Someone once asked the legendary writer Isaac Bashevis Singer to comment on the fact that Yiddish was a dying language. “Yes, it’s been dying for the past 300 years,” he replied.
This week a group of mainstream Jewish organizations present Yidishtog, a celebration of Yiddish-language lectures and musical and family programming highlighting contemporary directions in Yiddish studies. (Not bad for a dying language.)
Speakers at Yidishtog include professors Rebecca Margolis, Anna Shternshis, Kalman Weiser and Sholem Berger. For the “kinder” there are readings of Dr. Seuss and Curious George in Yiddish. The MNJCC Klezmer Music Ensemble and Lenka Lichtenberg and her Fray ensemble will each perform their contemporary Yiddish songs with world-music influences.
The kids’ reading and klezmer performance are free; access to all lectures is $10; and the Lichtenberg concert (at which she releases her new CD, Embrace) is $25 and $15. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, Sunday, April 28, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Lichtenberg concert at the Glenn Gould Studio, 8 p.m. Presented by Ashkenaz Foundation, Miles Nadal JCC, Committee for Yiddish, Workmen’s Circle, Friends of Yiddish and others. www.ashkenazfestival.com, 416-924-6211, ext. 154.
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Arts in Brief
• The Motek Cultural Initiative presents the Isrock Festival featuring Hadag Nahash, Mashina and Yael Deckelbaum in celebration of Israel’s 65th Independence Day. “Dance, mix, mingle and celebrate Israel!” Sound Academy, 11 Polson St. Sunday, April 28, doors open 7 p.m. $65, $55, $180 (VIP) www.motekToronto.com
• Adam Nayman continues his series on the American filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen with a discussion of “Twin Cities: A Serious Man and Fargo.” Miles Nadal JCC, Monday, April 29, $12 drop-in, students $6. 416-924-6211, ext. 606.
• Toronto Jewish Film Society presents the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man, with guest speaker Nayman. Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal JCC, Sunday, May 5, 4 and 7:30 p.m. $15, $10. Tickets available at the door shortly before screenings.
• The Miles Nadal JCC invites the public to “do music with us!” Choose from the Women’s Chorus on Mondays, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., the Daytime Choir on Tuesday, 1 to 2:30 p.m., the Klezmer Ensemble, Tuesdays 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. or the Jewish Chanting Circle on Wednesday, May 8, 7:30 to 9 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org
• Israeli-born multi-instrumentalist Koby Israelite mixes his Balkan background with roots, rock and eastern European blues on his latest album, Blues from Elsewhere, which was released in March. His cover of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues is available for viewing on YouTube.
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At the Galleries
• A Different Take, an exhibit of photographs by Marvin Cooper, offers a “unique photographic perspectives of Israel.” On view in the hallway outside the Reuben and Helene Dennis Museum, Beth Tzedec synagogue, until the end of May. The curator is Dorion Liebgott. Email: email@example.com, call 416-781-3514, ext. 232.
• Early Sunday Morning is an exhibit of new urban photographs by David Kaufman that illuminate the rich visual texture of Toronto’s disappearing heritage streetscapes. On view at Twist Gallery, 1100 Queen St. W., May 1 to 26. Public reception, Thursday, May 2, 6 to 9:30 p.m. as part of the annual Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. www.davidkaufmanphotography.com
•Toronto artist Corwyn Lund has written a proposal for a video documenting a skater on a tiny frozen pond in an excavation pit where a building once stood at 48 Abell St. But the impromptu ice rink existed for only one week. Lund’s proposal has become a site-specific installation that covers the hoarding of a construction site. Koffler Gallery Off-Site presents Lund’s Word Count at 48 Abell St., along the south side of the construction site, April 25 to June 30. Opening reception, Thursday, April 25, 6 to 9 p.m. Artscape Triangle Gallery, 38 Abell St.
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A Note to Readers: I am delighted to invite you to a book launch for Only Yesterday: Collected Pieces on the Jews of Toronto, by Benjamin Kayfetz and Stephen Speisman, hosted by Toronto Workmen’s Circle and Now and Then Books. As the book’s editor and publisher, I will be giving a presentation at the launch.
Many of us have warm memories of Ben Kayfetz and Stephen Speisman. Kayfetz was a long-serving community relations officer for Canadian Jewish Congress and Speisman the founding director of the Ontario Jewish Archives and author of The Jews of Toronto: A History to 1937.
Only Yesterday features 18 of their best short pieces on the Jews of Toronto, along with many previously unpublished photographs of old synagogues and other subjects taken by Speisman. The launch takes place at the Workmen’s Circle Building, 471 Lawrence Ave. W., Thursday, May 9, 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and everyone is invited. www.nowandthenbookstoronto.com