Events‎ > ‎2016 Festival Berkeley‎ > ‎

* Teachers & Performers

Karen Bergen will lead dancing at the Cabaret Dance Party. She has performed and taught music for most of her life, and currently directs the Yiddish Choristers of the Palo Alto JCC. She also leads the Jewish Community Chorus, which sings for the annual Yom Hashoah Remembrance at Congregation Beth Am. For twenty years Karen taught music to children at Temple Sholom in Burlingame, and at the Palo Alto School for Education, and she has performed in local community college musicals. Karen is on the Board of KlezCalifornia, and serves on several committees for Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto, where she occasionally leads both Israeli and Klezmer dance. She directed the Rikudom Dance Group in San Francisco in the 1980s.

Bruce Bierman 

Bruce Bierman is an award winning theater and teaching artist. He is a co-founder of the New Yiddish Theater where he directed and choreographed the West Coast premiere of Dov Seltzer's musical 'The Megillah of Itzik Manger' for the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival. Last year, he and the NYT team introduced Klez California's first Yiddish Cabaret series inspired by the radical avant-garde 'kleynkunst' cabarets of prewar Warsaw. After performing and teaching with the internationally acclaimed Aman Folk Dance Ensemble of Los Angeles, Bruce began studying Yiddish dance with some of the top masters in the country and is now a leading presenter of Yiddish Dance on the West Coast. He is the founder and co-director of New Stages --a performing arts institute for LGBT seniors at the LGBT Center in L.A. and currently serves on the teaching faculty of the Stagebridge Theater Company in Oakland.

Ken Blady 

Educator, writer, and Yiddish translator, Ken Blady, was born in Paris, France, and grew up in Chassidic Brooklyn, where he attended yeshivas and rabbinical seminary. A San Francisco Bay Area resident since 1972, Ken has a BA in History from UC Berkeley, and an MA in Educational Psychology from CSU, East Bay. He is the author of "The Jewish Boxers' Hall of Fame," "Jewish Communities in Exotic Places"; and translator of seven works from Yiddish. A popular lecturer on a variety of Jewish themes at colleges, synagogues, elder hostels, and adult educational institutions, Ken has been featured on a number of radio and TV talk shows and educational programs, including The Voice of Israel and The History Channel. He is currently a lecturer in Jewish History at Emeritus College in Walnut Creek; OLLI at Cal State U. East Bay, Concord, and at San Francisco State University; and American Jewish University's Whizin Center in Los Angeles. See

Sheldon Brown (The Gonifs)

Composer, Saxophonist and Clarinetist Sheldon Brown has been active in the Bay Area’s creative music scene for over 30 years. He leads several ensembles featuring his own work, and in 2014 he premiered his recent extended composition, Blood of the Air, at the 32nd Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival, at the SFJAZZ Center. Brown has studied and performed Klezmer Music since 1986. He toured Europe with The Klezmorim for 5 years, and in 1996 became a founding member of one of the Bay Area’s top Klezmer bands, The San Francisco Klezmer Experience, led by Daniel Hoffman. Brown also performs with Jeanette Lewicki in the gonifs, and in Glenn Hartman’s group, The Klezmer Playboys. See

Sara Felder (Comedy)

Sara Felder is a solo theater artist, playwright and juggler. While the themes of her plays and performances are serious, her form is comic, engaging, vaudevillian. She strives to integrate personal experiences with the urgency of this moment in history. Out of that mix she creates funny and provocative theater. Sara began performing in 1984 with San Francisco’s Pickle Family Circus. She has also toured with Jugglers for Peace in Cuba, the Women’s Circus in Nicaragua, Joel Grey’s Borscht Capades and at Festivals of Jewish/Yiddish Culture in Berlin, London, Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Through juggling, she has been able to find her theatrical voice, create compelling performance, teach alternative populations and pursue social justice. See

The Gonifs (Band)

Reb Irwin Keller (MC)

Reb Irwin Keller is a teacher, writer, music-maker, performer and spiritual leader. He has served as "reb" of Congregation Ner Shalom in Sonoma County, California since 2008, and is continuing studies through the Aleph rabbinic ordination program. He was once a lawyer and advocate (including being the primary author of Chicago's first LGBT non-discrimination law). And he had the distinct honor of being a moderately famous singing drag queen with America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet, the Kinsey Sicks - dubbed by NPR as "the Royal Shakespeare Company of drag performance.

Heather Klein (Singer)

Heather Klein is an American soprano and “Yiddish Chanteuse” who follows her passion of “painting pictures” with her voice and bringing stories to life. She performs as a soloist across the U.S. and internationally. Klein has focused on a lesser known genre: Yiddish classical song; which is presented in her second self-produced CD “Shifreles Portret” with her “Inextinguishable Trio.” Most recently, Klein worked on a new opera called Hatuey by Frank London at the Sundance Theatre Lab in North Adams, Massachusetts. She portrayed the role of Queen Esther in the West Coast premiere of the musical Itzik Manger’s Di Megile, and premiered the title role in Lilith the Night Demon, a modern Yiddish and English opera produced by Bay Area trio Veretski Pass. She performed and produced Yiddish Spring a two-concert residency at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in honor of Yom HaShoah. In addition, Klein performed the role of Rosie in the world-premiere of Frauenstimmen, a cabaret opera based on the Holocaust, before a sold-out theater in Boston. 

Elaine Leeder

Elaine Leeder is a Professor of Sociology and the Dean Emerita of the School of Social Sciences at Sonoma State University in California. Previously she was a Professor at Ithaca College, Ithaca NY. She has 40 years of distinguished accomplishments and experience in academia and public service. Her awards include a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship, Visiting Scholar status at the United States Holocaust Museum, outstanding teaching awards, research and travel grants and numerous awards from student and community agencies. Leeder has an MSW from Yeshiva University, an MPH from University of California at Berkeley, and a PhD from Cornell University, has published five books and numerous articles. Her book The Family in Global Perspective: A Gendered Journey is based on her voyages around the world. Her most recent book My Life with Lifers: Lessons for a Teacher, Humanity Has No Bars describes her work at San Quentin State Prison. Her exemplary career encompasses roles as professor/teacher, psychotherapist, consultant, author and advocate for social justice. In her first book, The Gentle General: Rose Pesotta, Anarchist and Labor Organizer studied radical Jews who were active in the labor movement. Her presentation will cover those radicals we might never have heard of.

Jeanette Lewicki (The Gonifs)

Singing accordionist Jeanette Lewicki appears in subways, concert halls, dreams, and recording studios around the world. Orphaned young, without a dowry, Jeanette did what she had to do to learn Yiddish, and found her first accordion at the vegan commune where she grew up (in her twenties). Jeanette has produced numerous recordings including Mayn Shtetele Soroke (with Bessarabian Yiddish singer Arkady Gendler) and Fli Mayn Flishlang (Yiddish children’s songs by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman). She is a member of the Klez-X, editrix of the zine Yiddish Tango Illustrated, and leader of the gonifs klezmer band, founded in 1996 with clarinetist Peter Jaques. See 

Richard Saunders (The Gonifs)

Richard Saunders has been playing bass professionally for 50 years. He has worked with Country Joe and the Fish, Freddie Hubbard, Cat Anderson, Joe Henderson, Jessica Williams, the San Francisco Klezmer Experience (Klez-X), the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Pickle Family Circus, and various movie and TV shows. He teaches bass at the Community Music Center in San Francisco.

Gerry Tenney 

Gerry Tenney is a children’s entertainer, musician and teacher, singer of Yiddish songs, and leader of the band California Klezmer. In 2002, 2004, and 2006 he was Musical Director for two Yiddish-oriented plays put on by San Francisco State University’s Drama and Jewish Studies Departments. He directed the Jewish Music Festival in its early years and was a main organizer of the first klezmer camp in California (KlezKamp West) in 1989. For ten years, he hosted the Gershn YanklShow on KPFA. He has led and performed children’s music at many klezmer music camps in New York, West Virginia and California, as well as at other Jewish children’s camps. Gerry has worked with children for more than forty years. He was director and music teacher of the East Bay Kindershul, the only kids’ school (grades K-8) in the Bay Area that emphasized Yiddish culture. Gerry taught sociology at the City College of New York, 1967–1972. A descendant of the Shpielman family of the Kolymea klezmorim, Gerry is an almost-fluent Yiddish speaker and President of KlezCalifornia.

Veretski Pass

The power trio of
 Cookie SegelsteinJosh Horowitz, and Stu Brotman offers a unique combination of virtuosic musicianship and raw energy that has excited concertgoers across the world. The trio plays Old Country Music with origins in the Ottoman Empire, once fabled as the borderlands of the East and the West. In a true collage of Carpathian, Jewish, Romanian, and Ottoman styles, typical suites contain dances from Moldavia and Bessarabia; Jewish melodies from Poland and Romania; Hutzul wedding music from Carpathian-Ruthenia; and haunting Rebetic aires from Smyrna, seamlessly integrated with original compositions. Their CDs have repeatedly been on the ten-best recording lists of journalists. In 2014 the group presented their magical folk opera, “Lilith the Night Demon in One Lewd Act,” in collaboration with the San Francisco Choral Artists. Their latest project is the CD "Polyn" with clarinetist Joel Rubin. See

Dan Wolf 

Dan Wolf is an actor, rapper, playwright, director, producer and educator. His work crosses artistic and cultural borders to combine conventional theater styles with the themes, language, music, history and aesthetics of the Hip-Hop generation. Dan is a founding member of the critically acclaimed Hip Hop music and theater collective Felonious and Artistic Director of Sound in the Silence.
His play “Angry Black White Boy,” based on the novel by Adam Mansbach, premiered at Intersection for the Arts in October 2008, ran for 12 sold-out weeks and was named Top Ten Best Theater Plays by the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner. His play “Beatbox: A Raparetta” (co-authored with Tommy Shepherd) has been produced in San Francisco, Oakland, Petaluma, Germany, and at the New York Hip Hop Theater Festival. “Beatbox” is published by TCG in the Hip Hop Theater anthology “Plays from the Boom Box Galaxy.” His play “Stateless: A Hip Hop Vaudeville,” a hip-hop and beatbox infused theatrical collaboration with Tommy Shepherd, balancing German and Jewish history with the problems of racism and the African American experience, has been produced in San Francisco, Hamburg and New York. Dan co-created and performed in “Block By Block,” a multi-disciplinary performance that brought a San Francisco block party into the de Young Museum. Dan’s play “Anansi the Spider,” created in collaboration with Tommy Shepherd, toured to Bay Area schools for Marin Theater Company in 2012. Dan is part of a team of artists that adapted “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” Jeff Chang’s seminal book on Hip Hop culture, for the stage at Z Space in San Francisco in January 2016. Dan is developing “Curren$y,” a hip hop adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” See