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Yiddish and brand-new translations, anecdotes from his life, and a few exclusive excerpts of Rachel Lichenstein’s unpublished book about the poet.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.
Arndt Beck | Horst Bernhardt | Hilde Haberland | Rachel Lichtenstein | Jordan Lee Schnee | Jake Schneider
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:
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.
7 to 12 April 2023 | Rachel Lichtenstein | Manchester Writing School | Manchester Poetry Library and Yiddish.Berlin present:
Avrom Nokhem Stencl (1897—1983)
Yiddish Writer — Poet of Whitechapel — Berlin Bohemian
EXHIBITION | READING | RADIO DOCUMENTARY | FILM
Else Lasker-Schüler called him “Hamid,” Arnold Zweig wrote a foreword for him, and Thomas Mann praised his poetry: Avrom Nokhem Stencl, a Berliner from 1921 to 1936, was one of the most acclaimed modern Yiddish poets in Weimar-era Germany, and he laid the foundations of his multifaceted and prolific poetic work in Berlin. Together with writer and artist Rachel Lichtenstein, the Manchester Writing School, and the Manchester Poetry Library, Yiddish.Berlin is setting the stage for an almost forgotten Berliner.
The exhibition gives an introduction to Stencl’s eventful life and includes multimedia work from Rachel Lichtenstein’s research including artwork, a film and radio programme, which are available in the gallery.
It is exactly 10 years since Helmut J. Psotta died largely unnoticed. Arndt Beck remembers an idiosyncratic artist who gathered important experiences of his development in Latin America, gives insights into his own work with the estate and exemplifies some backgrounds and motifs in Psotta’s work.
The exhibition is open from 6 pm — for the last time.
Arndt Beck, works as a freelance artist mainly in photography, drawing and text. As the heir of H.J. Psotta, he represents his work as if it were his own. He has also been working intensively with Yiddish for several years and is one of the initiators of yiddish.berlin.
For almost a decade, Sveta Kundish & Patrick Farrell have been developing contemporary Yiddish art song almost effortlessly. Farrell’s compositions breathe with great depth and uniquely plumb the interplay of accordion and song. Together Kundish & Farrell distill and interpret lider from the rich trove of Yiddish poetry.
A response to their recently released debut album as a duo, Nem Mayn Vort:
Kundish & Farrell are bringing an entirely new perspective to the world of Yiddish music with their fierce focus on both text and musical composition, their equal dedication to traditional and contemporary musical practice, and their rare virtuosity as performers. “Nem mayn vort” is a remarkable document of their artistry.
Sveta Kundish is a singer who performs a wide variety of Jewish music throughout Europe. She appears with Voices of Ashkenaz and Trickster Orchestra among others, and is a regular faculty member at Yiddish Summer Weimar. Born in Ukraine and later moving to Israel, Kundish holds degrees from Tel Aviv University and the Prayner Konservatorium in Vienna, and in 2017 completed a degree in Cantorial Studies from the Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Potsdam, Germany. Kundish currently works as the first female Cantor in the history of the Jewish Communities of Lower Saxony, Germany.
Patrick Farrell is an accordionist, composer and bandleader from Brooklyn, New York. An artist of “sharp wit and blistering speed” (NY Music Daily), he is at home in many different musical styles. Farrell has played as a guest with Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars and Alicia Svigals’ Klezmer Fiddle Express. He is also a composer, musical director, and accompanist for various theater and dance companies.
Yiddish is a queer language. For generations now, Yiddish-speakers have been blending their queerness with their Yiddishness, drawing on this international language’s built-in intersectionality to create theater, music, art, film, and literature that defies old taboos by including our own queer selves. As Sara Felder wrote, “Queer Yiddishkeit gives me permission to go back to the world of my grandparents without leaving myself behind.” The multimedia presentation, a whistle-stop tour through time, will start with the 1907 Berlin premiere of Sholem Asch’s play God of Vengeance, set in a Jewish-run brothel and featuring a lesbian kiss, and enjoy examples from every decade since. You can expect: cruising in 1930s Vilnius, a trans yeshiva boy, a gay bullfighter from Brooklyn, a sapphic bagel baker, a Soviet Yiddish-to-Gay dictionary, queer rabbis, AIDS activism, a ritual spanking on stage, and more.
Jake Schneider is a translator, literary organizer, aspiring Yiddish poet, and proud member of Yiddish.Berlin. He organizes the local Yiddish conversation group “Shmues un Vayn” and gives tours by appointment about the history of Yiddish-speakers in Berlin’s Scheunenviertel neighborhood. jakeschneider.eu