REVIEW OF YIDDISH STORYTELLING WITH SHANIE LEVIN & AL STEIN
Tell me a story, please…
…which one of us has not made this oft repeated request, of a mother, a father, a zaydeh or bubbie?
On Tuesday, on Oct.30th 2015, almost 70 people gathered at the Peretz where they were warmly welcomed by Peretz President, Gene Homel who listed some of the activities which can be found at the Centre; namely – B’Nai Mitzvah and Family Education program, adult Yiddish classes as well an upcoming banquet in honour of I.L. Peretz, the celebrated Yiddish author after whom the Centre was named and who passed away 100 years ago in July 1915.
The Tuesday event was held in partnership with the Sholom Aleichem’s Speaker’s Series (SASS, or ‘SASSY’, as they familiarly call it), celebrating the life of the well-known and much loved author (1869 – 1916), which Gyda Chud, of both Jewish Seniors Alliance and Peretz Centre explained while introducing this year’s JSA first session of Elders Empowering Elders.
It was with a song in their hearts and tears in their eyes, that the audience sat enraptured listening first to a session that propelled them back to their “kindehr Yorehn’ – childhood years – while listening, captivated, to Myrna Rabinowitz, tugging at their heart strings while she sang several favourite Yiddish songs including several of her own original ones as well as the one that she had composed and written for the birth or her grandson. She explained that she had a passion for Yiddish.
Following that, the age-old request of a story being told was granted, to the delight of everyone who sat riveted, as Shanie Levin and Al Stein read stories, which came alive with their interpretive reading and their excellent voice renderings. Enhanced by the clever use of minimal but appropriate costuming and done with humour, images of the characters and the way of life for Shayneh Shayndel and Menchem Mendel became real to those listening, as did the ongoing dilemma that they each faced. As Sholom Aleichem once famously stated ” You can take the Jew out of the shtetl but you cannot take the shtetl out of the Jew”.
In thanking the performers, Chud quoted Al Stein, one of the readers, who had said in his preface to reading his first story –
“In keeping with the Narodnik movement (Power to the People) –the young Russian intelligentsia at the time, and not the elite, Sholom Rabinovitch chose the name Sholom Aleichem – the common Jewish greeting, as his pen name – ‘Peace be unto you’.
Chud added that it was fortuitous that the Power to the People was what had motivated Sholom Rabinovitch to change his name, as that was indeed the theme of our Empowerment series, namely, “Elders Empowering Elders”.
Ken Levitt, one of the JSA’s Vice Presidents, rose to the occasion by thanking the performers, partly in Yiddish, resourcefully researched on the internet, explaining that he hadn’t grown up in a Yiddish-speaking household, but Yiddish had been used as a secret language between his parents. A shaynehm dahnk, Ken, for your valiant effort. You endeared yourself to all the Yiddish-speaking people in the audience.
The session ended with eppes zees – something sweet – mit a Yiddish ta-am – (with a Jewish taste) accompanied by hot drinks. To quote one of the characters in the story that Shanie read –”If you have a piece of bread, take your eyes off the cake!”
Well, the audience had “both” – substance and sweets –nourishing both needs.
Thanks so much to the volunteers of both organizations, and to the JSA staff, Karon Shear and Rita Propp!
Ehs eez givehn a mechayeh – it was a pleasure and an oisgetzaichent outstanding, and enriching, togetherness time.
Binny Goldman, JSA
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