Honoring Wiesel and Lauder, “Folksbeine” Fosters Tradition at Annual Cabaret Event
Ambassador Ronald Lauder, 1986 Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, and his wife and translator, Marion Wiesel were honored by The National Yiddish Theatre – the Folksbiene – at a Gala Cabaret Dinner December 8. The oversubscribed event, described as “a celebration of light and hope,” included a concert featuring many Yiddish favorites across the generations enhanced by enthusiastic audience participation.
The over subscribed evening had stars on both sides of the curtain and was attended by leaders of finance, publishing, real estate and politics. Dinner Chairwoman Judith Rosen, welcomed the enthusiastic crowd to the Bohemian National Hall and awards were presented by CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Malcolm Hoenlein Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Greetings were given by Board Chariman Jeff Wiesenfeld and President Mark Mlotek.
The multi-generational, international cast directed by Zalmen Mlotek, included Israeli star Magda Fishman, American opera singer Elmore James and actor/singer Tony Perry. The gala, scheduled on the final night of Chanukah, 2010, began with the traditional blessings and holiday melodies richly presented by Cantor Joseph Malavony of New York’s Fifth Avenue synagogue. The Chazan was followed by a presentation of the young members of the Folksbiene Company being trained in the language and culture of the Yiddish world and its theatrical traditions. Overall, the music of the evening program had a heavier emphasis on the songs and music of the Holocaust than might have been anticipated on a last-night-of-Chanukah Gala celebration.
Magda Fishman has a unique repertoire that includes folk, jazz, and liturgical music bases. Whether singing in an intimate salon or the open stage, her voice is extraordinary. The bilingual Tony Perry recently headlined the world premiere of Murray Schisgal’s “Shpiel! Shpiel! Shpiel!” Together with Elmore James, the three starred in the Folksbeine’s end-of-summer concert at the Hampton Synagogue.
Honoree Wiesel, author of 57 books, among them ‘Night’ had been called a “messenger to mankind’ who delivered a powerful message “of peace, atonement and human dignity” to humanity in his 1986 Nobel Prize citation. He was introduced by CUNY President Matthew Goldstein. Wiesel received an Honorary Doctorate from the University, where he is distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies.
Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations introduced Honoree Ambassador Ronald Lauder. The respected philanthropist has been instrumental in encouraging and supporting Jewish education in Eastern Europe. His legendary efforts have helped re-establish devastated communities throughout the continent.
Now in its 96th year, The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene – offers a schedule of plays, concerts and literary events presented in English and Yiddish. Performances feature English and Russian supertitles. The company is expanding its audience to include non-Yiddish speakers and bring the tradition of the Yiddish stage to a wider audience. The stated mission of the Folksbiene is “to preserve, promote, and develop Yiddish Theater for current and future generations….as a necessary component of Jewish Life.” Its efforts were exemplified by the winter gala event: from the youth chorus to the seasoned professional to the international talents, the Folksbeine is providing training and opportunities to young artists, as well as working to widen the knowledge and enhance the appreciation of traditional Yiddish theater as well as promoting “the culture’s lively, ever-evolving art and wisdom.”