Press Release

Yiddish and African-American Music Meet in a Celebration of Two Cultures
Soul to Soul concert
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
by M Groogan

Yiddish and African-American Music Meet in a Celebration of Two Cultures

 Houston, TX – Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston and the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene present Soul to Soul:  Yiddish and African-American Music Meet in a Celebration of Two Cultures Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 8:15 p.m. This stirring musical presentation brings together the African American and the Yiddish American experience and is conceived and directed by Zalmen Mlotek, Artistic Director of the Folksbiene, America’s oldest Yiddish Theatre.  An internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music and a leading figure in the Jewish theatre and concert worlds, this is Mlotek’s third appearance on the Kaplan Theatre Stage.

“Last year, I had the chance to experience Soul to Soul at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City and was struck by the power of the performance, the message of the shared themes, and the audience reaction---people were out of their seats, clapping and singing along thanks to the supertitles that aided in audience participation,” said Marilyn Hassid, the J’s Assistant Executive Director. “Zalmen has created a rousing celebration of two cultures and I’m thrilled we are bringing Soul to Soul to Houston.”

Mlotek was raised in a prominent Yiddish-speaking family renowned for its Jewish songbook collections.  His formal training as a classical musician and conductor was at Julliard School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Tanglewood Music Center, Manhattan School of Music and Mannes School of Music.  Among his most notable teachers and mentors was Leonard Bernstein. He studied conducting with Zubin Mehta, James Levine and other masters. Mlotek‘s deep roots in Yiddish culture, his elite musical education, his talent and passion for both have merged into a career that has revitalized the world of Yiddish music and theater.

Soul to Soul is his most recent production and explores the intersections between African-American and Yiddish folk music traditions through “plaintive Yiddish melodies,”haunting blues, and spirited jazz that reflect “common themes of persecution and deliverance, sadness and optimism.” (The New York Jewish Week)  The program is in English and Yiddish with English and Russian supertitles. The production features two Broadway veterans: opera singer Elmore James and actor/singer Tony Perry.  Tel Aviv native and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, singer-trumpeter Magda Fishman and singer/actress Lisa Fishman complete the vocal section and all are joined by a four-piece klezmer-jazz band led by Mlotek.

Soul to Soul’s performance at the J is the kickoff event for the weeklong YiddishFest: A Celebration of Classic & Contemporary Yiddish Culture. Programs run from February 18-25 and include film, art, thought and comedy, culminating in An Evening With YidLife Crisis on February 25. Visit for more information and to purchase tickets. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

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