March and April 2024: Upcoming Events and Updates

Although Yiddish.Berlin has been less active lately as an official (or rather, very unofficial) group, Berlin’s decentralized, DIY Yiddish community is livelier than ever.

There is a whole series of major Yiddish-related events coming up in the city:

  • 8 March – On International Women’s Day, Yiddish.Berlin presents works by Yiddish women poets, featuring a varied program of Yiddish poetry and music written, organized, and performed entirely by women.
  • 17 March – Honey on Paper: Yiddish Day One. A 6-hour, one day introductory workshop to Yiddish language and culture for people who have never taken a class before. Participants will learn some basic conversation, vocabulary, grammar, and some letters of the alphabet, and will also watch some Yiddish music videos and bake hamentashn pastries for Purim.
  • 13 April – PARATAXE Symposium XIV: Hebrew? Yiddish? Berlin? This symposium at the Kulturbrauerei will be devoted to literature written here in Berlin in Yiddish and Hebrew, past and present. The Yiddish scene is the focus of the 4pm panel and will also be represented with original poetry and music in the evening reading at 8pm.
  • 14 April – Haus für Poesie: For you, whoever you are: Yiddish poetry. This reading, curated by Jordan Schnee, brings together the contemporary Yiddish poets David Omar Cohen (Amsterdam) and Beruriah Wiegand (London/Oxford) with music by Daniel Kahn (Hamburg) and text-based visual art by Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson (Berlin).
  • 24-28 April – The 2024 Shtetl Berlin festival! Save the dates. More information on this annual whirlwind of Yiddish music and culture will be available soon on their website. Meanwhile, their next klezmer jam sessions at Oblomov will be happening on 13 March and 11 April, plus a Yiddish singalong on 27 March.

Apart from that, here are some updates on ongoing developments in the local Yiddish community:

  • The Yiddish social club Shmues un Vayn was recently featured in the English section of the Forverts with an article headlined “You can now hear people speaking Yiddish in bars all over Berlin.” That might not be entirely true yet, but we’re well on the way as we approach our fiftieth gathering. The club’s gabbai Jake Schneider gave a workshop in January about how to start and maintain this kind of group, hosted by KlezCalifornia (recording  available on YouTube). He also gave a guest interview about it for the podcast Proste Yiddish in, well, simple Yiddish.
  • A new Yiddish poetry writing group, coordinated by Katerina Kuznetsova, is now meeting every two weeks to discuss its members’ original Yiddish poems, which they have recently performed at the London-based Yiddish Open Mic Cafe, a reading organized by Leivik House in memory of Moyshe Dovid Guiser, and probably more.
  • The longstanding weekly reading group, coordinated by Arndt Beck, remains devoted to our Berliner zeyde Avrom Nokhem Stencl. Besides reading his poems every Sunday, participants have also been translating Stencl’s poetry and prose into four languages.
  • A new initiative is underway to create a mini-library of books in and about Yiddish called the Berliner Tshemodan-Bibliotekl (the Little Berlin Suitcase Library). After a spontaneous fundraising drive (you can still donate here), three of us traveled to Hamburg for a Yiddish book sale by the Salomo-Birnbaum-Gesellschaft. We did indeed return home with a suitcase full of Yiddish books. More information about the library soon.

8 October: Yortsaytlikht (Memorial Candle) – A Reading of a One-Act Play

8 October 2023, 4 pm

“From you, the killers have taken away what to see with, and from me, they have taken away what to see.”

A hospital in the Soviet Union, 1946. Tropimov can’t sleep. In the morning, when the bandages are finally removed, he will find out whether he can see. Meanwhile Dr. Soyfer, who operated on him, is dreaming of the mother he will never see again.

A dramatization of a story written immediately after the war by one of Berlin’s greatest Yiddish authors, Dovid Bergelson (1884–1952).

Original story by Dovid Bergelson, dramatized by Dovid Likht

Initiated and directed by Daniel Galay, chairman of the Leyvik House in Tel Aviv

The reading will be in Yiddish with no translation.

Featuring
Daniel Galay as Yerofey Simyonovitish Tropimov, Jake Schneider as Dr. Soyfer, Anna Rozenfeld as Krankenshvester, and Osian Evans Sharma as the narrator.

Galerie ZeitZone
Adalbertstrasse 79
10997 Berlin

Free admission, donations encouraged

16 August: Yiddish Guerrilla Histories

16 August 2023, 8 pm

History is written by the powerful. But what happens when the powerless insist on preserving and interpreting their own experiences: sharing them in secret gatherings, publishing them in underground newspapers, and burying the archives in milk cans for survivors to read? What does it mean to write collective and creative chronicles in a language with no army or navy? What makes our stories into histories?

Yiddish Guerrilla Histories will dig up and translate a few of these defiant acts of memory from 1914 to 2023, including poems, songs, and sagas, and share them with a trustworthy audience.

Reading and presentation in English and (translated) Yiddish

With special guests Sarah Silberstein Swartz and Zohar Weiman-Kelman, as well as Berlin’s own Guli Dolev-Hashiloni, Katerina Kuznetsova, Michaela Kobsa-Mark, Jake Schneider, Ro van Wingerden, and Janina Wurbs

Featuring the Yiddish writings of Rokhl Oyerbakh, Anna Margolin, Malka Lee, Leyb Kvitko, and Irena Klepfisz, Yente Mash, and Chava Rosenfarb, plus some music

A project of Yiddish.Berlin, curated by Jake Schneider

B-Lage
Mareschstraße 1
12055 Berlin-Neukölln (Rixdorf)

Free admission, donation to support the presenters encouraged

8 April: Yiddish.Berlin Reads Avrom Nokhem Stencl

Cover des Skizzenbuchs von Rachel Lichtenstein zum jiddischen Dichter Avrom Nokhem Stencl
Cover of Rachel Lichtenstein’s sketchbook about A.N. Stencl

With a mixed program of and about Avrom Nokhem Stencl, Yiddish.Berlin presents some of its first impressions of Stencl’s Berlin period. Together with the author, we will wander through 1920s Berlin homeless shelters. We will also listen to some of his poems in the original Yiddish and brand-new translations, anecdotes from his life, and a few exclusive excerpts of Rachel Lichenstein’s unpublished book about the poet. An evening in Yiddish, English, and German.

Featuring:

Arndt Beck | Horst Bernhardt | Hilde Haberland | Rachel Lichtenstein | Jordan Lee Schnee | Jake Schneider

Galerie ZeitZone
Adalbertstrasse 79
10997 Berlin

9 April: Public reading circle (leyenkrayz)

Titelblatt von Avrom Nokhem Stencls Langgedicht "Afn rog" (An der Ecke), Berlin 1935
Cover page of A.N. Stencl’s long poem Oyfn rog, Berlin 1935

Years before Yiddish.Berlin was established as a group in 2019, Berlin had a Yiddish reading circle, which Tal Hever-Chybowski started at the Polish-German bookstore BUCH|BUND. After Tal’s departure, Ilay Halpern kept the circle going; finally, Arndt Beck took it over in late 2016. Until 2020, a small group of Yiddish speakers met nearly every Sunday to read and discuss Yiddish writing, mostly prose, by a wide range of authors.

After a pandemic pause, the reading group resumed a while back and now meets every Sunday at Galerie ZeitZone. Most recently we have been focused on the Berlin writings of Avrom Nokhem Stencl.

To mark the exhibition celebrating Stencl’s life and work, we are now inviting those without a Yiddish language background to attend the reading group as guests and listeners for the first and possibly only time. But above all, Yiddish readers of all levels are encouraged to join us for the reading and discussion.

At this special session, we will be reading and discussing Stencl’s long poem “Oyfn rog” (At the Junction), which he published in Berlin in 1935. The poem, like most of Stencl’s Berlin-era work, has not been translated into any other language. Plenty of copies will be available on the day, but if you would like to prepare in advance (which is not necessary), you can find the poem here:

Avrom Nokhem Stencl, Oyfn rog, Berlin 1935 (pdf)

9 April 2023, 4pm

Galerie ZeitZone
Adalbertstrasse 79
10997 Berlin

11 April: Third Seder, Shmues un Vayn style (for Yiddish speakers)

Image by Jake Schneider

For more than a year now, our “Shmues un Vayn” (Conversation and Wine) group has been meeting around twice a month at Berlin bars, parks, apartments, bookstores, and courtyards with a very simple concept: to socialize while speaking only Yiddish over a glass of wine or beer. Attendance ranges from six (cozy) to twelve (average) to forty (last summer’s street party). Apart from the occasional board game or impromptu Yiddish singalong, our structure is deliberately loose and open-ended.

One rare moment of structure came last April, a few months after the group’s founding, when member Laura Radosh hosted a “Passover Salon” at her apartment. We read each other Yiddish poems new and old, sang some Ashkenazi Passover classics, and recited together from an old Bundist Haggadah. Without realizing it, we were revisiting a half-forgotten tradition that started in 1910: the “third seder.” In addition to the two ritualized seder evenings that open the festival of Passover, this third one is an open-ended, secular space for reflection, modern interpretation, and creative expression.

This year, during the exhibition celebrating the poet Avrom Nokhm Stencl, we have decided to hold another third seder (deliberately this time) at Galerie Zeitzone, as the twenty-fifth meeting of Shmues un Vayn. Yiddish speakers of all levels are invited to join us and share a song, poem, joke, text, artwork, or other contribution – new or discovered – on the themes of Passover: oppression and liberation. Or simply come, listen, and chat with us in Yiddish. In honor of the holiday, there will be plenty of wine. And while there, you can take a look at the exhibition.

If you have other plans that night, but speak some Yiddish and are interested in attending Shmues un Vayn in the future, email us at nayes [at] yiddish.berlin to receive future invitations. We have also organized satellite gatherings in Tel Aviv and New York and hope to spread the concept to more cities soon.

11 April 2023, 7 pm

Galerie ZeitZone
Adalbertstrasse 79
10997 Berlin

2 November: The Newest Yiddish Poetry

Flyer for reading in Yiddish and English.

Yiddish Berlin presents:
"the newest yiddish poetry"

featuring:
jake schneider
katerina kuznetsova
jordan lee schnee

introduction:
arndt beck

schnapphahn
berlin kreuzberg
dresdener str. 14
november 2, 8PM"

Yiddish.Berlin is thrilled. After years of hard work, three gutsy, talented voices from our own circle are ready to present their own original Yiddish poetry. Be there when Jake Schneider, Katerina Kuznetsova, and Jordan Lee Schnee share their creations with the public for the first time. With an introduction by Arndt Beck.

Counterclockwise from top-right: Arndt Beck, Jake Schneider, Katerina Kuznetsova, Jordan Lee Schnee

Spring and Summer 2022

After the closing of our successful exhibition Mageyfe | Milkhome | Mame-Loshn in June, we’ve taken a short break from organizing events to enjoy a busy summer of other Yiddish activities. The one exception is our twice-monthly conversation group (shmueskrayz) “Shmues un Vayn,” which will be meeting next on the 4th and 16th of August. If you are in town and would like to join us, please email us for the locations and to join the shmueskrayz mailing list. Recent guests to the shmueskrayz have included Karo Wegner from Poland, Reb Noyekh Barrera from California, and Prof. Sara Feldman of Harvard University.

An announcement image for the conversation group. The white handwritten Yiddish text, on a blue and pink gradient, translates to: "Conversation and Wine 11: Thursday Fourth of August 2022, 19:30"
Announcement for the 11th Shmues un Vayn meetup (location removed)

On the somber 70th anniversary of the Night of the Murdered Soviet Yiddish Poets, we will not be hosting our own commemoration as we have the past four years. However, we will of course be individually involved in at least two of the many events to mark this sad occasion organized by other groups and institutions. We encourage you to join us at the symposium and reading at the Jewish Museum Berlin on 14 August as part of the Yiddish in Berlin summer program, or the night of remembrance on 12 August in Weimar, as part of Yiddish Summer Weimar.

Meanwhile, members of Yiddish.Berlin have recently been involved in:

  • An ELES Seminar in Rheinsberg about Yiddish run by four of us (Jordan Lee Schnee, Anna Rozenfeld, Irad Ben Isaak, and Katerina Kuznetsova) and featuring a performance by Daniel Kahn
  • The conference “The Avant-Garde in Yiddish Culture: The 100th Anniversary of Khalyastre” at Bar-Ilan University, including a presentation by Irad Ben Isaak
  • Generation J, a Yiddish-themed summer camp for young adults in Weimar
  • The first ever UK Yiddish Sof-Vokh: 48 hours of nonstop Yiddish in Yorkshire, including a Yiddish poetry writing workshop with Jake Schneider
  • Shtetl Berlin’s latest jam-packed “kleznick” (Klezmer picnic) by the Landwehr canal (photo below)
  • The bountiful musical, cultural, and Yiddish language programming at Yiddish Summer Weimar
A photograph of the kleznick (klezmer picnic) in July, showing several dozen people sitting on picnic blankets, playing instruments including fiddles and accordions, and chatting in a grassy, leafy setting
The Shtetl Berlin “Kleznick” in July. Photo: Arndt Beck

Some of us will also be taking part in the comprehensive Yiddish in Berlin summer program organized by the Paris Yiddish Center – Medem Library in partnership with the FU’s Institute for East European Studies , which begins next week and is partnering with us for our second August shmueskrayz gathering.

We will be announcing more events of our own soon, and meanwhile we hope to see you af der yidisher gas!

26 May: Shmues un Vayn 7 – Yiddish Conversation Evening

Our Yiddish conversation group, or shmueskrayz, was launched at the beginning of the year and has been meeting once or twice a month ever since at bars and members’ private apartments. Our gatherings are casual and unstructured, and our conversations follow their own natural flow. The only rule is that we speak Yiddish the entire time. Interested Yiddish speakers of any level are always invited to get in touch with us and we will let you know the upcoming dates.

During the exhibition Plague | War | Mother Tongue, we are opening the group’s seventh meeting to the public. Anyone who speaks Yiddish (or has learned in the classroom and would like to try chatting out in the world) is welcome to show up spontaneously – no RSVP needed – and join our conversation.

26 May 2022, 7 pm

Galerie Zeitzone
Adalbertstr. 79
10997 Berlin-Kreuzberg