You never know what treasures lurk within NYC buildings. For many years, just blocks from Manhattan’s Union Square, a woman named Chana Mlotek curated the Yiddish music collection at the vaunted YIVO archives.
Born Eleanor Chana Gordon in South Brooklyn, Mlotek was a musician from a young age. And in addition to being a distinguished musicologist, folklorist, and archivist, she was the music counselor at Camp Boiberik, a Yiddish culture summer camp that ran for over a half century on the grounds of what is now the Omega Institute.
With her husband Joseph, she collected thousands of folk and theater songs, and compiled the books Pearls of Yiddish Song, Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Songs, and Mir Trogn a Gezang: Favorite Yiddish Songs—all of which have been indispensable to second and third-wave Yiddishists in the musical and theatrical revival.
Mlotek died this past November, but not before passing the torch. The next time you find yourself wandering around NYC with a hankering for an obscure Yiddish song, a virtuosic fellow named Lorin Sklamberg will be there to help.