More Than Mama Loshen

Everything you ever wanted to know about Yiddish is coming to Temple Bet Tikvah in Fullerton on September 18 at the first Orange County Yiddish Festival.  Each Yiddisha Kup attending will overflow with joyful tidings as the program offers everything from a Klezmer band and a “This is Your Yiddish Life” video to a presentation of songs from the ghetto and a talk on humor by Brian Burg entitled, “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Say It in Yiddish.”

Festivities will begin at 12:30 p.m. with a no-host buffet of kosher deli sandwiches and accoutrements, under the supervision of Rabbi David Eliezre of Congregation Beth Meir Ha Cohen, Chabad, followed at 1 p.m. by opening remarks and a musical greeting by the Mostly Kosher Klezmer Band.  The social hall will feature exhibits, vendors, music and tables to serve for Yiddish tish, where visitors can sit around and converse in Yiddish.  There will be sales of books, CDs, DVDs and kosher food.

The afternoon will be filled with a melange of offerings.  Featured will be a presentation of famous Yiddish artists by local artists Mildred Kouzel and Caroline Fromson.  A special film presentation and discussion led by Linda Shayne of Morningstar Commission, entitled “Desperate Housewives and Beyond,” will focus on the changing images of Jewish Women from Yiddish Theater to today’s film and TV.

Slated from 1 to 4 p.m., the festival will offer choices of 30-plus-minute presentations and lectures.  Children will be entertained at various sites with story telling, a puppet show, Yiddish bingo and other fun activities led by Temple Beth Tikvah’s youth group.  The temple’s junior choir will sing Yiddish songs.

According to Ann Nanes, creator of the festival, “Younger Jews are yearning to learn that ‘secret language’ that their grandparents spoke so that the kinder (children) would not understand.”   Yiddish classes are now offered at many universities.  Courses in Jewish genealogy, oral history and music are experiencing a renewed interest by the older generation.

At 4 p.m., along with closing ceremonies, the eight member “Mostly Kosher Klezmers” band under the direction of singer, clarinetist and pianist Leeav Sofer will perform Yiddish, Klezmer and all the Jazz, resurrecting the 1930s to 1940s Yiddish dress, commercials, radio and theater. Mostly Kosher has been described as having “the feel of lower Eastside Manhattan meets Eastern European shtetls through music, song and schtick.”

To foster Yiddish traditions, culture and language, the OC Yiddish Club has been established under the direction of Nanes to promote Yiddish and Yiddishkeit awareness in Orange County and to preserve the dynamic historical Jewish culture.  Open to Jews and non-Jews, young and old, the program’s goal is to enlighten the younger Jewish generation of the heritage and how it has been incorporated into the spirit of America.

“Yiddish is such a warm, beautiful, cozy language,” Nanes said.  “It is the soul of the Jewish people, the backbone of Jewish culture and history, rooted in Talmud and Torah.  Not only the Mama Loshen (mother language), it is the connective thread to the Jewish future, roots, identity, culture and folklore, uncovering an awareness of an era of “enlightenment” for some Jews who wanted more than Torah prior to WWII (1850 to 1940).  We hope the festival will keep our Yiddish inheritance alive.”

Afternoon speakers and their talks will include Rabbi Hershel Brooks, former Rabbi Temple Beth Emet, Anaheim: Yiddush, Bringing the Divided Culture of the Jews in Europe Together; Wendy Elliott Scheinberg Ph.D., professor of history, CSUF: Doing Oral Histories; Steven Jobitt, Ph.D., assistant professor of history, CSU Fullerton: Songs from the Ghetto: The Life, Politics and Poetry of Morris Rosenfeld.

Others include Jonathan Dobrer, educator of comparative religion, American Jewish University: The Jewjitsu of Jewish Humor; Leila Zenderland, Ph.D., professor of American studies, CSU Fullerton: Psychology in Yiddish? Exploring Research Done in Yiddish in the 1930s; Miriam Koral, founder and director, California Institute for Yiddish Culture, Yiddish instructor at UCLA and University of Judaism: Avrum Sutzkever, The Greatest Jewish Poet of Modern Times and He Wrote in Yiddish; Hershl Harman, professional Yiddish/English translator, education director of the Sholem community in LA, “The Vortsman” columnist: How to Spell Yiddish in English (er…Latin) Letters; Rabbi Frank Stern, former rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom, Tustin: 21st Century Jewish Ideas from 19th Century Yiddish and Hebrew; and Netta Avineri, doctoral candidate UCLA, Department of Applied Linguistics, lecturer CSULB, Department of Linguistics: Exploring Your Personal Connection to Yiddish Language and Culture.

A study of the Yiddish language will be presented by several speakers: The Origin of Yiddish by Michael Palmer, Yiddish Club leader of Temple Beth Shalom, and Dr. Seymour Scheinberg, professor of history at CSUF (Holocaust Studies); and Yiddish Today, Yakov Basner, educator and Yiddish linguist.

Scenes from Yiddish Theater will be presented by Nick Babani, The Golden Age of Second Avenue by Rosalie Burg and Yiddish in Modern Media–Radio, Film and TV by Gary Gruber.  Jerry Silverman will present Yiddish Writers and Their Works.

Relating family histories will be Bernie Behrens, Family Polish Publishing Business; Brian Burg, Family Genealogy Journey (Yiddish Names in Eastern Europe), and Faith Beckman Golman, Slow Boat to China.

Other presentations include a workshop of Jewish genealogy in Orange County; Lost and Found, utilizing maps to discover people from the same shtetls; Yiddish interviews and videotaping and the talks around the tish (table) in Yiddish.

The free-admission festival has been made possible by the generous support of Temple Beth Tikvah, a program grant from Jewish Federation & Family Services Orange County and funding by the Sam and Lillian Marks Memorial Fund within the Jewish Community Foundation.

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For more information on the Orange County Yiddish Festival, The Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning, Temple Beth Tikvah, 1600 North Acacia Avenue, Fullerton, check out www.ocyiddish.org.

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