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Notes from the Underground


Notes from the Underground

A musical performance entitled “Notes from the Underground” was presented to a sold out audience in New York this May. The performance,  held in conjunction with the Beit Hatfutsot exhibition “Let My by People Go” sponsored by of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs is currently on display at The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (MJH). The performance, which was produced in Russian, Hebrew, English and Yiddish in partnership with The National Yiddish Theatre: Folksbiene,  Dor Chadash, COJECO, NCSJ, JICNY and Hillel, marks a heroic  chapter in Jewish history by highlighting an important work that inspired refuseniks and activists during the Soviet Union era of oppression.  

 “In sponsoring the program, the partners demonstrated their commitment to reinforcing Jewish Peoplehood past, present and future through our rich Jewish cultural heritage and to enhancing appreciation for it among young adults,” said Shula Bahat, CEO of Beit Hatfutsot of American. “The stirring musical program demonstrated that at the center of the Soviet Jewry movement was a unique culture that accompanied Jews for centuries and was almost annihilated by the USSR Communist regime.”

 The audience, which included former refuseniks, leaders of the struggle for freedom of Soviet Jews, young Russian Jews, Americans, Israelis and friends from across the Jewish spectrum, cheered the performers throughout the concert that ended with dancing on the stage. 

At the concert’s conclusion, NCSJ leadership Alexander Smukler, President, Richard Stone, Chairman, and Mark Levin, Executive Director presented Judith Stern Peck, President of the American Friends of Beit Hatfutsot, with a Samizdad, an important and original manuscript that guided Jews in the USSR how to lead Jewish life in the underground and was smuggled out of the former Soviet Union.  The Samizdad will be added to the Beit Hatfutsot collection.

The concert was the brainchild of Feliks Frenkel, Vice-Chairman of Folksbiene and Chairman of COJECO, Stephen Greenberg, Treasurer of the AFBH and longtime activist in the struggle for Soviet Jewry, and Shula Bahat.

Zalmen Mlotek, the musical director of Folksbiene, created a program based on his and his parents Yosl z’l and Chane Mlotek’s dedication to the rich and vast treasures of Yiddish literature, culture and Jewish life in general, that accompanied Jews in Russia for centuries.

Performers included Phyllis Berk, the singer and actress who has appeared on radio, TV and the concert stage including the hit musical “The Golden Land”. A native New Yorker, she performed selections from “Di Farbotene Lider” (The Forbidden Songs), a collection that was recorded in Israel during the Stalinist period of the Soviet Union; Elmore James, a veteran of Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera House, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and many of Europe’s leading houses;  Svetlana Shmulyian, solo artist and  leader of the band Jazz Kompot; David Stapanovsky, who studied music at the Cherovtsky Music Academy and the Kazan Conservatory and who has appeared with the Bukovina Pops Orchestra and the Smerichka Orchestra and GOLEM, a klezmer-rock band founded by Annette Ezekial Kogan in 2001. They have become leading interpreters of Yiddish and Eastern European music as well as innovators, creating new songs and pushing tradition forward into new territory. They have performed nationally and internationally and have two albums “Fresh off Boat” and” Citizen Boris” released on the independent Jewish label, Jdub Rebords. They are known for their theatricality and fearless wild energy, combined with their love and reverence for tradition.

The evening concluded with a wine and cheese reception overlooking the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The Leon Charney Report and Shalom TV covered the event for television.

The “Let my People Go” exhibition, will be traveling to key communities in the United States and Canada beginning in the fall of 2012. For more information contact Beit Hatfutsot of America.