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Yiddish: A Beautiful Mirror of the Soul

03/19/2015 09:24:56 AM


Yiddish is a beautiful mirror of the soul of east European Jewry. It is also a cherished language for us -their children and grandchildren. When I was a kid in Winnipeg, I think everybody spoke Yiddish. Even our Ukrainian neighbors understood Yiddish. The highlight of our long horrible winters was an evening with the Yiddish actors from New York - people like Ben Bonus, Menashe Skulnik, Leon Liebgold and his wife Lily Lilliana and many others.

When I later worked with many of these Yiddish actors in New York, I was like a kid in the candy store. I was so taken with comedians such as, Shimon Dzigan. Indeed I was for one whole season Dzigan's straight man. We the young Yiddish actors of that era were very, very worried that this would be the last generation of Yiddish actors. Who would continue the important cultural heritage of European Jewry, so terribly and tragically destroyed by Hitler? Who would continue to sing songs like Bei Mir Bistu Shayne, Mein Shtetele Belz, Papirossen and many others? Who would continue the legacy of our Yiddish writers and our Yiddish teachers at the Yiddish schools of Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg? At the Yiddish Theater performances, the actors and the audiences became one because we shared a common heritage.

By far, our favorite child actor in the 1970's in New York was a young girl named Joanne Borts. She lit up the stage as soon as she walked on. She went on to work in American shows like, Fiddler on the Roof and Funny Girl, costarring with people like Neil Sedaka, Topol, Eartha Kitt and many others. It is such an honor and pleasure to have her do a performance here at our Shabbat Farbrengen service this Friday night. She truly carries on the tradition of Yiddish vaudeville and Yiddish theater. May the beautiful Yiddish culture of European Jewry continue to thrive for many years. 

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