WINNIPEG — A new Yiddish festival, Mameloshen: A Festival of Yiddish Entertainment and Culture, is coming to Winnipeg this spring.
It is based on Toronto’s successful Ashkenaz program, said Laurie Mainster, spokesperson for the I.L. Peretz Folk School Endowment Trust, which is co-sponsoring the program with the Rady Jewish Community Centre.
The trust fund was created from the money earned from the sale of the last I.L. Peretz Folk School building. The longtime north Winnipeg Yiddish language school merged with the Talmud Torah Hebrew language school in the early 1980s.
The Talmud Torah – I.L. Peretz School was closed in 1997 and all students transferred to the new Gray Academy in the Asper Jewish Community Campus in south Winnipeg.
“This festival will be an opportunity for audiences to celebrate the richness and beauty of Yiddish while enjoying high calibre events featuring both local and out-of-town performers,” Mainster said.
Since 1994, he said, the Peretz School Trust has funded many community initiatives aimed at perpetuating Yiddish language and culture. “For the past five years we have been working with the Rady JCC to put in Yiddish programs,” he said. “They have all been single shows or Yiddish films.”
This year, said Tamar Barr, the Rady JCC’s program director, “we decided to try something new. We will be having one program a week – starting on Tuesday, May 13 – for four weeks, featuring performers who have never appeared here before.”
First up are the Sisters of Sheynville from Toronto, an all-female swing-klezmer sextet composed of singer/composer/bandleader Lenka Lichtenberg, creative director/fiddler/singer/songwriter Isabel Fryszberg, pianist Fern Lindzon, string bass player Rachel Melas, clarinet player Kinneret Sagee and drummer Lorie Wolf.
On May 20, novelist and playwright Michael Wex is coming to town.
On May 27, Neshomah, Winnipeg’s new Yiddish choir, under the direction of Richard Yaffe, will be making its debut.
Finally, on June 5, Mameloshen will be presenting The Three Jewish Divas. While Theresa Tova and Joanne Borts have appeared here before, this is the first appearance by Adrienne Cooper and the first time the three will be appearing here together.
“We hope that our programs will appeal to people of all ages,” Barr said. “We are excited about this. There has been a lot of buzz in the community. We have had a lot of phone calls already from people wanting to buy tickets or find out how to get involved.
“If we get a good response, we would consider making Mameloshen an annual event.”
Mainster said that any profits made from the festival will be directed mainly to the Yiddish language program at the University of Manitoba. Some of the money would also go toward supporting other Rady JCC cultural programs.