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Tribute to Fyvush Finkel: 1922-2016

In honor of the death of Fyvush Finkel, a legend of the Yiddish stage and a longstanding Sholem Aleichem interpreter, we share his performance of the song “To Life” from Fiddler on the Roof  in an energetic 2003 duet with his close friend, actor and singer Theodore Bikel.

It was Fiddler that gave Finkel his Broadway break, in the role of Mordcha the Innkeeper in the show’s original 1964 to 1971 run. Finkel was drawn into the world of Fiddler again in 1981, playing Lazer Wolf the Butcher in the second Broadway revival. And Finkel often played Tevye in the show’s national tours.

Born in Brooklyn in October 1922, the son of a Jewish immigrant tailor, Finkel began performing at age 9, living through the twilight years and rapid decline of the Second Avenue Yiddish theater scene. In response to these changing times, Finkel moved into Broadway and then television, achieving widespread recognition and an Emmy in 1993 for his starring role in CBS’s Picket Fences. @ Yidstock sent a roving reporter to the Yiddish Book Center’s annual Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music – a major event in the Yiddish and Klezmer calendars. We knew we would find a plentiful supply of Sholem Aleichem fans at the event, as Yidstock was paying a special 100th Yortsayt tribute to the great writer at the festival’s grand finale, a musical celebration of Sholem Aleichem led by the Yidstock All-Stars.

Over the course of the Yidstock weekend our reporter Zachary Aldridge, a Yiddish-loving undergraduate at Columbia University and a 2016 Steiner student at the Yiddish Book Center, facilitated a reading activity which invited the hundreds of attending Yidstockers to read and discuss Sholem Aleichem’s works. The festivalgoers enthusiastically obliged, and we were especially delighted that many of their contributions were in the original Yiddish. We’ll put up the videos from the event very shortly.

Sholem Aleichem 100th Yortsayt Conference

Between May 15-17 2016 ‘Writing Place’ a major Sholem Aleichem conference in Israel looked to illuminate the various facets of “place” in Sholem Aleichem’s oeuvre or in cultural representations derived from his works. The conference considered how his direct and indirect influence permeates literary, theatrical, and cinematic representations of East European Jewish life and, in his late work, America.On the opening night of the conference, Professor Ruth Wisse of Harvard University’s  presented a keynote lecture titled ‘Undzer alter Tevye lebt! Our old Tevye lives’. The full conference program can be found here.

Watch conference organizer Professor Hana Wirth-Nesher  of Tel Aviv Universtiy’s opening  greetings [starting 1:09], and Professor’s Wisse’s keynote lecture [starting 1:57], both delivered in English. Launch Event

100 Sholem Aleichem super fans packed the JCC East Bay on May 5th, 2016 to celebrate the launch of sholemaleichem.orgThe evening was a great success, combining film clips with lively theatrical readings honoring the life and work of Sholem Aleichem.

The audience needed little encouragement to get involved, crowding the stage for a volunteer-led reading of Sholem Aleichem’s “The Judgement of Shomer,” the writer’s legendary literary take-down of Shomer, another Yiddish author. 10-year-old actor Jake, playing the defense attorney, stole the show! For those who couldn’t fit on the stage there was a group reading from Sholem Aleichem’s iconic Tevye the Dairyman series, which saw the room buzzing with a hundred Tevyes, Chavas and Goldes.

The evening was peppered with film clips examining the past and present of Yiddish literature. Bridge of Books, a short film by Citizen Film’s Sam Ball, celebrates the Yiddish Book Center founder Aaron Lansky’s effort to save Yiddish literature. This was followed by two selections from Joe Dorman’s Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness, an excellent portrait of rapidly transforming Jewish life at the turn of the 20th Century.

In the participatory spirit of, we videotaped these live performances and we’ll post them on this page soon! In the meantime, check out the photos from the event.

Sholem Aleichem @ Museum of the City New York

The Museum of the City of New York’s ongoing New York’s Yiddish Theater: From The Bowery to Broadway exhibition quite rightly puts Sholem Aleichem and his beloved Tevye center stage!

As part of the exhibition program, the MCNY hosted an evening devoted to “Reimagining Fiddler on the Roof,” and welcomed the director of the show’s current Broadway revival Bartlett Sher, the Yiddish Theater exhibition curator Edna Nahshon, and theater scholars Alisa Solomon and Marc Henry Aronson to the museum to discuss the challenge of refreshing a musical set in Imperial Russia more than a century ago, and what makes this show resonate with today’s audiences. The three sisters from the current cast, Alexandra Silber (Tzeitel), Samantha Massell (Hodel) and Julie Benko (Chava), performed their signature song.

Sholem Aleichem’s 100th Yortsayt at Haverford College

On Sunday, April 10, the Yiddish-loving community at Haverford College gathered together to remember Sholem Aleichem–the creator of Tevye, Motl, Menakhem-Mendl and a host of beloved Yiddish stories–through readings, lectures and music, in both Yiddish and English. The event was part of the annual Yiddish Cultural Festival, a series of free, informal gatherings held periodically to enjoy film, music and speakers encompassing all things Yiddish. More information on the Yiddish Cultural Festival can be found here.