Inaugural YIDDISHFEST Announces Full Lineup of Events

By: Dec. 04, 2019
Inaugural YIDDISHFEST Announces Full Lineup of Events

The Yiddishkayt Initiative (YI) (Avi Hoffman, Producing Artistic Director) and Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) have announced the full lineup of events for the inaugural YI Love New York YiddishFest. This selection of performances, screenings, and discussions centered around Jewish culture and Yiddish entertainment will play several New York City venues from December 21-29. Reservations are required for all events and can be made at

Following in the footsteps of the highly-successful Yiddish-language production of Death of a Salesman and the phenomenon of the Fiddler on the Roof - In Yiddish, the Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre revives the heyday of Yiddish theatre with the first-ever YI Love New York YiddishFest. Drawing from the wide array of film, theatre, and music created by Jewish entertainers, artists from multiple generations and across genres will gather to celebrate the vast influence Yiddish entertainment has had on American and worldwide culture over the past century and beyond.

YiddishFest begins on Saturday, December 21 with a benefit performance of The Heart of Yiddish: Remembering Isaiah Sheffer. This tribute to the founder of Symphony Space will be held at their very own Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre and will benefit the Hebrew Actors Foundation, as they seek to save the building which housed the historic union where Yiddish Theatre thrived. The following afternoon, the founders of Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre-Gail Merrifield Papp, Miriam Hoffman, and Rena Borow-will be honored at Celebrating Yosl Papirovsky - The Miracle of Joseph Papp, a multimedia celebration of the Jewish/Yiddish side of the artistic visionary behind The Public Theater. Another legend of the theatre, musical theatre star and Emmy-winning actor Fyvush Finkel, will be honored in an evening dedicated to his work in The Great Fyvush Finkel, which will see a new iteration of Finkel's Follies with members of the original cast and utilizing collected material from across the late actor's career.

YiddishFest co-founder Avi Hoffman will serve as Festival MC and will take to the stage throughout the course of the festival, first in a pair of one-man shows. Reflections of a Lost Poet, written by festival co-founder (and his mother) retired Columbia University professor Miriam Hoffman, which follows the life of beloved Yiddish poet Itzik Manger. Avi also recreates Joe Papp at the Ballroom, the singular evening of cabaret performed by the late founder of The Public Theater. Miriam's work will also be explored in Mirl - The Life and Works of Miriam Hoffman, featuring both her original plays and Yiddish translations of contemporary classics.

Avi Hoffman will also be seen on screen in the award-winning short film Shehita, a thriller set on a kosher farm that pits a young Orthodox farmer against his faith. The Ancient Law, a 1920s landmark Weimar film, will also have its own screening, accompanied by a live, original score from Alicia Svigals and Donald Sosin.

Two heavyweights in world music will take the stage on the penultimate evening of the festival. Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Sir Frank London of The Klezmatics and Grammy-nominated percussion virtuoso Deep Singh transform Irving Fields' classic 1959 LP Bagels & Bongos into a Yiddish-infused bhangra party. London has played with artists from Pink Floyd to Mel Tormé, Karen O to Itzhak Perlman; Singh is widely-known as teacher to The Beatles' George Harrison, has played with everyone from Falu to Sting, and has even taken to the Broadway stage in Bombay Dreams. Joined by Avi Hoffman on vocals, Bagels & Bhangra is a mash-up of music and culture sure to rock the stage.

A notorious century-old play and a lost musical will both take the stage at Theatre for the New City. Sholem Asch's God of Vengeance, which caused an uproar and subsequent arrest of its actors in its Broadway outing in the 1920s-and served as the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning play Indecent-will receive a reading in an English translation by Caraid O'Brien. The playwright's great-grandson, David Mazower, joins for an open discussion following the reading.

Closing out this inaugural festival, producers have unearthed a true lost gem to bring back to life on the stage. Cy Coleman, composer of Little Me, Sweet Charity, The Will Rogers Follies, and other treasures of the musical theatre canon, wrote a musical with best-selling author Avery Corman that has been tucked away-that is, until YiddishFest 2019. The Great Ostrovsky, about a larger-than-life star of the Yiddish theatre, will receive a very rare staged reading concert performance on December 29, marking the final event of this year's festival.

Below is a complete schedule of all events for YI Love New York YiddishFest 2019:

The Heart of Yiddish: Remembering Isaiah Sheffer

Saturday, December 21 at 7:30pm

Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre at Symphony Space

Tickets: $36

This multimedia tribute to Symphony Space founder and artistic director Isaiah Sheffer (1935-2012) will open the inaugural Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre's YI Love New York YiddishFest. Celebrating one of New York's great Renaissance men, Isaiah Sheffer, who left an indelible mark on music, theatre, television, and culture throughout the Big Apple, the evening will feature excerpts from Sheffer's Theatre of Peretz, Yiddle with a Fiddle, Dreamers and Demons and the Rise of David Levinsky. Relive the illustrious career of the originator of Bloomsday on Broadway and the comic genius behind the Thalia Follies and Selected Shorts, benefitting the Hebrew Actors Foundation.

Chanukah Concert: Lighting The World

Celebrating Yosl Papirovsky - The Miracle of Joseph Papp

Sunday, December 22 at 3pm

Center for Jewish History

In association with American Society for Jewish Music/American Jewish Historical Society/Museum of Yiddish Theatre/ YIVO Institute for Jewish Research/Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative

Tickets: $9-$12-$18-$36

For the first night of Chanukah, we celebrate the Jewish 'miracle' of Joseph Papp-born Yosl Papirovsky- who rose from a childhood in the slums of Brooklyn to found the New York Shakespeare Festival (better known as Shakespeare in the Park) and The Public Theater. The birthplace of landmark musicals (Hair, A Chorus Line, Hamilton) and creative space for countless up-and-coming playwrights, Papp was a true champion of the arts. This tribute to the Yiddish side of an artistic visionary features excerpts from the hit Public Theatre production Songs of Paradise, on its 30th anniversary, featuring members of the original cast, as well as Yiddish Broadway songs and Yiddish Shakespeare, and honors the founders of the Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre: Gail Merrifield Papp, Miriam Hoffman, and Rena Borow. The evening will culminate in a Candle Lighting ceremony and Yiddish Chanukah singalong.

Reflections of a Lost Poet by Miriam Hoffman

Monday, December 23 at 6:15pm (SOLD OUT)

Tuesday, December 24 at 8pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: $18

Written by Miriam Hoffman and performed by Avi Hoffman with Musical Director and Arranger Binyumen Schaechter, this one-man play is about the life of Itzik Manger, widely considered one of the greatest and most prolific Yiddish poets. His success as a poet led to heralded works in other art forms, including lyrics for Yiddle with His Fiddle, the first Yiddish film musical; The Megillah of Itzik Manger, a series of poems for the theatre staged on Broadway; and poetry as the basis for Songs of Paradise, staged at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Joe Papp at the Ballroom

Monday, December 23 at 8pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: $18

Joseph Papp, visionary founder of New York Shakespeare Festival and The Public Theater, gave only one solo performance over the course of a week in his entire illustrious career, in which he recounted his Yiddish upbringing, his controversial political struggles, and his revolutionary creative process. In this world premiere, Avi Hoffman adapts and recreates this legendary evening, taking audiences back to SoHo in 1978 and putting them in the presence of one of the greatest theatrical icons of the 20th century.

Mirl - The Life and Works of Miriam Hoffman

Tuesday, December 24 at 2pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: $18

Professor Miriam Hoffman has been an icon in the Yiddish language, academic, and cultural worlds for decades. In this multilingual tribute, Hoffman's momentous life and multidimensional works will be brought to life, exploring her original Yiddish and English plays and her reimagining of the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, and Sholem Aleikhem.

Exploring God of Vengeance

Wednesday, December 25 at 2pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: FREE

Playwright, novelist, and journalist Sholem Asch is one of the most popular writers in Jewish history. More than 100 years after its first production, his controversial play God of Vengeance served as the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning production Indecent. Asch's play, denounced by many as pornographic, eventually opened on Broadway in 1923, with the company arrested and convicted of lewd behavior for the depiction of pimps, prostitutes, and a lesbian relationship. Special guest David Mazower, great-grandson of Sholem Asch, joins the festival for the reading and discussion of the play, with English translation by Caraid O'Brien.

The Great Fyvush Finkel

Thursday, December 26 at 8pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: $18

Emmy Award-winning actor Fyvush Finkel left an indelible mark on the world, from his work on the musical stage in Fiddler on the Roof and the original cast of Little Shop of Horrors to acclaimed television performances on "Picket Fences" and "Boston Public." In this musical tribute to the beloved actor, original cast members recreate excerpts from Finkel's Follies with songs, stories, and jokes that illustrate Finkel's timeless mastery of show business and introduce his life story to a new generation.

Shehita - NY Premiere

Friday, December 27 at 2pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: FREE

In this multi award-winning short film (Audience Choice Award, Toronto Short Film Festival; Best Thriller, HollyShorts International Film Festival), Moshe, an 18-year old Hasidic Jew, must manage the family's kosher farm after his father's death. When the cows begin to produce blood instead of milk, he must choose between his logic and his faith. The screening will be preceded by a panel discussion about modern Yiddish film and television.

Alicia Svigals & Donald Sosin: The Ancient Law

Friday, December 27 at 4pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: FREE

The Ancient Law is a landmark in Weimar cinema and an outstanding example of the creative contribution of Jewish filmmakers in 1920s Germany. The story of a rabbi's son who leaves his shtetl for Vienna and falls in love with an archduchess of the imperial court, the film draws a complex portrait of the tension between tradition and modernity. The screening of this silent film will be accompanied by a live, original score by Alicia Svigals and pianist, composer, and silent film music legend Donald Sosin.

Romerika: The History of Yiddish Theatre

Friday, December 27 at 8pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: $18

Join Aaron Kula and Avi Hoffman as they celebrate the historical origins of the Yiddish theatre in Romania and its evolution into mainstream culture. From the 19th century Jewish entertainers of eastern Europe to the stars of the Yiddish theatre along New York's 2nd Avenue, these artists became the foundation for a golden age of creativity in music, comedy, film, theatre, and television that influenced every aspect of world culture.

New Jewish Voices: Selections from A People by L M Feldman

Saturday, December 28 at 2pm

Theatre for the New City

Tickets: FREE

One of the many important, new voices of Jewish identity, acclaimed playwright L M Feldman is known for work that is simultaneously ambitious and deeply intimate. A multigenerational, kaleidoscopic journey across time and culture, her play A People explores and explodes the Jewish diaspora, prompting audiences to wonder: What is my relationship to those who came before me? And are we-or is anyone-still a people? The reading will be followed by a Q&A with the playwright.

Bagels & Bhangra with Frank London, Deep Singh, and special guest Avi Hoffman

Saturday, December 28 at 8pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: $18

Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Sir Frank London of The Klezmatics and Grammy-nominated percussion virtuoso Deep Singh transform Irving Fields' classic 1959 LP Bagels & Bongos into a slamming, Yiddish-infused Punjabi bhangra party! While Fields fused Latin and Yiddish music in his interpretations of classic Yiddish songs, London and Singh add a host of additional influences, from downtown jazz to Bollywood. Special guest Avi Hoffman joins the duo as the vocalist for this one-of-a-kind evening of song.

The Great Ostrovsky by Cy Coleman and Avery Corman

Sunday, December 29 at 2pm

Theater for the New City

Tickets: $18

Smart and soulful, this lost Cy Coleman musical takes the stage once more to close out the inaugural YI Love New York YiddishFest. Meet David Ostrovsky, an artist of monumental talent with the self-confidence to match. A star of the Yiddish theatre in the 1920s, he suddenly finds himself fighting for his own survival in a bustling world of aspiring artists, hustling promoters, left-wing idealists, and girls who just want to be stars.

Tickets for most 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, when needed.


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 has been seen in New York in the Yiddish Waiting for Godot, as well as his award-winning PBS 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.

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