On Sunday evening Eleanor Koski an 11-year old Long Island City resident joined 12-year old Maya Karp to open the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene Annual Gala concert at the Skirball Center at NYU in Manhattan. The show was hosted by international performing artist Tova Feldshuh with live performances by David Hyde Pierce, Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove. David Hyde Pierce had just finished doing the Sunday matinee of Hello Dolly on Broadway before arriving at the Skirball Center to do his shtick.
The two girls sang the opening number to the gala that brought 1,000 theater goers to the Skirball Center across the street from Washington Square “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” in Yiddish, a language which belonged to their grandparents who immigrated to America in the early 1900’s. IT is also the language that the NYTF has worked very hard to keep alive for current and future Jewish families to enjoy.
Eleanor is new to LIC having moved here about a year and a half ago with her family. She has been in show business since the age of 3 and now has placed herself in the world capital of entertainment, New York City. Her dream is to perform on Broadway. Eleanor is currently home schooled. Perhaps she will attend one of the outstanding middle schools in Long Island City next fall but now it is schooling at home and voices and drama lessons when she is not getting her abc’s.
Eleanor loves the open spaces in LIC with the breathtaking views of the downtown Manhattan from the LIC shoreline.
The Mother’s Day Gala concert, that saw more than 1,000 theatre and National Yiddish Theatre supporters fill the auditorium of the Skirball Center at NYU, was preceded by a reception for 400 guests who came to support and keep the Yiddish music and culture alive. The guests were wined and dined and invited to participate in an auction to raise needed funds for the not for profit organization that has continuously run for 102 consecutive years in New York City.
As the son of immigrant parents and grandparents this writer knows the value of ones cultural heritage. My mother, Evelyn Woltman (maiden name) performed on the Yiddish stage with then the most popular Yiddish stage performer, Molly Peacon performing with her many times and loving the smell of the stage. It was only when she met my father, Sam Miller, another Russian immigrant that she took stock of her life and gave up the stage for the love of her life. When they first met Sam said to Evelyn, “What is a nice Jewish girl like you doing in show business?” It is a similar story to the thousands we hear every day in Queens, the borough that houses the largest diverse international population of residents than anywhere in the United States.
Some of the outstanding performers entertaining the audience mostly in Yiddish were Tova Feldshuh, host and 4-time Tony and 2-time Emmy Award nominee. David Hyde Pierce, (Actor/Director) 4-time Emmy winner. Grammy winne, 2-time Tony Award winner, Daryl Roth (Producer) 7 Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, over 100 aard winning productions, including 20 Tony Award nominations and tony Tony Awards. Brian Hargrove, (writer and lyricist) “It Shoulda Been You.” Barbara Anselmi (Composer, “It Shoulda Been You”) Sheldon Harnick, (lyricist/playwright) Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy, Drama Desk,3-time Tony Award winner, Baayork Lee, (Choreographer) 2017 Tony Award special recipient for Life Achievement. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, (Author, sex therapist, and media personality, Arturo Castro (Actor/writer), Courtney Reed, (Actor), Tedra Dave Thomas Brown(Actor), Glen Berger, (Writer/playwrite/lyricist), 2-time Emmy Award winner, Alicia Svigals, (Violinist) Grammy Award winner. Tedra Millan (Actor), Currently appearing in Present Laughter- Daphne Stillington, Marilyn Sokol, (Actor), Emmy, Obie, Bistro Award winner, Jon Marans (Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Drama League Award Winner. Eleanor Reissa (Actor/director) Tony Award nominee as director.
Currently cast of Broadway show-Indecent. Jeff Baron (Playwrite/writer), Russel Fisher (Actor) Broadway Jersey Boys- Frankie Valli,Sondra Lee( Actor Director) Joanne Borts (Actor), Rachael Sage,( Recording artist) Grammy award nominee, Rachel Policar (Actor) Folksbiene’s The Golden Bride. Stephen Mo Hanan (Actor) Rebecca (Actor), Will Taylor, (Actor), David Edwards (Actor) Rebecca Hoodwin (Actor), Annette Ezekiel-Kogan (Recording artist performer) Sherry Eaker (Producer), Sam Norich ( Media Executiv) President of the Forward newspaper, Merete Muenter (Choreographer), Christopher Massimine) CEO National Yiddish Thearer Folksbiene, Zalmen Mlotek ( Composer/Conductor, Yiddish Theatre Folksbene), Jamie DeRoy (TV personality/producer/performer), Van Dean (Producer/owner of Broadway Records) Grammy and Tony Award, Margot Astrachan ( Producer) Tony and drama Desk Award winner, Lawrence S. Toppall (Producer), Izzy Felds (Costume Designer). Alexandra Aron, (Director of A Night in the Old Marketplace)Michael Ochs (Musicologist), Restorer of the long-lost operetta, The Golden Bride, and Douglas Denoff (Producer).
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, former Chairman of the Board and a very big supporter of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene was very animated when speaking about the organization as a cultural phenomena. In it’s 103rd season, last year more than 150,000 individuals attended our productions, concerts, workshops and educational programs. Friends =, this is how we build a community. And this is how we support our culture. Currently we are represented on Broadway with an extraordinary play “Indecent” In a few weeks we will all be together again at Summer Stage in Central Park for our Third Annual Yiddish Cultural Festival. Come and join us to help keep the Yiddish language alive for generations to come.”
The smell of entertainment and the Yiddish stage is in my blood and it pleases me immensely to share with our readers information about the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, that is helping keeping the light of enlightenment and learning about Yiddish culture and language alive in the lives of millions of Jews around the work and particularly in New York City.
“Tonight’s Mother’s Day Gala celebrates the National Yiddish Theatre’s Ten Leading Ladies, who have made a mark on the world and on their communities. Tonight we celebrate of an incredible 102 consecutive seasons. Opening our doors in 1915 the Folksbiene (people’s stage) emerged as our nation’s first socially minded theatre by giving a voice to immigrant artists and audiences. Now a century later we continue that tradition with diverse programming that services multicultural, multilingual and multigenerational audiences. And in doing so Folksbiene brings a vibrant cultural heritage to life on stage, one that was nearly destroyed some 80 years ago.
Upcoming productions that might int3erest our readers are Amerike- The Golden Land, which begins performances off-Broadway at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on July 4. Another production that might interest you is currently on Broadway and nominated for this year’s Tony Award, INDECENT. A provocative new play with music celebrating Jewish Culture. IT is currently at the Cort Theatre, located at 138 West 48th Street in Manhattan.
On hand for the evening were the ten outstanding woman whose lives have touched millions of men women and children worldwide and whose interest in Yiddish culture and language were recognized during the evening’s festivities. Israel’s Consulate General in New York, the Hon. Ambassador Dani Dayan greeting the dinner guests with kind words about their generosity to the State of Israel and everything related to Jewish culture.
The honorees were Dr. Marion Bergman (Born in South Africa, she has directed Brookhaven Memorial Hospital’s Respiratory Care Service), Rodica Burg (She came to the US as a political refuge from Communist Romania before WWII where members of her family were leaders in the Romanian Yiddish Theatre. Nadine Epstein, Editor and Publisher of MOMENT magazine, created and founded in 1975 by Elie Wiezel. Fanya Gottsfeld Heller, (Holocaust survivor, author, educator and philqanthropist), Ruth Goldschmidt, (Born inn Vienna, Austria she is a global citizen and has been the inspiration for her son Alan Strozenberg’s hit comic character, “Yiddishe Momma).”Bunny Grossinger, (Founder of the Jon Tisch School of Hospitality and Tourism at NYU and a principal in the Vacation and tourism industry having owned Grossinger’s Hotel in the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York). Inna Khidekel, ( Managing Director at Bridge Investment Group), Sharyn Mann (Founder of the Food Allergy Initiative), Daryl Roth(Producer) and Dr. Rada Sumareva (Co-Founder and President of the Russian-American College of Dentists).
The group of Mother’s Day honorees can each take the award for Outstanding World Citizen and International World Diplomat supporting Yiddish Theatre and Jewish culture and music.
As Tova Feldshuh told the Queens Gazette, “Although I am Yiddish impaired I am honored to be part of a 5,000 year old club, that has the gift of adversity given to the Jewish People and that has endured for centuries and has been carried forward by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.”
By Dr. Dan Miller and Joyce Vetere Milowski
Photos by Dr. Dan Miller/