The Shmooze

Elie Wiesel And Evgeny Kissin At YIVO Gala

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

The piano was tuned, the vodka was flowing and world renowned pianist Evgeny Kissin posed for photos with noshers and nibblers at the pre-concert reception of the YIVO Institute for Yiddish Research’s 12th Annual Heritage Gala at the Center for Jewish History on May 7. “Just as there is love at first sight, there is friendship at first sight,” said Elie Wiesel as he recalled his first meeting with Russian-born Kissin, the evening’s honoree. Recalling the cultural oppression of what he once dubbed, “The Jews of Silence,” a smiling Wiesel told the festive crowd that there is currently “ a million-strong Russian diaspora in America…in Israel. How can you not believe in miracles?”

Touting Kissin as “one of the greatest pianists in the world today who loves Yiddish,” Wiesel urged:“Listen to his poetry… What it meant to be a Jew in Soviet Russia!”

Karen Leon
Marion and Elie Wiesel and Evgeny Kissin

Following a dazzling performance of M. Milner’s “Farn Opsheyd” (Before Separation), Kissin, elegant in a tuxedo, stood in front of a background projection of a roster of Yiddish poets and their poems in English translation. In beautifully measured and articulated Yiddish, Kissin recited — from memory — ten love poems, ”each dedicated to a language—Yiddish.” The translated titles included Moyshe Kulbak’s “I Saw Yiddish Words,” Moyshe Nadir’s “Mother-tongue,” Itzik Fefer’s “Yidish,” Avrom Sutzkever “Yidish,” Binem Heler’s “In the Wonderful Language” and Evgeny Kissin’s own creation “Bobe-loshn” (Grandmother’s Tongue) and Forvert editor Boris Sandler’s “Moshl-kaposhl-shprakh” (Moshl-Kaposh Language).”

Addressing the assemblage, YIVO executive director Jonathan Brent, recognized a roster of local political personalities as well as guests from Israel, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Poland, Russia and guests from ”as far away as New Jersey and Brighton Beach.” He described YIVO’s breadth and multi-faceted range, informing that its heritage “is in many languages: Yiddish, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Rumanian, English — from Hassidism to Bundism, from psychoanalysis to phenomenology, from nigunim (melodies) to jazz. A single document can be in three or four languages, this is the texture and context of our world.”

“We honor Evgeny Kissin this evening because he embodies so much of this great heritage, so many dimensions of this invisible world, and [he] is living proof of its vitality and creative strength.”

The evening’s sponsors, noted Brent, were “The Russian Tearoom and Stolichnaya [vodka].”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: elie wiesel, Yiddish, YIVO, Russia, Jewish, Jonathan Brent, Evgeny Kissin

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.