The Arty Semite

How Ziggy Gruber Became a 'Deli Man'

By Jordan Kutzik

Photo courtesy Cohen Media Group

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

Like many other aspects of Ashkenazi Jewish culture, old-time Jewish delicacies are becoming harder and harder to find. In 1931 there were more than 2,500 delis and 150 kosher dairy restaurants in New York City alone; today there are only 21 delis left in the Big Apple. Erik Greenberg Anjou’s film “Deli Man,” which is now playing nationwide, explores the history of the American-Jewish deli and its precipitous decline through the men seeking to keep deli culture alive, chief among them “deli man” Ziggy Gruber.

Gruber, a 40-something New York Jew, has run Kenny and Ziggy’s Delicatessen in Houston, Texas for the past 15 years. Gruber grew up in the deli industry. “How did I start working in delis?” Gruber repeated the question during a telephone interview. “Well, when I was 8 my grandfather threw an apron at me and said ‘come with me. It’s time to make a living.’ And he taught me how to cook real heymishe (down-home) Yiddish food and work in the deli.”

Ziggy Gruber has an impeccable pedigree in the world of Jewish delis; his family is made up of three generations of “deli men.” His grandfather Max came to America from Budapest at age 16 and soon began working in Jewish restaurants. Together with his brother-in-laws Izzy and Morris Rappaport, Max opened the first deli on Broadway, the famous Rialto Deli in 1927. The restaurant was a huge success and they soon opened other popular delis, including Berger’s Delicatessen on 47th street, Wally’s Downtown and The Griddle on 16th street. Their delis attracted some of the biggest celebrities of the time, including Milton Berle and the Marx Brothers.

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New Festival Celebrates Hebrew Language and Culture

By Rukhl Schaechter

Photo: Larson Harley

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

As the musicians began playing the first strains of Sergei Prokofiev’s classic children’s symphony, “Peter and the Wolf,” on the stage of the Steven Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan on March 15, the hundreds of children in the large, awe-inspiring sanctuary stopped their squirming, and their parents eagerly pulled them onto the seats next to them. Israeli actress Shira Averbuch began narrating the familiar story of an enterprising little boy named Peter who, together with a duck, a cat and a bird, outsmarts a wolf. But this performance was different than most others in New York: the narration was all in Hebrew.

The show, called “Music Talks: Peter and the Wolf,” marked the opening of a remarkable two-week Hebrew festival called “Hagigah Ivrit” taking place in Manhattan until March 30. The festival, which hopes to raise the profile of the Hebrew language in North America through a variety of artistic and academic events, is sponsored by the Council for Hebrew Language and Culture in North America, the World Zionist Organization, The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, and the Israeli-American Council.

Similar festivals are being planned in Toronto, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It was clear from the Hebrew chatter echoing through the hall both before and after the performance that almost all the families attending were Israeli expats grateful for an opportunity to share a Hebrew cultural experience with their children.

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'When Blood Ran Red' Drama Wins Playwriting Prize

By Anna Goldenberg

Ben Gonshor

The first-ever David and Clare Rosen Memorial Play Contest, an international playwriting competition for projects with Jewish and Yiddish themes, has chosen its winner, Montreal-based Ben Gonshor. His historical drama “When Blood Ran Red” chronicles the friendships between African-American actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson and leading Soviet Jews after World War II. The driving point of the action deals with the removal of the Russian Yiddish theatre and purge of Yiddish and Jewish culture and life in the Stalin era.

“I am so incredibly honored to be moving onwards to the next stage of development,” the press release quotes Gonshor. “I’m ecstatic. The finalist pieces were so well written. It was a privilege to see them all come alive and share that experience with the talented men and women who gave them life.”

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Joshua Fishman, Yiddishist and Linguistics Pioneer, Dies at 88

By Jordan Kutzik

A version of this piece appeared in Yiddish here.

Sociolinguist, Yiddish scholar and advocate for endangered languages Joshua (Shikl) Fishman died March 1 in New York. He leaves behind his wife of more than 60 years Gella Schweid-Fishman, three sons, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is predeceased by his sister, the Yiddish poet Rukhl Fishman (1935-1984).

Fishman was born on July 18, 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Bessarabia. His father Aaron Fishman was a staunch Yiddishist who would ask the young Shikl every evening: “What did you do today for Yiddish?” At the age of four he began his Yiddish education in the Workmen’s Circle schools of Philadelphia. He would often accompany his father when he went knocking on the doors of nearby houses in an effort to convince Jewish neighbors to send their children to Yiddish afternoon schools. While a student at Olney High School in Philadelphia he also studied at the city’s Yiddish high school and ran the Peretz Youth Club, which published the first version of the youth-oriented Yiddish-language magazine Yugntruf, which is still published today.

As a teenager Fishman befriended the future linguist and Yiddish scholar Uriel Weinreich and his brother Gabriel, who were then recent arrivals from Vilna. During a visit to the Weinreichs’ home in New York their father Max Weinreich, then director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, invited Fishman to attend a YIVO conference. It would mark the beginning of Fishman’s decades-long association with YIVO and he would remain close to Uriel and Max Weinreich personally and professionally for the rest of their lives.

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Celebrating the Life and Career of Yiddish Theater Legend Mina Bern

By Jordan Kutzik


A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

A large crowd filled the main auditorium at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan on January 11 to see a memorial program in honor of the life and work of the Yiddish actress Mina Bern. During the concert a dozen singers, actors and musicians performed songs and skits from Bern’s diverse repertoire and shared personal memories of the beloved actress, who died in 2010. The Congress for Jewish Culture and the American Jewish Historical Society organized the event.

While the audience took their seats, a screen above the stage showed footage of Bern cooking chicken soup in her apartment and performing in various concerts and theatrical productions. The footage was taken from a documentary film that the director and photographer Joan Roth is making about Bern’s life and career.

At the beginning of the program Shane Baker, the executive director of the Congress for Jewish Culture and a Yiddish actor and translator, explained that Bern’s original surname was Bernholtz. She changed her name in her native Poland on the advice of the theater director and playwright Moshe Broiderzon, in whose theatrical troupe she performed. Broiderzon, a distant relative of Bern’s, told the young actress to cut the second half of her surname, which means “wood” in Yiddish, and to stick with just “Bern,” because “you’re not wooden.”

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Yiddish Pop Star Claire Barry Dies at 94

By Michael Kaminer

Claire Barry, with her sister, Merna, on the cover of their 1961 album ‘Side by Side.’

Claire Barry, who crossed over from the world of Yiddish entertainment to global pop stardom as half of The Barry Sisters, died Monday in Aventura, Florida. She was 94.

At the height of their popularity in the 1950s and ‘60s, Claire and her sister Merna conquered television as regulars on the Ed Sullivan and Jack Paar shows.

Claire Barry’s last performance for an audience was in 2009. “I was there,” Corey Breier, a close friend of Barry’s and the longtime president of the Yiddish Artists and Friends Actors Club, told the Forward from his home in Aventura. “She was being honored by the Footlighters’ Club, which is Florida’s version of Friar’s club. She sang ‘My Yiddishe Mama.’ There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was the last time she sang publicly.”

Born in the Bronx to Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Kiev, Clara and Minnie Bagelman first performed as the Bagelman Sisters on a New York children’s Yiddish radio program in the 1930s.

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The Yiddish Path to Acting Fame and Fortune

By Jordan Kutzik

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here

Like all actors attempting to break into the notoriously difficult profession, Michael Levi Harris is seeking to stand out. Luckily, Harris has a talent that is almost unique: he has an exceptional knack for languages. Not only can Harris speak many tongues but he also has a rare aptitude for accents and can, with a little practice, perfectly mimic the sounds of languages that he doesn’t know.

Harris’s linguistic skills are highlighted in the new short film “The Hyperglot,” a romantic comedy in which the main character, Jake, a talented polyglot played by Harris, tries to locate a woman with whom he has instantly fallen in love after seeing her on the subway.

Because she left behind a book in Maltese, Jake begins to learn the rare language in case he ever meets her again. While Jake looks for the pretty Maltese woman, he stumbles into a series of comical incidents in which he has the opportunity to speak many languages. By the end of the film Harris’s character speaks Arabic, Icelandic, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, Norwegian, both American and British sign-language and finally, Yiddish. Watching Jake, the audience soon learns that although the hyperglot can speak at least 11 languages, he can’t properly flirt with girls in any of them.

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'Yidlife Crisis,' the First Yiddish Sitcom

By Leyzer Burko

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

“Yidlife Crisis” has been a long time coming.

Back in the good old days — 60 or 70 years ago — there were Yiddish comedy serials on the radio, featuring the same cast of characters week after week. Unlike their English counterparts, however, these shows never made the jump to television. Thus, “Yidlife Crisis” can be considered the first Yiddish sitcom.

The comedy, which had its premiere in August at the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, has already had a big impact in the online Yiddish world, at least judging by my own Facebook feed. So far there are four episodes in the series, which can be seen on the show’s website and YouTube channel.

Shortly before the Toronto premiere I talked to the show’s creators, Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion, to find out the backstory behind the project.

Elman and Batalion, who wrote the scripts for the show and play the two main characters, Chaimie and Leizer, are no amateurs. Both are professional writers and actors with an impressive list of mainstream film and TV roles to their credit. So what inspired them to make “Yidlife Crisis”?

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Yiddish Supergroup Pays Homage to Nathan 'Prince' Nazaroff

By Jon Kalish

Photo: Fumie Suzuki

So, there in a gazebo on the boardwalk in Coney Island are The Brothers Nazaroff, taking refuge from the steamy afternoon sun. It is 92 degrees and horribly humid outside as the five Nazaroffs start playing and singing. A Hungarian documentary crew is shooting with two cameras as the brothers sing “Lucky Jew,” so I have to be on my toes to stay out of the camera shots. My t-shirt is drenched with sweat but I realize that as awful as it is being outside in the heat and humidity, watching these spirited Yiddish musicians play their raucous repertoire does indeed make me a lucky Jew.

Billed as a “Yiddish supergroup,” The Brothers Nazaroff is a tribute band to an obscure Russian immigrant in New York known as Nathan “Prince” Nazaroff. The man is known mostly by hardcore Yiddish music lovers. He is called an outsider, though he did record an album for Moe Asch’s Folkways label in 1954 and Nazaroff promoted himself as an established entertainer. None of The Brothers Nazaroff are actually brothers or Nazaroffs. Danik Nazaroff, Pasha Nazaroff, Meyshke Nazaroff, Zaelic Nazaroff and Yankl Nazaroff are in fact Daniel Kahn of Painted Bird fame, genuine Russian Psoy Korolenko, Michael Alpert of Brave Old World, Bob Cohen of the Budapest-based Di Naye Kapelye and Jake Shulman-Ment, widely regard as one of the best working klezmer fiddlers on the planet.

Thanks to Cohen’s connections in the Hungarian arts scene, a well-funded documentary on the Nazaroff project was begun. Various Nazaroffs were flown to New York for the film, which will also shoot in Paris and Berlin, where 35 year-old Daniel Kahn is based.

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Congress For Jewish Culture Leaves Its Office, But Not Its Mission

By Leyzer Burko

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

On July 17, the New York Times reported that the Congress for Jewish Culture, one of the few remaining Yiddish organizations in New York, would close their Manhattan office at the end of the month.

The Congress’s office space, on Broadway just off 26th street, was perhaps one of the last heymish places for Yiddish culture in New York. The walls were covered with bookshelves, and old pictures and posters hung on the wall. The Congress had only been there since 2009, but the room was previously occupied by Itche Goldberg, the longtime editor of the journal “Yiddish Culture,” who passed away in 2006 at the age of 102.

The day the Times article appeared, the Congress invited students from the Uriel Weinreich Program in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture — a summer program run by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and Bard College — to come and take Yiddish books that remained on the shelves. The rest off the books will go to the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, and archival materials will be donated to YIVO.

It was depressing to see how the shelves were emptied, and how boxes of books and other treasures were scattered underfoot. It wasn’t the first time I had helped shut down the office of an old Yiddish organization. Around 10 years ago I helped empty the rooms of the Bund in New York, throwing out thousands of copies of the Bundist journal “Undzer tsayt.” When the Yiddish League moved to a smaller office a year later, we also had to dispose of many books, and I and other YIVO students carried away a bundle.

But the Yiddish League, unlike the Bund, is still active in the Yiddish world, and we hope that the same thing will be true of the Congress for Jewish Culture.

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'Making Stalin Laugh' Finds Humor in Tragedy

By Liam Hoare

Photo: Simon Annand/JW3

The second act of David Schneider’s new play, “Making Stalin Laugh,” opens in 1935, the year the Moscow State Yiddish Theater decided to mount a production of “King Lear” with its legendary director Solomon Mikhoels as the lead. Lear, Mikhoels tells the cast as the party apparatchiki watch over his rehearsal, is a “tragedy about the slow disintegration of a man’s illusions. Illusions don’t shatter overnight,” Mikhoels states, “they wither.”

A comedy within a tragedy, “Making Stalin Laugh” — premiering this month at London’s JW3 — is also about the slow withering of illusion: in this case, the notion held onto by Mikhoels that Jewish culture could survive in a state that saw Yiddish and Judaism as anachronisms, antithetical to revolution and progress.

“Making Stalin Laugh” follows the fate of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater from around the time of its production of “The Travels of Benjamin III” in 1927 until the assassination of Mikhoels by the Ministry for State Security in Minsk in 1948, the closure of the theatre company in 1949, and the Night of the Murdered Poets on August 12, 1952. Having been arrested on charges of espionage and treason, the Soviet Union’s most prominent Yiddish writers were executed as part of Stalin’s wider campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans.”

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Yiddish Book Center to Receive National Award

By Jordan Kutzik

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

On April 24 Yiddish Book Center founder and president Aaron Lansky announced that his organization will receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The award will be presented by First Lady Michelle Obama in a ceremony at the White House on May 8.

The medal is the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to museums and libraries that serve the public good. In a press release, The Institute of Museum and Library Services wrote: “In its 20th anniversary year, the medals program celebrates excellent institutions that have made a significant impact on individuals, families and communities across the nation.” The winners were selected from among dozens of nominated institutions that “demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.”

After the ceremony Storycorps will visit the Book Center to conduct oral history interviews about the Center’s mission.

In an email to Yiddish Book Center members announcing the award, Aaron Lansky wrote: “The award recognizes our pioneering work in rescuing Yiddish books and making them available to readers around the world … We’ll be proud to accept it as a recognition of the Yiddish Book Center … and even more so as a tribute to the indomitable spirit of Yiddish itself.”

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A Glimpse of Jewish Warsaw

By Jordan Kutzik

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here

Forward Association

Menachem Kipnis is known to Jewish history as a cultural figure who worked across several fields. Born in Uzhmir, Ukraine in 1878, Kipnis distinguished himself as a singer, ethnomusicologist and journalist. As a singer he was the first Jewish tenor in the Warsaw Opera (1902-1918) and along with his wife, Zimra Zeligfield, he was among the most important early singers of Yiddish folksongs.

As an ethnomusicologist Kipnis collected songs all over Europe and published them in two important pioneering anthologies of Yiddish folksongs. As a journalist he wrote articles about music in various Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers. He was also well-known for his reportages, which recounted the lives of ordinary Jews whom he encountered on the streets of Warsaw. For these articles, which were published in the Warsaw-based newspaper Haynt as well as in the New York-based Tog, as well as occasionally in the Forverts, Kipnis took his own photos of his interview subjects.

Kipnis died in the Warsaw ghetto of a brain-aneurysm in 1942. After his death, his wife Zimra kept his massive archive of papers, diaries, music and photographic negatives with her in the ghetto. She refused to turn her husband’s archive over to Emanuel Ringelblum, who had asked her to let him preserve it as part of the secret archive he administered called “Oyneg Shabbos.” Kipnis’s archive disappeared without a trace after Zimra Zeligfield’s deportation to Treblinka.

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How to Sing Like a Real Folk Singer

By Itzik Gottesman

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here

Can you say with certainty that someone sings in an authentic Yiddish style? Fortunately, we have materials to help us figure it out — the records and CDs of folksingers, the recorded compilations from Ruth Rubin, Sofia Magid, Ben Stonehill and others; the recordings in the “Vernadsky Library” in Kiev, and the homemade family recordings that show up from time to time.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that you can’t speak only about one style, or even several. It all depends on the age of the singer, their birthplace and where they grew up.

Even in my family, two singers can sing in completely different styles. My grandmother Lifshe, from the small town Zvinyetshke, sang with a lamenting, sad voice, inviting listeners to sympathize with the suffering she expressed. My mother, from the larger city of Chernowitz, sang with less ornamentation but with a more secure feeling.

In the new recording from Brooklyn resident Herschel Melamed, “A Long Life In Yiddish,” you also hear a folksinger who sings in an authentic folk style. The CD includes 18 songs, and although the project was not undertaken as a commercial enterprise, it looks and sounds professional. In fact, two discs were produced with the same songs: one without musical accompaniment, and the second with the help of musicians Avi Fox-Rosen and Alec Spiegelman.

Herschel Melamed was born in Opalin, Poland and grew up in Luboml, where he worked in his brother Kalman’s shoe shop. At the beginning of the Second World War he became a soldier in the Polish Army and was later sent by the Soviets to a communal farm in the Ural Mountains, where he spent the war. His daughter Myra told me that he might have stayed there, but he learned that his younger brother Laizer had survived, so he left the communal farm and traveled westward to Chernowitz, where he married and where his daughter was born.

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Klezmatics Given Lifetime Achievement Award at YIVO

By Jon Kalish

In the mid 1980s several key figures in the klezmer revival movement had day jobs at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. So, perhaps it was only fitting that The Klezmatics were given a lifetime achievement award at YIVO’s Manhattan headquarters November 19. After cocktails and dinner at the Center for Jewish History’s atrium on West 16th Street, the band performed a lively set in an auditorium after being introduced by Jeffrey Shandler, chair of the Jewish Studies department at Rutgers University.

Courtesy of YIVO

Shandler, a former YIVO staffer, told the crowd that the band “offers all of us a provocative model of how to respond to the destruction of Europe’s Yiddish culture during World War II, not to accept its devastation, not simply to preserve its fragments, but to respond to destruction with creativity. And to do so brazenly, smartly and playfully.”

After noting that The Klezmatics have collaborated with such cultural luminaries as Itzhak Perlman, Chava Alberstein, Theodore Bikel, Tony Kushner, Neil Sedaka and John Zorn, Shandler said, “I mean Neil Sedaka and John Zorn alone is remarkable.”

Lorin Sklamberg, who has worked on and off at YIVO since 1987 as assistant to the assistant director, Yiddish typesetter, graphic designer and assistant director of KlezKamp, currently works there part-time as a sound archivist. Asked to comment on how klezmer music has evolved over the years, Sklamberg told The Arty Semite: “The music had been cut off for 20 years. People weren’t passing the music on in the United States past the late 1950s. So, to be able to take up that mantle was a challenge and our great joy.”

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Rapping About ‘My Yiddishe Mame’

By Rukhl Schaechter

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here

A recently released music video weaves together the classic Yiddish hit “Mein Yiddishe Mame” (“My Jewish Mother”) with a modern hip-hop tribute to a more contemporary Jewish mother. In its first two weeks on You Tube, the video received a whopping 11,000 hits.

Mein Yiddishe Mama,” which was written by Jack Yellen and Lew Pollack in the early 1920s, was made famous by singer Sophie Tucker, cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, and later, the Barry Sisters. In 1928 it was featured as one of the five most popular songs on American radio. It has since been translated into other languages including Spanish, Hungarian, Polish and Finnish.

In the music video, produced by Sparks Next, 32-year-old cantor Mayer Goldberg sings a heartfelt rendition of the song, while images of young Jewish mothers and their children flash across the screen — young mothers preparing dinner, or older mothers affectionately stroking their grown daughter’s faces.

As soon as Goldberg finishes singing the Yiddish version of the song, a young singer from the Jewish rap group “Brooklyn Mentality” comes on to tell, in hip-hop style, about his youth, his rebellion against his mother and other figures of authority:

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Chana Mlotek, Yiddish Folksong Scholar, Dies at 91

By Itzik Gottesman

Yiddish folksong expert, researcher and anthologist Chana Mlotek died on November 4 at age 91. Mlotek maintained a decades-long association with the Forverts and with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, where she was the institute’s music archivist.

Courtesy of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music

When I worked with Mlotek at YIVO, people would come to the archives and say, “I only remember one Yiddish song from my mother, and of that song I only remember one line. And, unfortunately, from that one line I only remember two or three words.” When visitors told her the two or three words, you couldn’t even be sure they were speaking Yiddish. But Mlotek, who was once dubbed the “Sherlock Holmes of Yiddish song,” always took the matter seriously, and almost always found what the person was looking for.

On many occasions I was also one of those inquirers, searching for obscure songs. And Mlotek often found copies of them, not in printed books, but in collections she had cultivated over many years.

Mlotek, together with Ruth Rubin, reestablished the field of Yiddish folksong research in America after the Holocaust. Before the war the field had been in bloom — the YIVO Ethnographic Commission collected more material than any other YIVO commission or department. The idea of collecting folklore inspired dozens of folklore circles and hundreds of collectors in cities and towns across Eastern Europe, starting from the founding of YIVO in 1925, until 1939.

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How To Make a New Yiddish Film

By Jordan Kutzik

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

The first words in the trailer for the new Yiddish-language film “The Pin” are “Ikh ken nit khapn dem otem” — “I can’t catch my breath.” The movie, currently playing in New York, takes place primarily in a barn in an unknown location during the Second World War, and the two main characters, Jacob (Grisha Pasternak) and Leah (Milda Gecaite), are two young Jews who fall in love while hiding from the Nazis. Due to a terrible fear of being buried alive, Leah makes Jacob promise that he will poke her body with a pin should she die, in order to make sure that she is really dead. Decades later, the same Jacob, volunteering as a shomer in a funeral home in Canada, notices that the body lying before him is Leah’s, the same woman he once loved and to whom he made that gut-wrenching promise.

Naomi Jaye, 40, the Canadian director and writer of the film, told the Forward that the script’s inspiration came from two sources. The first was the television-show “Six Feet Under,” which follows a family that runs a funeral-home, and which led Jaye to become “fascinated with death.” Jaye believes that this fascination led her to become interested in the mass-murder of Jews conducted by the Einsatzgruppen during World War II, which were characterized by open-air shootings followed by burials in hastily dug mass-graves.

The second inspiration was a story about her own grandmother, Leah Jaye. Like the Leah in the film, her grandmother was terrified of being buried alive and had asked her son, the director’s father, to poke her body with a pin to be certain of her death. “I was really interested in this act,” Jaye said, “because it is both an act of love and yet at the same time it’s a violent act. I became very interested in this, in how the two elements come together.”

Although Jaye had always planned on making her film in an Eastern-European language, she had never thought about making it in Yiddish. Initially she considered making the film in Russian or Lithuanian. “When I began, however, to look for funding for the film and was researching the topic it suddenly occurred to me that the two leads would be speaking to each other in Yiddish. It was like a light bulb turned on in my head.”

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Google, Moscow Jewish Museum Launch Virtual Exhibition

By JTA

Google and Moscow’s main Jewish Museum launched a virtual exhibition on Russian Jewish theater.

The project was launched last week on a dedicated, English-language website that is part of Google’s Milestones in History series and is accessible online worldwide.

The Internet giant set up the exhibition conjointly with Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, according to a report published last week by the Russian news site Jewish.ru.

The museum, opened in November 2012, is the sixth Russian cultural institution to team up with Google, according to the Komersant newspaper.

“We believe that we are facilitating a dialogue between our children and our grandfathers and great-grandfathers,” Peter Adamczyk, Google’s head of programs for southeast Europe, told the news site News.ru.

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Jewish Folklorist Dov Noy Dies at 92

By Itzik Gottesman

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

Courtesy of Elena Comens

When Dov Noy would lecture, often without notes, he would look upwards and seemingly draw his inspiration from the upper spheres. But Noy, who was expert in the folklore of numerous Jewish “tribes,” including Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Middle Eastern Jews, developed his profound knowledge from earthbound ethnography and research.

Noy contributed most significantly to the collection and analysis of Jewish folk literature, both written and oral. The Hebrew terms ba’al peh (oral) and biksav (written) are usually applied to the modes of transmission of the Torah. Noy’s extensive and successful efforts to record the oral folktales of the Jews resulted in a folk Torah, if you will, one that revealed the inner heart and soul of diasporic communities throughout the world.

Dov Noy (Neuman) was born in Kolomyia, Poland, in 1920 and died on September 29, less than a month short of his 93rd birthday. He immigrated to Palestine in 1939, studied at Hebrew University, and began teaching Jewish folk literature in 1955. For his dissertation, which he received from Indiana University, he created a motif-index of talmudic-midrashic tales which was soon incorporated into Stith Thompson’s six-volume motif-index of the world’s folk literature, greatly raising the status of Jewish folklore in the field.

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