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First Annual YIDDISHFEST Announces Lineup of Artists

First Annual YIDDISHFEST Announces Lineup of Artists

An initial roster of artists and performers have been announced for the inaugural YI Love New York YiddishFest. Produced by the Yiddishkayt Initiative (YI) (Avi Hoffman, Producing Artistic Director) and Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director), the nine-day festival celebrates the legacy of the Yiddish language and its impact on entertainment and culture with readings, concerts, film screenings, lectures, panel discussions, and famous personalities in the world of Jewish culture from December 21-29. Tickets for all events are available online at

Kicking off the festivities on Saturday, December 21 is The Heart of Yiddish: Remembering Isaiah Sheffer, an evening dedicated to Mr. Sheffer's unparalleled contributions to the stage. Newly announced for the tribute are Rochelle Oliver (Toys in the Attic, Scent of a Woman), Laura Patinkin (Fiddler on the Roof), and Leenya Rideout (Company, Cabaret, War Horse), Mary Brienza, and Kathryn Markey (founders of the comedy group The Chalks). At Symphony Space-which Sheffer founded-these performers will offer excerpts from the great works of Sheffer's career, including The Theatre of Peretz, Yiddle with a Fiddle, Dreamers and Demons and The Rise of David Levinsky.

The following afternoon at The Center for Jewish History, original cast members from The Public Theater's Songs of Paradise-including David Kener, Betty Silberman, and festival co-founder Avi Hoffman-will pay tribute in song to Joseph Papp in a Chanukah Concert: Lighting the World. Joining these reunited cast members are Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson, and Sarah Gordon, daughter of the late Adrienne Cooper, who will round out the evening with Yiddish songs, Shakespeare, and excerpts from The Public Theatre production of Songs of Paradise, honoring Mr. Papp's contributions to both Yiddish theatre and classical works. The evening concludes with a Yiddish Chanukah singalong and the lighting of the first candle with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Fans of the Tony-winning play Indecent will get to hear original cast member and composer Lisa Gutkin who joins the YiddishFest lineup. On Friday, December 28th at 2pm, the Grammy winner lends her improvisational virtuosity on the violin to the New Voices reading of A People by L.M Feldman.

Lisa Gutkin will also be joining Mark York, Cy Coleman's Musical Director, who lends his musical expertise throughout YiddishFest as its resident Musical Director. With his intimate knowledge of the Cy Coleman songbook, York will help a cast of talented actors and singers unearth the lost musical The Great Ostrovsky on Sunday, December 29 at 2pm. Coleman's collaboration with author Avery Corman will close out the festival in a rarely-seen concert reading.

Tickets for YI Love New York YiddishFest are $18 per event, with some lectures and screenings free to the public. Space is very limited and reservations are required for all events. Sponsorship opportunities begin at $1,000 and include tickets to multiple tributes and events. For Tickets and information, call (888) YI-Love-J (888-945-6835) or visit English subtitles and translations will be provided at all events.

YI Love New York YiddishFest is a presentation of the Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre, a division of Yiddishkayt Initiative (YI), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that celebrates and promotes Jewish history, life, and culture and their positive and far-reaching impact on the world. From performing arts, publishing, and education to language, philosophy, and literature, YI offers a global clearinghouse of Jewish culture and entertainment. We work with a wide range of organizations, including Federations, JCCs, synagogues, Hadassah chapters, Hillel chapters, men's groups, women's guilds, special interest clubs, youth groups, summer camp programs, and educational institutions.


Avi Hoffman is best known as an actor and Jewish Culture Activist. He was nominated in 2015 for a Drama Desk Award for his Yiddish language portrayal of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. Recently inducted into the Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame, Avi has been awarded Congressional recognition for his work on behalf of Jewish culture. He was most recently seen in New York with his award-winning solo shows Too Jewish? (Performer of the Year, NY Press Magazine; Ovation Award, Best Actor in a Musical; Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations); Too Jewish, Too!; and Still Jewish After All these Years: A Meshugene Life in the Theatre. On TV, he was featured opposite Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the Starz series "Magic City" and has been seen on Netflix's "Bloodline," A&E's "Burn Notice," "The Glades," and "Law & Order." Additional film and TV credits include the title role in The Imported Bridegroom and the PBS documentary They Came for Good: A History of the Jews in the United States. He currently stars in the award-winning Yiddish language short film Shehita. Avi was invited to The Vatican to meet Pope Francis II for his important interfaith work on Holocaust and genocide awareness and is dedicated to building bridges among people through the arts.

Miriam Hoffman is a renowned scholar with a 50-year career that includes 25 years teaching Yiddish language and Jewish culture at Columbia University. Her textbook, Key to Yiddish, is standard curriculum for Yiddish educators around the world. She is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been produced in Israel, Europe, and throughout North America. Her books include the recently-published A Breed Apart and the soon-to-be-released Legends of the AlefBet (The Origins of the Alphabet). For 35 years, her weekly newspaper columns have been published in The Yiddish Forward. She is a co-founder of both Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre and the Yiddishkayt Initiative.

YI Love New York Yiddishfest is made possible by the generous support of The Forward Association, Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative, Yiddish New York, Museum of Yiddish Theatre, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Beit Hatfutsot - Museum of the Jewish People, National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene/Museum of Jewish Heritage, and University of Miami's Miller Center for Contemporary Jewish Studies & Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies.

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