Over the last couple of summers at Klezkanada,Â I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the youngÂ folks who are reinventing Jewish/Yiddish culture in the FSU, including the virtuosic Jewish/Gypsy folk explosionÂ DobranotchÂ as well as the more rock and roll oriented Nayekhovichi, featuring Moscow based blues guitar legend, Vanya Zhuk. If you haven’t heard his new verses of Borscht (in yiddish, russian and english), then you’ve never tasted such a dish. Or heard such a song.
But besides the hot musicians and amazing new Yiddish song, there are other superstars of the Yiddish avant-garde of the FSU. Today I heard from Motl Gordon. In addition to studying mathematics, Motl teaches Yiddish sunday school at the JCC in St. Petersburg.
This means he has little 7, 8 and 9 year olds performing (for example) Â yiddish purim shpiels that were collected in Ukraine by Moyshe Beregovski, some 90 years ago. A lot of the Beregovski material, some of the most important ethnographic work ever done on Yiddish, is still unavailable to us here in the US, especially if you don’t speak Russian. Point being, these little kidniks are doing stuff we can’t even dream about. The cuteness is almost too much to bear, even thousands of miles away.
And it’s not just cute, though, Yiddish sunday school symbolizes a real, substantial, enviableÂ commitment to the revitalization of Russian Jewish culture, a commitment that will have a profound impact on the future of spoken Yiddish in the FSU. Motl’s been doing this for three years and it’s been very successful, especially considering how Yiddish, and Jewish culture, barely survived the last sixty years or so. In fact, though the context is obviously wildly different, Yiddish faces similarly daunting challenges in the FSU as it does here in the US (discontinuity, lack of resources etc).
Â Nonetheless, based on the success of the St. Petersburg sunday school, there will now be a similar school opening in Moscow, the nes (miracle) to which I refer in the title of this post. Here’s a brief word about it from Motl (in yiddish and english):
In september vet in Moskve onheybm tsu arbetn a naye zuntik-shul far yidishe mishpokhes “Di Yidishe shtikelekh”. Kinder un eltern veln zikh lernen yidishe shprakh, yidishe lider un traditsie mit profesionele lerers. S’iz di ershte azelkhe shul in Moskve un di tsveyte in Rusland (di ershte iz geven gegrindet in Peterburg dray yorn tsurik). Der program-direktor funem nayem zuntik-shul iz Motl Gordon, folklorist un lerer fun der yidisher shprakh.
“In September 2007, a new Yiddish Sunday school, Yiddishe Shtikelekh,Â will open in Moscow for Jewish families. Parents and children will learn Yiddish, Yiddish songs and traditions with professional teachers. This is the first school of its type in Moscow and the second in the FSU (the first was opened in St Petersburg three years ago). The program director of the new Sunday school is Motl Gordon, folklorist and teacher of Yiddish language. “
This will be first school in MoscowÂ teaching Yiddish to Jewish children (and adults) in over 50 years. So mazel tov, Motl and I’m about to run home and make a l’khayim in your honor.