk and theater song, with elements of rap, sound poetry, and other kinds of free-style poetry. Psoy has released a book of lyrics and essays Shlyager Veka (The Hit of the Century) and nine CDs, some of them in collaboration with Russian and foreign musicians, such as Daniel Kahn (US/Germany) and Jim Avignon a.k.a. ‘Neoangin’ (Germany). His film-screening performance Bed and Sofa (real-time rap commentary to the Soviet classic avant-guard silent movie by Abram Room, 1929) was presented in many universities in the US, and translated into English by Stuart Goldberg (Atlanta, Georgia Tech U). He is currently performing with the Brothers Nazaroff, which recently released their debut album on Smithsonian Folkways and are featured in filmmaker Csaba Bereczki’s new documentary Soul Exodus.
Cantor Janet Leuchter (musicology) is the cantor of The Greensburgh Hebrew Center in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester. Leuchter has been active in Yiddish since the early years of the klezmer revival, she was the vocalist with the pioneering women’s band Klez-meydlekh and has taught at the Yiddish Folk Arts Program (“Klez-Kamp”) and other national festivals. She has appeared in many well-known NYC venues, such as Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, 92nd Street Y, and Center for Jewish History, and throughout North America. A classically trained mezzo-soprano, she has sung in concert, oratorio and opera throughout the metropolitan area. Leuchter served at Congregation Beth Elohim (Park Slope, Brooklyn) for nine years, and Temple Avodah (Oceanside, NY) for two. She has numerous recordings to her credit, including the original version of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s anthem Harbstlid (with Michael Alpert), and she appears on the soundtrack of the Partisans of Vilna documentary.
Jenny Levison (theater)** is a playwright, screenwriter, theater artist, dancer, musician, and social justice activist whose work focuses primarily in the areas of immigrant rights and racial equality, economic justice, disability rights, LGBTQ equality, counter-white nationalism, and progressive Jewish activism. Recently serving as a Laba Fellow at the 14th Street Y, Levison previously created Shtil, Mayn Corazon—A Yiddish Tango Cabaret, a dance, music, theater work, Don’t Kiss Me, I’m in Training, a play with artwork about transgendered surrealist Jewish artist Claude Cahun, and Ezekiel’s World, a multi-media stage adaptation of Michael Kovner’s graphic novel of the same name. Levison works as Vice President of Marketing and Development for the New York-based Center for Social Inclusion, and was previously director of programming for the JCC in Manhattan.
Jeremiah Lockwood (vocals, guitar, musicology) – Son of composer Larry Lockwood and the grandson of the legendary Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, Jeremiah Lockwood began his musical career playing on the streets and subways of Manhattan performing with Piedmont Blues master Carolina Slim. Jeremiah is the front man for The Sway Machinery, a band with a unique focus on mining atavisms and cultural memory to create new and exciting music. The band performs internationally, and in 2010 performed at the legendary Festival of the Desert in Mali and recorded an album with legendary Malian artists like Khaira Arby and Djelimady Tounkara. Lockwood has additionally toured around the world with Balkan Beat Box, and composes for film and theater. He received a prestigious Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists in 2007, and served as artist-in-residence at the Jewish Daily Forward in 2010. In 2010, he additionally received a composer fellowship from the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Lockwood is currently a Ph.D. student at Stanford, where his research is focused on Hasidic cantors.
Zhenya Lopatnik (vocals/guitar) – A recent emigre to New York City from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Zhenya Lopatnik is a leading voice in a new generation of Yiddish singers and songwriters emerging from the former Soviet Union. Born into an assimilated Ukrainian-Jewish family, Lopatnik only discovered Yiddish in her mid-20s, but quickly made her mark in the field. Heard once or a dozen times, Zhenya’s songs ring deeply familiar. They stir the soul and awake memories even for those who are too young to remember. And for those old enough to know, the sounds transport them to a world cut short by war and migration. In collaboration with pianist Yuriy Khainson, Zhenya has released three albums of original songs, and has served for over a decade as the vocalist of Kharkov Klezmer Band. She is also a key organizer of the international Klezmer festival “Kharkov Klezmer Teg,” and has been awarded the Golden Chanukiah Prize from the “World Congress of Russian Jewry” for her contribution to Yiddish culture. Zhenya additionally collaborates with Alan Bern and Mark Kovnatskiy of Germany’s Semer Ensemble, in performance of their new song project “The Holy Sparks.” Zhenya is currently involved in two Ukrainian and Roma-Jewish traditional song projects, “Ternovka Ensemble” and “Zapekanka Project,” both based out of New York City.
Frank London (trumpet)** – Founding member of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics and the Klezmer Brass All-Stars, London is involved with a myriad of major international projects. He has been serving as the Artistic Director of Quebec’s KlezKanada festival, and recently was the music director of a production of The Merchant of Venice presented in the Venetian Ghetto as part of the Ghetto’s 500th anniversary commemoration. London’s work with the Glass House Project was recognized in 2016 by the Republic of Hungary, which bestowed him with a state honor, the Knight of Cross, entitling London to style himself as “Sir Frank.”
Sasha Lurje (vocals)* – a native of Riga now living in Berlin, Lurje performs internationally with the Forshpil duo (with accordionist Ilya Shneyveys). She was commissioned by the Maxim Gorki Theater Studio in Berlin to develop an “interlingual” love song duo program STRANGELOVESONGS with Daniel Kahn, and has recently been appearing as a founding member of Semer Label Reloaded led by Alan Bern, which reinterprets Jewish music recorded in Berlin in the 30s.
Gerald Marcus is the translator of Reuben Iceland’s From Our Springtime, Literary Portraits and Memoirs of Yiddish New York, and (just out) Joseph Rolnik’s With Rake in Hand, Memoirs of a Yiddish Poet, both published by Syracuse University Press. He is a noted singer of traditional Yiddish songs and has concertized with the group Zingeray at various venues in New York.
Cantor Jack Mendelson is the subject of the documentary film A Cantor’s Tale directed by Erik Greenberg Anjou. In reviewing the film, The New York Times called him, “a voice that heralds a culture… a documentary filmmaker’s dream.” Cantor Mendelson is also featured in the documentary films: 100 Voices, and Journey of Spirit, the film on the life of Debbie Friedman, and Deli Man. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he witnessed the dwindling days of the Golden Age of Hazzanut. Now, as both an international performer and one of the leading cantorial masters of today, he is passing on his art to a new generation of cantors. For over 25 years he has taught at the Hebrew Union College School of Sacred Music, and the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Mendelson served for many years as the cantor of Temple Israel Center in White Plains.
Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer (religion/spirituality, vocals)** is the assistant rabbi and co-music director for Romemu, an innovative congregation on the Upper West Side. She came to the rabbinate after a successful career as an actress, most notably featured in Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film The Pianist. Meyer was ordained by Hebrew College Rabbinical School, and strives to build community through prayerful music, and music through prayerful community. During her rabbinic training she developed inter-generational education programs and prayer services for Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, MA, interned with a Masorti community in Tel Aviv, and spent a year in Jerusalem directing leadership programs for the non-profit organization Encounter. As a musician, Jessica served as ‘Jewish music specialist’ and led ‘nigun labs’ in Boston area synagogues, and performed as vocalist/storyteller/fiddler in a klezmer band with Hankus Netsky.
Rabbi Avram Mlotek (teens) is a co-founder of Base, an innovative new model for Jewish practice that reaches out to unaffiliated young adults. The Forward recently listed him as one of America’s “Most Inspiring Rabbis” and in 2012, he was recognized by the Jewish Week as one of 36 outstanding leading Jewish leaders 36 years or under in 2012. Mlotek served as a rabbi in training at The Carlebach Shul, The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, The Educational Alliance and Hunter College Hillel. His writings have appeared in The Forward, Tablet, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Week, and The Huffington Post. A native Yiddish speaker, and accomplished actor, Mlotek is the son of Folksbiene director Zalman Mlotek and the grandson of noted Yiddish song researchers Chana and Joe Mlotek.
Avia Moore (dance) specializes in devised performance and collective creation, working with a deep understanding of cultural and performance theory. Avia completed her BA Honours in Drama at the University of Alberta, and her MA in Devised Theatre at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England. At Dartington College, an institution internationally recognized as a locus of contemporary arts practices, she focused on cultural memory and performance, developing new work from traditional source material. An active part of the international Jewish artistic community, has also worked with Jewish festivals and cultural organizations around the world, including KlezKanada, The Ashkenaz Festival, Yiddish Summer Weimar, and The Jewish Community in St. Petersburg, Russia. Avia is the founder of Uncatalogued Productions, production company dedicated to creating new works and promoting emerging artists, and Burnt Wine Theatre, a series of projects exploring contemporary Jewish theatre.
Adam Moss (violin)* – a Brooklyn based fiddler and songster, Moss is accomplished in a number of traditional genres including klezmer, bluegrass, old-time and swing. He is actively touring with with his twin brother David as The Brothers Brothers, and also performs frequently with groups such as Boston’s Session Americana, Brooklyn’s The Defibulators, and Ana Egge.
Luisa Muhr (theater, vocals)* is a New York-based professional actor, vocalist, movement artist, director, educator and co-founder/co-artistic director of the theater and performing arts company FENGARI Ensemble. She not only has a background in regular classical and modern theater but also in experimental, Yiddish, puppet, movement-based, and musical theater, where she has performed in numerous roles and plays at Off-Broadway venues and abroad. Recent credits include: COCKPIT, Dolores, A Monument to Oscar Lopez Rivera, Empire Travel Agency and Richard III. As a professional singer Luisa performs in English, Yiddish, and German. In NYC Luisa has worked with The Bread and Puppet Theater (under Peter Schumann), Woodshed Collective, the Box Collective, and is part of Marisa Michelson’s Marigold Chor Ensemble. Throughout the last decade she has directed multiple pieces including the most recent ones The Wedding of the Waters and COCKPIT.
Ethel Raim (vocals)*** – recognized as one of the nation’s leading advocates for traditional performing arts, Raim is a master singer of unaccompanied Yiddish ballads and Balkan folk songs. She first gained recognition with American audiences during the folk revival of the 1960s as the founder of the influential all-women’s group The Pennywhistlers. Raim served as music editor of Sing Out! Magazine before joining Martin Koenig in founding the Balkan Arts Center in 1968, which later changed its name to the Ethnic Folk Arts Center and today is known as the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. Raim is a 2013 recipient of a prestigious Benjamin Botkin Award from the American Folklore Society for her career contribution to public sector folklore.
Allen Lewis Rickman (theater) is an actor, writer, and director, whose credits include the Coen brothers’ Oscar-nominated A Serious Man, Barry Levinson’s You Don’t Know Jack (with Al Pacino), John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo (with Woody Allen), and recurring roles on Boardwalk Empire and Public Morals. He co-adapted and directed the Drama Desk-nominated Yiddish Pirates of Penzance, and has acted on Broadway, Off Broadway, in regional theatre, and in Yiddish theatre. Plays he’s written have been produced in France, Denmark, Spain, Luxembourg, Sweden, and New Jersey, and his revue The Essence: A Yiddish Theater Dim Sum was published in the anthology Yiddishkeit, co-edited by the late Harvey Pekar.
Jenny Romaine (theater, teens) is a founding member of the Obie-winning Great Small Works visual theater collective based in New York City, and the inaugural winner of the Adrienne Cooper Award for Dreaming in Yiddish. She was a sound archivist at the YIVO institute for Jewish Research for 13 years and has dedicated three decades to the creation of New Yiddish Performance ranging from giant spectacle and film to installation and miniature theater performed in living rooms. For over 15 years she has music directed Bessie/Obie winning Circus Amok directed by Jennifer Miller. In 2016 Romaine received the Marshall T Meyer Risk Taker Award from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and was a featured culture producer/educator on the Helix Project sponsored by Yiddishkayt Los Angeles in Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia. Recently Romaine wrote and co-created Muntergang and other Cheerful Downfalls, a hand puppet show about two Yiddish radical puppeteers from the early 20th century (Zuni Maud and Yosl Kotler) and directed the Yiddish epic Bovo D’Antona adapted by NY Times Bestselling author Michael Wex, for Yiddish Summer Weimar and KlezKanada.
Joyce Rosenzweig (piano) – Rosenzweig is a much sought-after accompanist, conductor, master class presenter, lecturer, coach, arranger, and authority on Jewish art and synagogue music. She appears frequently in concerts internationally with leading cantors and Yiddish singers. Rosenzweig additionally is Artist-In-Residence at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College, is an adjunct professor at Jewish Theological Seminary, and the long time Music Director of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Manhattan.
Pete Rushefsky (tsimbl)*** – a leading performer, composer and researcher of the Jewish tsimbl (cimbalom or hammered dulcimer), Rushefsky tours and records internationally with violinist Itzhak Perlman as part of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, and collaborates with a number of leading figures in the contemporary klezmer scene. Since 2006 he has served as Executive Director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to the preservation and presentation of diverse immigrant music traditions from around the world. He curated the Yiddish program at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Yankl Salant (kid’s program, Yiddish) has been working in the field of Yiddish for decades in a variety of capacities including translator, educator, graphic designer, editor, proofreader, lexicographer, actor and children’s songwriter. He is currently on the faculty of YIVO’s Uriel Weinreich Summer Program where he leads a popular hands-on workshop for deciphering, reading and translating handwritten Yiddish texts of all kinds. He is also Art Director at the League for Yiddish and the designer of their magazine Afn Shvel. Salant was Associate Editor of the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary (2013) and Bibliographic Editor of the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe (2008). He is currently collaborating with Joshua Karlip as translation editor on his Oyfn Sheydveg book project and has also been commissioned by the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst to lay out and produce their forthcoming Yiddish language textbook. A longtime teacher in KlezKamp’s children’s program, he’s thrilled to be back with the kids at YNY.
Elissa Sampson, Ph.D. (history, culture) is an urban geographer who studies how the past is actively used to create new spaces of migration, memory and heritage. Her recent dissertation documents how the acquisition of a Lower East Side building shapes the Tenement Museum’s stories of U.S. immigration, ethnicity, representation and social mobility. She is a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University. Her research interests include migration; Yiddish theater; the Jewish Left; American Jewish culture; gentrification; historical preservation; synagogue architecture; memory studies; digital humanities; Triangle Fire commemoration; the history of geography; the practice of genealogy; and the anthropology of breast cancer genetics. She has given academic and public tours and lectures on the Lower East Side’s built environment and communities for many years and was recently a featured consultant for the 2016 documentary, Streit’s and the American Dream.
Nahma Sandrow, Ph.D. (theater) is best known as the author of Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater, now in its third edition and considered the definitive work in the field. Her other books include God, Man, and Devil: Yiddish Plays in Translation and Surrealism: Theater, Arts, Idea. The opera Enemies, A Love Story (based on I.B. Singer’s novel), for which she wrote the libretto with composer Ben Moore, premiered at the Palm Beach Opera in 2015. Sandrow won the Outer Critics Circle Award for the book of the musical Kuni-Leml, and has a number of additional credits, including her adaptation of Vagabond Stars for the stage, and a translation of Shulamis, a classic Goldfaden Yiddish operetta, for Harvard University.
Henry Sapoznik (ethnomusicology, banjo, vocals) – internationally recognized as one of the klezmer revival’s pioneering figures, Sapoznik is a musician, scholar, author and record producer who founded KlezKamp and worked as its director for many years. Currently director of the University of Wisconsin’s Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, Sapoznik previously served as the founding director of YIVO’s sound archive. His writings The Compleat Klezmer and Klezmer! Jewish Music From Old World To Our World are the best-selling books about the music and have been republished in multiple editions. Sapoznik co-founded and performed for many years with the seminal klezmer revival ensembles Kapelye and Klezmer Plus! He won a prestigious Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism in 2002 for his Yiddish Radio Project on NPR with David Isay, and has received multiple nominations for Grammy and Emmy awards.
Binyumen Schaechter (choir, piano) is the conductor of the renowned Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus / JPPC, a 40-voice, intergenerational SATB audition chorus that performs only in Yiddish. Schaechter, also an award-winning composer of musicals, revue songs and cabaret songs, has been represented off-Broadway by his musical Double Identity, and four revues including Naked Boys Singing, the 4th longest-running show in off-Broadway history which has been performed throughout five continents, and Too Jewish? (with Avi Hoffman) which was broadcast on PBS and nominated for Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Schaechter’s music has been sung by many singers, including Tovah Feldshuh and Andrea Marcovicci, and featured on PBS, ABC and NBC TV. The son of the renowned late Yiddish linguist, Mordkhe Schaechter, Binyumen is the creator of numerous wonderful programs of Yiddish song, several featuring his actor-singer – and native-Yiddish-speaking – daughters, Reyna and Temma, known together as Di Shekhter-tekhter.
Miryem-Khaye Seigel is a Yiddish singer, songwriter, actor and research librarian. Toyznt tamen = A thousand flavors (2015) is her album of original and adapted Yiddish songs. Miryem-Khaye is a frequent performer with Hankus Netsky‘s Hebrew National Salvage and with YNY’s Shane Baker, and her theater credits include Folksbiene and New Yiddish Rep. She has performed, lectured and taught at Klez Kamp, Klez Kanada, Yiddish New York, Yiddish Australia, Seminarium języka i kultury jidys (Poland), and La Kehile (Mexico), among others. She received a prestigious 2016 Center for Traditional Music and Dance Folk Arts Apprenticeship from the New York State Council of the Arts to study Yiddish folk song with YNY’s Joshua Waletzky. A fluent Yiddish speaker and scholar, she completed advanced Yiddish studies at YIVO, later receiving YIVO’s Joseph Kremen Memorial Fellowship for “The Broder Singers: Forerunners of the Yiddish Theater” (article forthcoming in Polin), and she is currently translating the memoirs of Yiddish actress Bertha Kalich for publication..
Yelena Shmulenson (theater) – is a TV, film and theater actress whose credits include the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd, ABC’s Life on Mars, PBS’s American Experience: Fire At The Triangle“, and the film Romeo & Juliet in Yiddish. As a stage actress Shmulenson spent four seasons Off-Broadway with the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater, two seasons at the Ellis Island Theatre, Bronx Express and The Unlucky Man In A Yellow Cap (both Fringe NYC), Enemies: A Love Story in Russian, Frank London’s musical A Night In the Old Marketplace, the tours of Lady of Copper: The Statue of Liberty Musical and The Essence: A Yiddish Theater Dim Sum. She has also recorded several audio books, winning the Earphones Award for her recordings of Train to Trieste and Cynthia Ozick’s The Shawl and Rosa. Shmulenson emigrated to the US from the Ukraine in 1993 and is fluent in five languages.
Ilya Shneyveys (accordion, keyboards, guitar)* is a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer and educator specializing in Jewish music, from klezmer and Yiddish folk song to fusion and experimental projects. Ilya is the artistic director and a founding member of Forshpil and a founding member of the Yiddish-Bavarian fusion project Alpen Klezmer (Germany), winner of 2014 RUTH World music award at TFF Rudolstadt. He frequently performs with Dobranotch (Russia) and collaborates with artists such as Alan Bern, the Klezmatics, and Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird. He has been featured as a performer and teacher in Yiddish and world music festivals worldwide and is renowned for his improvising, accompanying and band leading.
Jake Shulman-Ment (violin) is recognized internationally as both one of the leading performers of the klezmer violin tradition, as well as an innovator for his work in exploring the deep connection between klezmer and Moldavian muzica lautareasca (Romani/Gypsy music). Beginning studies in klezmer from age 12, he was initially a protégé of Alicia Svigals, the long-time violinist of the Klezmatics. Shulman-Ment later immersed himself in related violin traditions, living in Greece, Hungary and Romania for extended periods, becoming fluent in both the musical and spoken languages. In 2010-2011 Shulman-Ment was a Fulbright Scholar based in the Eastern Romanian province of Moldavia, where he was surely the first American (or outsider from any other place) to become a member of the well-regarded professional Botosani Folk Orchestra. He regularly headlines festivals with his own ensemble as well as with the Brothers Nazaroff, Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird, Di Naye Kapelye, and the Glass House Project and teaches at leading Yiddish music camps internationally. In New York, Shulman-Ment worked with Center for Traditional Music and Dance to found the Tantshoyz (dance house) program. Modeled after the Hungarian tanchaz movement, the Tantshoyz works to revitalize the Yiddish dance tradition, and has been replicated in a number of cities in North America and Europe. His critically-acclaimed album A Redl (A Wheel) was released on the German Oriente label. Shulman-Ment has been featured in Harper’s Magazine and in an upcoming documentary by renowned Hungarian filmmaker Csaba Bereczki.
Mark Slobin, Ph.D. (ethnomusicology) is the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music Emeritus at Wesleyan University and the author or editor of many books, on Afghanistan and Central Asia, eastern European Jewish music, film music, and ethnomusicology theory, two of which have received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award: Fiddler on the Move: Exploring the Klezmer World and Tenement Songs: Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants. He has been President of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Asian Music. In the late 1970s and early 80s Slobin served as the academic adviser to Zev Feldman and Andy Statman’s NEA-funded project with Dave Tarras through the Balkan Arts Center (now Center for Traditional Music and Dance) that helped to jumpstart the international klezmer revitalization. Slobin is currently working on a book about ethnic music in his hometown of Detroit.
Peter Sokolow (piano, keyboards, reed instruments, vocalist) has been active in Jewish music since 1956 as performer, arranger-orchestrator, author and co-author of books on klezmer performance and repertoire, among them “The Compleat Klezmer”, and teacher-lecturer-historian. He performed regularly with many of the “greats” of the past: Dave Tarras, Irving Gratz, the Epstein Brothers, Sid Beckerman, Paul Pincus, Ray Musiker, Howie Leess, Danny Rubinstein, Rudy Tepel, Sam Kutcher, and many, many others. He served as the link between the older generation and the young revivalists, active at camps such as KlezKamp and KlezKamp for decades. His many recordings include Epstein Brothers (3 recordings: 1 in 1971, 2 in 1993), Nigunei Chabad (7 recordings 1973 – 1981), Original Klezmer Jazz Band (1984 – 1993), Klezmer Plus (1988), Ray Musiker (2006), Michael Winograd’s Tarras Band (2010), Klezmerfats (2002), Kapelye (3 recordings: 1994, 2003, 2005), and Peter Sokolow: A Living Tradition (2010). He also has had parallel careers playing in traditional jazz and commercial dance groups. TV/Film appearances: The Chosen (1981), A Jumpin’ Night in the Garden of Eden (1988), Fiddler on the Hoof (BBC 1991), A Tickle in the Heart (1996), In the Fiddler’s House (1998).
Alisa Solomon, Ph.D. is a teacher, journalist, and dramaturg. A professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, her reporting and cultural criticism have appeared in numerous publications. Her books include Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender, and Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof, which has received several prestigious awards. Solomon was previously a theater critic for the Village Voice.
Daniel Soyer, Ph.D. (history) is Professor of History at Fordham University, where he teaches American immigration and ethnic history. His book with Annie Polland, The Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, 1840-1920 (NYU Press, 2012), was part of a series that received the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Book of the Year. Earlier books covered Eastern European Jewish immigration and identity and immigrant workers in the garment industry. Soyer’s writings have been recognized with awards from the American Jewish Historical Society and Harvard University Press. He has consulted or curated on a variety of projects for organizations such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, WNET-TV, the Museum of the City of New York and the Center for Jewish History. Soyer and appeared on the TV series History Detectives, and has been featured in the New York Times.
Joanna Sternberg (bass) is a talented multi-instrumentalist/singer who has rapidly become one of the most in-demand musicians in New York City. She grew up in a musical family – the late famed cantor/Yiddish actor Moishe Oysher is her great-uncle – and started playing the piano and writing songs at age 5. When Joanna turned 11 she learned how to play guitar and electric bass. She became obsessed with Motown records, R&B and Rock N’ Roll. After high school at LaGuardia Music and Art, she studied at both Mannes College and the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music. On any given night, Sternberg can be found on a band stand performing jazz, country, bluegrass, klezmer, rock, or her own original singer/songwriter material. In addition to being a musician, Joanna is a visual artist who draws comics, cartoons, illustrations, and designs clothes and accessories.
Deborah Strauss (violin) is a beloved internationally-acclaimed klezmer violinist and educator who has been active in the klezmer and Yiddish music scene for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Strauss/Warschauer Duo and was a long-time member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band and the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble. Strauss has appeared on numerous recordings, was featured in the Emmy award-winning film, Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler’s House, and teaches Yiddish music, dance and culture regularly at festivals internationally. For her work with children, Deborah received a Workmen’s Circle award for excellence in teaching.
Deborah Ugoretz (visual arts)** is a visual artist who works across a number of media. She is a master papercutter, who explores the tradition in Yiddish culture; her papercuts have been included in publications by the Museum of Art and Design (New York) and the Middlesex County (New Jersey) Cultural and Heritage Commission’s Folklife program. Ugoretz has designed stained glass windows and synagogue art for the Russ Berrie Home for Jewish Life, Rockleigh, New Jersey and other houses of worship. She has received commissions from The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the University of Michigan, Jewish Theological Seminary and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Cathedral of St. John The Divine and she has taught/lectured on papercutting and other arts at a number of institutions. Ugoretz additionally was a coordinator for an Artist Beit Midrash, a group of artists who study Jewish texts and then create visual interpretations.
Josh Waletzky (vocals, piano, film)** is leading contemporary Yiddish songwriter and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. He co-produced the Grammy-nominated album of Jewish songs of resistance, Partisans of Vilna (1989), and his groundbreaking CD of original Yiddish songs,Crossing the Shadows (2001), was hailed as “a classic of the American-Jewish folk revival.” Waletzky has been involved as a director and editor of a number of acclaimed films. He directed Image Before My Eyes (1981), Partisans of Vilna (1986), and the Academy Award-nominated Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann (1992). His editing credits include the Emmy Award-winning documentary Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler’s House (1995). Waletzky was additionally a consultant to Barbra Streisand on her production of Yentl. He has served as a master teacher to a number of Yiddish singers and songwriters through the New York State Council on the Arts Folk Arts Apprenticeship program. Waletzky was for a number of years the music director at Camp Boiberik. His father, Sholom, was a noted Yiddish singer and his mother, Tsirl, was a master visual artist.
Cantor Jeff Warschauer (religion/spirituality, vocals, mandolin, guitar) graduated in 2015 from the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Jeff serves as Cantor at Temple Sinai in Massapequa, NY, and as Cantor-in-Residence at Israel Congregation of Manchester in Vermont. He has also served congregations in Maine and Connecticut, and in Brooklyn, NY. In the Yiddish and klezmer scene, Jeff is internationally renowned as an instrumentalist, singer and teacher. He is on the faculty of Columbia University, and is a Founding Artistic Director and Senior Artistic Advisor of the KlezKanada Institute for Yiddish/Jewish Culture. One half of the Strauss/Warschauer Duo, Jeff was a long-time member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Jeff speaks Yiddish, and has researched Yiddish and Hebrew songs and instrumental melodies since the mid-1980s. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, and has studied Jewish culture, languages, and religion at the Conservative Yeshiva, Oxford University, Columbia University, the University of Haifa and Tufts University. He has received numerous awards in Music, Community Activities, Judaica and Musicology, as well as the Amalgamated Bank Prize in Yiddish, a Massachusetts Folk Arts Fellowship, and the KlezKanada Distinguished Service Award.
Elaine Hoffman Watts (percussion) is a highly influential klezmer drummer, and recipient of prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (National Heritage Fellowship, 2007) and the Pew Center for Arts and Culture. The Hoffman family came to Philadelphia from Krivozer, a town near Odessa in the former Soviet Union. Her father, Jacob Hoffman, was a prominent member of a klezmer band that was recorded in the 1920s. Elaine received training from her father and uncles in the family’s repertoire of polkas, freilachs, mazurkas, shers, and other tunes of Eastern European Jewish musical tradition. She became the first woman graduate in percussion from the Curtis Institute of Music. With many opportunities before her, Watts chose to maintain the three-generation family tradition of playing klezmer music at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other social events. She points out that being a woman and a drummer often was a barrier in her career but as one klezmer scholar observes, “Elaine is an important role-model to young players who otherwise would have no clue that women were indeed a part of traditional Yiddish music. Because those of us who study traditional Yiddish culture have no homeland in Europe to which we can return, we rely heavily on the 78-rpm recordings that were made during the early years of the 20th century. The vast majority of musicians on those recordings were men, and Elaine’s presence is critical in redressing this imbalance.” Elaine continues to perform regularly with her daughter Susan Hoffman Watts in the Fabulous Shpielkehs.
Susan Hoffman Watts (trumpet, vocals) represents the youngest generation of an important klezmer dynasty that reaches back to the Jewish Ukraine of the 19th century, beginning with her great-grandfather, musician, composer, cornet-player, and poet, Joseph Hoffman. Susan is the sole living purveyor of the family’s traditional klezmer-style trumpet sounds which electrified audiences for decades. Susan and her mother Elaine Hoffman Watts (a percussionist who was recognized with a prestigious NEA National Heritage Fellowship) continue to perform in Philadelphia with their band, the Fabulous Shpielkehs, and are the features of several televised documentaries. In addition to playing with a variety of noted klezmer musicians from around the world, Hoffman Watts has recorded, performed and sang with, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, David Krakauer, So-Called, Claire Barry, Many Pitankin, Dudu Fischer, Mikveh, Beyond the Pale, Shtreimel, The Klez Dispensers, Greg Wall, The Klezmatics, Henkus Netsky, Klezmer Conservatory Band. Watts received a prestigious fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts and Culture, and founded the Community Klezmer Initiative, which presents regular concerts, dance parties and workshops around Philadelphia.
Steve Weintraub (dance) is in international demand as a teacher of traditional Yiddish dance at festivals and workshops around the world, including KlezKamp, KlezKanada, and festivals in Krakow, Furth, Paris, London and Weimar, to name a few. Much of his career has been creating and performing Jewish dance; he has worked with choreographers Felix Fibich and Shulamite Kivel, and has performed the work of Fred Berk. He was a principal dancer and choreographer with the Israeli folkdance group Parparim, assistant director of the annual Israeli Folk Dance Festival in NYC, performed as half of the duo dance company Paller Rubenstein and Weintraub, and has choreographed a number of musicals in New York, Atlanta and Chicago. A native New Yorker now based in Philadelphia, Weintraub is involved with a program teaching dance to individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease and is in the process of developing a dance company to perform to new klezmer music. He was a student of Alvin Ailey and Erick Hawkins.
Michael Wex, Ph.D. (theater, culture) – Author of the New York Times bestseller Born to Kvetch, the all-time bestselling book about Yiddish, and the national bestsellers How To Be A Mentsh (And Not A Shmuck), Just Say Nu, and The Frumkiss Family Business, Michael Wex has been called “a Yiddish national treasure.” Born to Kvetch, his landmark book on Yiddish, was hailed by The New York Times as “wise, witty and altogether wonderful.” Wex ‘s teaching and lecture activities–a unique combination of learning, stand-up comedy and probing investigation into the nature of Yiddish and Yiddishkayt–have taken him from Toronto to Budapest, and to many points in between. His most recent book, Rhapsody in Schmaltz, which does for Yiddish food what Born to Kvetch did for Yiddish speech, was published in 2016.
Michael Winograd (clarinet)** is one of the most sought out Klezmer musicians today. He performs internationally with his own groups, the Yiddish Art Trio (with Patrick Farrell and Benjy Fox-Rosen), Tarras Band (with Pete Sokolow and Ben Holmes), Yiddish Princess, as well as with Socalled, Budowitz, Frank London and others. Winograd received prestigious commissions from the MAP Fund and Chamber Music America for his Sandaraa project with renowned Pakistani vocalist Zeb Bangash. He teaches regularly at KlezKamp, KlezKanada, Yiddish Summer Weimar and other Jewish music workshops throughout North America and Europe. His most recent solo album Storm Game was released on Golden Horn Records in 2012.
Esther Wratschko (vocals, bassoon, piano)* is a musician and choir conductor from Vienna, Austria. She is about to finish her master’s in music education and choir conducting at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and currently in New York working on a research project about “Wienerlied“ (Viennese folkloric song) in exile in New York. At the age of 16 Wratschko stumbled into the world of Yiddish music and has been a regular at workshops and events internationally since then, exploring klezmer and Yiddish song, but also the Yiddish language itself through the YIVO Summer Program. In Vienna, aside from her choirs, Wratschko was leading the regular Klezmer Sessions. She performs in solo programs as well as in various ensembles.
*YNY Fellows/Work Study
**YNY Organizing Committee
***Fiscal sponsor (Center for Traditional Music and Dance)