Oy G’Virtual! International Love YiddushFest features online events, performances

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By: Jan Engoren
Contributing Writer

Get the whole mishpocheh together for the first “Oy G’Virtual! International YI Love YiddishFest,” a week-long on-line celebration of Yiddish history, language and arts and culture on Labor Day weekend, (Sept. 7-13).

Sponsored by the Yiddishkayt Initiative (YILoveJewish.org), the creation of “Too Jewish” Avi Hoffman and his mother, Miriam Hoffman, a scholar of Jewish and Yiddish culture, the festival seeks to celebrate and promote Jewish life and culture.

“Yiddishkeyt is sexy,” said Avi Hoffman, who is not only organizing the event but will participate in at least ten of the entertainment events. “Just think about our modern-day culture – it is heavily influenced by Yiddishkeyt – from sitcoms to Broadway to musical theatre. There are at least 5,000 Yiddish words embedded in our English language today.”

Far from losing touch with their Jewish heritage, Hoffman says many Millennials are embracing their Jewish roots along with the language.

He points to actor Seth Rogan’s new comedy “An American Pickle” about a man preserved for a century after falling into pickle brine, in which he speaks Yiddish and the Emmy-nominated Netflix series, “Unorthodox,” a film about an Orthodox woman who leaves her Satmar neighborhood in Brooklyn – also a film where Yiddish is spoken frequently.

Hoffman says all the programming came together quickly over a two month period thanks to a grant they received from Miami-Dade County for The Liberation Day Commemoration, originally scheduled in April, but cancelled due to COVID-19. The county extended the grant through September and the Hoffmans decided to build a festival around the Commemoration.

Remarks by local politicians including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Congressman Ted Deutch, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Rabbi Solomon Schiff will open the Commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the last concentration camps.

The tribute will be followed by a lecture by Lynn University professor Robert Watson, author of “The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn – An Untold Story of the American Revolution and “The Nazi Titanic – The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in WWII” – who will speak about the anniversary of the end of WWII and the end of the Holocaust.

With the ADL and Southern Poverty Law Center reporting an increase in the proliferation of hate groups and the rise of white nationalism and the far right, Watson believes there is cause for concern and for vigilance.

“There has been an unprecedented and alarming spike over the past four years of hate directed at the Jewish community,” Watson said. “For the words “never forget” and “never again” to resonate truth, each generation must be reminded of the tragic lessons of history, but this also means coming together to commemorate life.”

Hoffman says they put on a similar and sold-out festival in New York City last December hosting 13 events in three venues over nine-days.

For this celebration, a number of American and international celebrities and stars of the Jewish and Yiddish world from Toronto to California to Europe will present performances, concerts, theater readings, discussions, film screenings, lectures, etc. every day from 10 a.m. – midnight.

The event will raise money for the Yiddishkeyt Initiative in a “PBS-style fundraiser.”

Capping the weeklong events on Sun., Sept. 13 will be a world premiere virtual play reading of “My Mother, My Sister and Me” by Sherrie Heller, starring Broadway and film actress Loni Ackerman (CATS; Annie; Evita) with a featured cast. The reading will be directed by actor Richard Kline (“Three’s Company”).

The play reading will be followed by a virtual celebrity-studded musical concert entitled, ”Stars of David: Story to Song,” based on the best-selling book, “Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish” by Abigail Pogrebin, with musical director Caryl Fantel.

Some of the Jewish personalities to be celebrated include: Stephen Spielberg, Andy Cohen, Kenneth Cole, Fran Drescher, Michael Feinstein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Tony Kushner, Norman Lear, Leonard Nimoy, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joan Rivers.

For more information about the Yiddishkayt Initiative or the “YI Love YiddishFest,” visit YILoveJewish.org or visit them on Facebook, email info@yilovejewish.org or call 888-945-6835.