Press Release

Yiddish Is Back
Friday, February 10, 2017
by M Groogan

Yiddish Is Back 

Houston, TX – Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston invites you to be a part of YiddishFest: A Celebration of Classic & Contemporary Yiddish Culture, from February 18 – 25. Whether you speak Yiddish, your grandparents did, or you love the fact that words such as schlep, mentsch, and shtik have crept into the English language, the festival offers something for everyone, featuring music, film, thought and comedy.

            The festival opens February 18 with the Afro-Yiddish Soul to Soul concert presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and conceived and directed by Zalmen Mlotek. Soul to Soul was born of the desire to fuse African American and Yiddish folk music that expresses the common journeys of two cultures.

Soul to Soul has been an emotional reminder of how much the African American and Yiddish cultures share, and how much the two communities have inspired one another over centuries,” said Zalmen Mlotek “Working with these particular performers has made the journey that much more exhilarating as each is a brilliant and charismatic artist.”

            The festival continues with the classic Yiddish film Zayn Vaybs Lubovnik (His Wife’s Lover) being screened February 20 at 1:00 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. Billed as the first Jewish musical comedy talking picture, the film was made in New York City in 1931 and was directed by Sidney Goldin. Ludwig Satz, who also wrote the songs, is the featured actor in the film and is often thought of as an early Jerry Lewis. Dr. Melissa Weininger of Rice University will moderate a discussion after the evening screening. The film is on loan from The National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University.

            On February 23, Dr. Itzik Gottesman of the University of Texas at Austin will be giving a talk entitled What’s Jewish (And Yiddish) About the Evil Eye? Dr. Gottesman is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Germanic Studies at UT and is also on the faculty of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies. His specialty is Jewish folklore, and he currently directs the blog “Yiddish Song of the Week,” which features rare field recordings of Yiddish folksingers. Dr. Gottesman is the former managing editor of New York’s Yiddish Forward newspaper, where he wrote weekly articles on Jewish and Yiddish culture.

            Also on February 23, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., immediately preceding Dr. Gottesman’s talk, local artists Anat Ronen and Talya Arbisser will open their exhibit Don’t Give Me The Eye with a viewing and reception in the Deutser Gallery at the J. This exhibit will focus on dybbuks, golems, and evil eyes and will explore how these symbols have appeared throughout Jewish literature, art and film for hundreds of years.

            YiddishFest closes February 25 with a comedic performance from the popular young duo Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman, also known as YidLife Crisis. YidLife Crisis is a Yiddish comedy web series and evolving Jewish cultural brand created by two friends, Batalion and Elman, wanting to pay homage to the yiddishkayt in their upbringing and questioning the Jewish comedic lens on life with which they were raised. Filmed in Yiddish with English subtitles, their comedic banter is engaging the next generation of Jews to embrace and take pride in their heritage. A reception will follow in the main lobby of the J.

“Yiddish connects us to our heritage, as the language of our parents and grandparents,” said Dana Yudovich Katz, community member and Yiddish enthusiast. “There is a pride associated with keeping this rich part of our history alive, and, if attendance at our local Yiddish organization, the Houston Yiddish Vinkl, is any indication, Yiddish is vibrant, alive and well in Houston. The Houston community is so fortunate to have a week of fantastic Yiddish programming that will appeal to all ages, from people in their 20s through their 90s.”  

More information about YiddishFest can be found at The Gottesman lecture is supported by Dana and Kenneth Katz, and the Patron Sponsor for An Evening with YidLife Crisis is Leah Stolar. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Send this page to a friend