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Dear ____,

Yiddish  Culture FestivalThe KlezCalifornia Yiddish Culture Festival at Palo Alto's Congregation Etz Chayim, Presidents' Day Weekend, February 12-15, is only a week away! Check out the program at How can you resist? Register now!

There's so much to tell you in this newsletter. Be sure to read all the way down to the bottom for some great concerts this weekend (Theodore Bikel, Zalmen Mlotek, Beyond the Pale).

The deadline for ordering dinners has been extended until midnight Sunday, Feb. 7. Email us at [email protected] or leave a message at 415.789.7679; then pay via the registration page of or mail a check (details on the website). The deadline for reserving a hotel room at the Courtyard by Marriott at our discounted rate has been extended until Monday Feb. 8. Call the Marriott at 800.321.2211 and request a room for the Yiddish Culture Festival.

We've told you in previous newsletters about many of the exciting teachers in the 59 workshops. We've told you about the Staff Concert & Dance Party Saturday evening and the Sunday late afternoon Open Mic Cabaret and the Monday afternoon Finale party with more dancing! We've told you about the three premieres of The Klezmer Shul on Monday, Feb. 8, at Temple Israel in Alameda; Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley; and Sunday, Feb. 14, at the Festival. If you don't yet know about The Klezmer Shul, see below.

Here are some thoughts from several of the Festival teachers:

From clarinetist Christian Dawid, writing from Weimar, Germany: "In November, I made first connections to the North Moldovan musicians I met through the research of the Other Europeans project that I will talk about in the Klezmer/Balkan/Roma Connections workshop. Helping build regional networks in Eastern Europe might seem a somewhat peculiar business for an outsider from the West, but given the ever-expanding channels of Yiddishland, activities like these become more and more normal. Coming back to Berlin, I recorded with Californian expat and jazz trumpeter Paul Brody. Paul, one of the most creative and productive Jewish artists in Berlin, wrote original works based on those of Czech composer and holocaust victim Erwin Schulhoff and poetry by Rose Auslaender. Writing from a mind-blowing and eye-opening improvisation workshop in Weimar, I watch musicians like Marcelo Moguilevsky, Cesar Lerner, Tcha Limberger and Alan Bern bring together the traditional and the contemporary with an ease that makes me wonder once again about the value of musical categories." Learn klezmer melody technique with Christian, participate in (or watch) his master classes, study the intersection of klezmer, Balkan, and Roma music with him and Peter Jaques, and hear Christian play at the Saturday evening staff concert.

From song teacher Mark Levy, writing from the Santa Cruz Mountains of California: "In 1981, I went to Israel for the first time and played in several venues, including a cafe in Kibbutz Gezer and included one or two Yiddish songs. While performing the first song, I noticed that some of the young people were laughing or uncomfortable. My wife acknowledged this to me later, but said when they saw I was serious about putting the songs across, they warmed up and gave me a nice reception. In 1981, Yiddish was still considered either passe, painful or humorous in an old country way, and people were just starting to feel comfortable with this thousand-year-old language. After all, Hebrew was the national language and songs in Hebrew the cultural norm. I am reminded of the great diva Isa Kremer, who sang her Yiddish repertoire around the world the first half of the 20th century. She sang Yiddish in Tzarist Russia, after the revolution, in Hitler's Germany, and later in Israel. Each time people tried to dissuade her from including the songs in her concerts, but she defied them and received a great reception. When she came to Israel and was cautioned not to sing Yiddish, she replied something like this: I sang them for the Tzar, for the Bolsheviks, and for the Germans, and I will sing them here in our new homeland-- these are the songs of our people. She was as unstoppable as mameloshn, the language of songs that are still today irresistible, songs of childhood, love, work, and hardship that live in us and cry to be heard." Learn Yiddish songs of the Jewish labor movement with Mark and hear him in the session on Yiddish Theatre: The Popular and the Political.

From singer, actor and director Eleanor Reissa, writing from New York: "I am currently preparing the script adaptation of the classic Yiddish play, "Hershele Ostropolye," for the Folksbiene Theatre in New York, where I will also be directing the production. It's very exciting to try to universalize the piece and make it a musical comedy that can transcend time. I have also been performing in concerts with a variety of actors and musicians. I love working with younger people who are all so different and so cool. My own work grows as a result." Study acting with Eleanor, participate in (or watch) her master class for singers, hear about her life in the Jewish theatre, and listen to some of her songs at the Saturday night concert.

Meet, hear and study with these (and 29 other) wonderful teachers!

Theodore Bikel in "Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears"

Theodore BikeSaturday February 6, 8:00pm and
Sunday February 7, 1:00pm, JCC San Francisco.

The great Theodore Bikel brings Sholom Aleichem and his colorful characters to life as he magically melds long-gone lives and times with matters that tug at our heartstrings even today. Singing in English and Yiddish, Bikel delivers rare insight into the life and literary works of this fascinating storyteller. JCC members $60, public $65, or 415.292.1278.

Say hello to concert community partner KlezCalifornia at our table in the lobby at both performances. Pick up some Festival promotional cards for your neighbors, and you can register for the Festival right there.

Zalmen Mlotek in Concert

Zalmen MlotekSunday, February 7, 7:00pm, "Zalmen Mlotek in Concert" at Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto.This internationally recognized concert pianist, singer and Yiddish music meyvn (expert) will perform with Sephardic singer Daniella Rabbani. $25 JCC members, $30 non-members, $20 seniors and students in advance. $30 members, $35 non-members at the door., 650.223.8622.
West Coast Premieres of The Klezmer Shul

February 8, 10, 14 in Alameda, Berkeley, and Palo Alto, respectively.

Music touches our soul and moves us to smile, cry, dance and pray. A new 45-minute, four- movement instrumental suite, The Klezmer Shul combines liturgy with jazz, avant-garde, classical, klezmer and folk elements to inspire a feeling of prayer -- without a single word. The three performances start at 8:00pm and will be followed by discussions in which the musicians will ask audience members whether they experienced the piece as "religious" and, if so, what that means to them.

· Monday, Feb. 8, at Temple Israel in Alameda, 2183 Mecartney Road. For reservations, email [email protected] or 510.522.9355. Suggested donation: $15 for those with reservations, $18 at the door.

· Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, 1316 University Avenue. $15 suggested donation at the door. No advance sales or reservations.; 510.549.9447.

· Sunday, Feb. 14, at Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto. Tickets $10-$20 at,
mail check to KlezCalifornia at 1728 Allston Way, or pay at the door (space permitting). Concert tickets are included in the weekend Yiddish Culture Festival pass.This premiere will by followed by a traditional klezmer dance party.

Have questions? Call KlezCalifornia at 415.789.7679.
Coming Soon

Sunday, February 7, 8:00pm, Freight & Salvage, Berkeley,
Monday, February 8, 7:30pm, Don Quixote Music Hall, Felton,
Beyond the Pale, one of Canada's leading world/roots fusion ensembles, combining klezmer, Balkan, and Romanian styles with North American influences like bluegrass, jazz, reggae and funk.

Put these (other) exciting events on your calendar now:

February 21, 3:00pm, Eleanor Reissa in Love and Longing in Yiddish,
Congregation Sinai, San Jose, or call 408.264.8542. General admission $36, seniors/juniors $20. Come on a journey from shtetl tunes to cosmopolitan Yiddish theatre hits, with music and storytelling.

February 21, 7:00-9:00pm, Pamelakh Yidishe Salon. Email [email protected] for information on this salon for intermediate speakers of Yiddish. Held in a private home in Berkeley.

February 27, 3:00-4:00pm, Intergenerational Klezmer Workshop with Julie Egger, part of a Family Open House, Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, noon-4:00pm.

The first Simcha Dance Jam, a new monthly Jewish dance workshop with Bruce Bierman at JCC East Bay, will be in May. Check this newsletter  for details.

We appreciate your tax-deductible gift in support of KlezCalifornia's work. Help us keep building a warm, open, vibrant community to enjoy Yiddish culture!