We told you last week about our top choices for KulturfestNYC, a Jewmungous weeklong performing arts fest (June 14-21) celebrating the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s centennial — well here’s a shinding that we’re co-presenting, TONIGHT, June 17–: Yidler On The Roof (7:30pm at JCC Manhattan), a live rooftop screening of the vunderful vebseries YidLife Crisis in which two boychicks Jamie Elman (Curb Your Enthusiasm, American Dreams) & Eli Batalion (Stage Fright, J.O.B.: The Hip-Hopera), schmooze in Yiddish about topics for which the mamaloshen was never intended!
Heeb caught up with these two nutty nogoodniks for a quick chat, and you can catch them tonight, along with our own DJ Jahfurry AKA Jeff Newelt serving hot heimeshe tunes n’ niguns and MC comedian Katie Halper of Morning Jew starting the evening with some schtick.
HEEB – What’s the difference between a NY jew and a Canadian Jew… is there something unique to Canadian Jewry aside from the curious waft?
YidLife Crisis: Look, before we generalize, every Jew is like its own unique snowflake – often white, floating aimlessly, and somehow involved in the commercialization of Christmas. But, speaking broadly, Canadian Jews tend to have a bit more of a minority complex, because we’ve been blamed for both the blood libel and for using the F word in the Terrance and Phillip movie.
We are obsessed with hockey in a bizarre way. This may appear pretty goyish from a southern perspective, but trust us, when you’re north of the 49th parallel, it’s as heimish as it gets…the Habs are as much religion to Jewish Montrealers as Judaism – arguably more so (how many seders have been interrupted to check the score during playoffs?)
The curious waft, by the way, is the combination of fries, gravy, maple syrup, and chocolatey beaver tails as they float atop a constant colonic base of gefilte fish, kugel, smoked meat, babkas, and, of course, our competition-crushing bagels.
What role does Yiddish have in today’s society as a language?
If language is meant for regular day-to-day street communication, the answer is not much. Today, it’s often the choice for Hasidic communities, but not necessarily the secular ones (there are movements to change this amongst the secular Yiddishists, but it’s a relatively small community). From our viewpoint, the role is less about a pragmatic value and it’s more about the language as a store of culture. The language is kind of like a mixtape that helps remind you of the “where and when” of Ashkenazic experience, built largely off of German syntax and vocabulary for that huge Germanic period that begat the Ashkenazic family tree, Slavic references from the great time we had in the Slavlands, English from our time integrated into our modern North American experience and, of course, Hebrew, the pre-cursor to the whole mayseh, infused into the language through its alephbet and a fair amount of vocabulary. Yiddish is not just a lexicon but also a set of expressions – even sets of characteristic gesticulations – and, above all, a lens for looking at the world. For this reason, we tend to lump Yiddish language together with Yiddish culture as it all seems to work together in the Yiddish Cloud (aka the “yCloud”).
What are some of your next topics you’re going to hit?
What aren’t we going to hit? Modern issues like those of the LGBTQ movement (and we don’t mean Let’s Go Back To Quebec), extremist politics on Facebook and marijuana legalization are all worthy of going through the Yiddish language lens. Death, ‘buying German,’ and circumcision are also all on the table (so to speak). We also aim to go beyond iconic eateries this time around into other relevant cultural and historical points of interest in Montreal and, all over the world (i.e. wherever there is a Chabad, minus the Chabad on Neptune where the kishka gave us food poisoning).
Are you guys working on other schtuff?
We are all over the place, we just got back from the ROI Summit in Jerusalem, but planning a Wandering Jew streak shortly – besides tonight’s show in NYC at June 17th @ the JCC Manhattan, guaranteed to be one of the Top 3 Wednesday experiences of your entire year, we are readying to shoot Season 2 of YidLife Crisis, as well as a bunch of sub-series. We’re specifically interested in docu-travelog material about our experiences traveling the globe in search of Yiddish, Yiddishkayt and the ever-gnawing “yidLife crisis” of spirituality, identity and culture we encounter in just about everyone we meet. So we’re looking at YidLife Crisis moving from just a web series to more of a video portal covering all these topics, and really using our YouTube channel as a true channel in that sense, with varied programming.
You guys have been performing in Israel — how is Yiddish appreciated there (or not)
For some, it’s nostalgia back to a time when grandparents and parents spoke it or sang it, but it’s hard to drum up interest from the younger generations. That’s why our job is all the more messianic – you’re welcome. The truth is, Eliezer Ben Yehuda’s work of revisionist Hebrew sort of took a major bite out of Yiddish’s prospects in the Holy Land (which otherwise could have been the Cholent Land – we have some of the early mockups). But, as is our hunch about it, at the end of the day, when Ben Gurion and Golda Meir talked tachlis, it was probably in Yiddish. Likewise, we think Yiddish can make a comeback as the most meaningful bottom line/no bullshit/secret code language for modern Jews, and hope to cover that in our upcoming shoots.
While we’re admittedly just a couple of schmucks, there is a valuable movement of Yiddishists in Israel preserving Yiddish culture, language, and even loads of actual books, leaders we’ve had the pleasure to meet and who didn’t fully laugh us off. So there may be hope after all for the language and quite possibly a resurgence of interest since we’re sure Israeli Jews are as opgefukt about their cultural identities as we are.
What’s it feel like doing your 6/17 show as part of this giant KulturfestNYC and also as part of the Centennial of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene …
It feels like we cheated our way into the Yiddish Olympics, and are somehow going to get discovered when they do the randomized drug testing.
Quite honestly, it’s an honor to be incorporated amongst the Yiddish community and to have gotten the opportunity to take part in such a meaningful event despite being relatively new to the scene. We hope we make a splash and to continue working with the Yiddish machers to mach some more Yiddish!