A Century Of Jewish Culture


Yiddish, they tell us, is the ever-dying language.

Don’t tell that to the organizers of the bold weeklong tribute to Yiddish and Jewish arts known as KulturfestNYC, the first international Jewish performing arts festival, taking place across Manhattan from June 14-21.

This ambitious program marks the 100th anniversary of the Folksbiene, the only company that remains from the early 20th-century Yiddish theater groups that flourished on the Lower East Side. Now known as National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene at Museum of Jewish Heritage, it will sponsor, in collaboration with UJA-Federation of New York, 100 events — theater, concerts, film, dance, lectures, workshops, and a symposium — featuring artists, musicians and scholars from here and around the globe.

The project is at once a celebration of Jewish renaissance and creative energy, and a memorial to the generations that once flourished, as well as those in Europe whose talents and lives were cut short by the Holocaust. As George Robinson reports in his Page 1 story this week, a faded photo of a group of pre-war Jewish musicians in Ger, Poland, led Avner Yonai, an Israeli-American businessman in the Bay Area, to bring together 11 of the finest mandolin players. Yonai formed the Ger Mandolin Orchestra after recognizing his maternal grandfather and two granduncles in the old photo. He decided to honor their memories, and those of so many of the Jewish residents of Ger who were killed when the Nazis took over the town, through music.

The orchestra will perform June 18 at the Skirball Center, NYU, at 8 p.m.

Virtually every performer and project at KulturfestNYC has a poignant story. We urge our readers to benefit from this cultural extravaganza, starting with a free grand-opening concert by The Klezmatics, and a number of performers, including special guest Neil Sedaka, Sunday, June 14, 7:30 p.m. at Winter Garden at Brookfield Place. The full schedule can be found at www.KulturfestNYC.org.

Take advantage of New York City in June, and of the impressive and inspiring offerings that underscore the vitality of Jewish life today.