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Jewish song pioneer Gladys Gewirtz dies at 84

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Gladys Gewirtz, who went from Juilliard to Camp Ramah to recording nursery rhymes for Jewish children to acting in a TV Holocaust film with Kirk Douglas, died April 14 at 84.

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Gewirtz, a graduate of the Juilliard School became the first music director of Camp Ramah. She and her sister, Roz Grossman, developed children’s folk songs based on traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The recordings’ “simple sing-along tunes are endearing and reminiscent of earlier times,” according to the blog of the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries.

The blog said Gewirtz, had the idea of creating recordings for young Jewish children more than 60 years ago and that they dealt “primarily with Jewish customs and holidays, and celebrating the newly established State of Israel. Citing an article in My Jewish Learning, the blog said Gerwitz’s Mother Goose Songs for Jewish Children and Holiday Play Songs, “injected Jewish themes into familiar American children’s songs; Little Boy Blue, for instance, cannot watch over his sheep on Shabbat–he is in shul, of course. The young boys on the cover all sport kippot and Mother Goose is pictured in a matronly shawl, with a prominent Star of David around her neck.” Albums from the archives’ collection can be heard here.

Gewirtz acted in the 1982 TV film, Remembrance of Love, a drama about Holocaust survivors that starred Kirk Douglas.

She also was a co-writer of the play, “Your People are Mine,” about the Biblical Ruth, with her brother, a cantor. The play has been performed in numerous countries. She also wrote cantatas and oratorios on biblical themes. She was married to the Israeli prosecutor and judge Ezra Hedaya, who died 15 years ago.

The Eulogizer wishes to thank Maaleh Adumim resident Danny Gewirtz, Gladys Gewirtz’s nephew, and the archive’s Maxine Schackman for their help with this entry.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Follow the Eulogizer on Twitter @TheEulogizer

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