top of page
View our most recent Event Here
Chicago Yivo Society
The Whole Megillah: The Story of The Yiddish Theatre
Lecture Presented June 26th 2022 The history of the Yiddish theatre, from its birth in Rumania in 1876 through its golden age in New York City in the early 20th century. "The Whole Megillah: The Story of The Yiddish Theatre" covers the moment of its birth in Rumania in 1876, to its rapid spread across the Western Hemisphere, to its meteoric flowering into a Golden Age, a flowering that would last but a few short decades – and carry the seeds of its own destruction. It’s an amazing story, full of twists and turns that are – like Yiddish theatre itself – sometimes outrageous, sometimes poignant, but always melodramatic. Charles Troy, popular speaker and presenter, is an acclaimed musical theatre historian and graphic designer. Charles has created over 50 multimedia presentations and has presented his work to countless local and national audiences.
Salvage Poetics The Photographs That Helped Us Reconstruct a Lost World
Lecture Presented May 15, 2022 How do American Jews “know what they think they know” about pre-Holocaust European Jewish life? The Old World in Image and Imagination. How do American Jews “know what they think they know” about pre-Holocaust European Jewish life? Chicago YIVO Society hosts this free zoom event by Dr. Sheila Jelen as she examines the role that images by photographers such as Roman Vishniac played in shaping the post-Holocaust reconstruction of that world among American Jews. What rhetorical and visual strategies were used to build bridges between different kinds of Jews in different historical moments? Sheila E. Jelen Sheila Jelen is the Zantker Professor of Jewish Literature, Culture and History at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She is the author of Salvage Poetics: American-Jewish Post Holocaust Folk Ethnographies (2020) and Intimations of Difference: Dvora Baron in the Modern Hebrew Renaissance (2007). She has edited numerous volumes, including Reconstructing the Old Country: American Jewry in the Post-Holocaust Decades (2017), Modern Jewish Literatures: Intersections and Boundaries (2011), and Hebrew, Gender and Modernity (2007). Her work has appeared in such journals as Prooftexts, The Jewish Quarterly Review, The AJS Review, Religion and Literature, Comparative Literature Studies and Hebrew Studies. She is currently working on two books. The first, titled Israeli Salvage Poetics explores the ways in which Israeli writers and scholars have represented East European Jewish life in their work from the 1930s to the present. The second, titled Testimonial Montage: A Family of Holocaust Testimonies from the Cracow Ghetto considers, through a literary lens, the testimonies of a group of Israeli Holocaust survivors who were active in the ghetto uprising. Finally, Jelen has begun work on a project titled Images and Imaginings: Menachem Kipnis’s Photographs and Folk Stories. This work will feature both folktales collected and photographs taken by Menachem Kipnis (1878–1942), a singer, critic, photographer, and ethnographer of Yiddish song who died in the Warsaw ghetto.
Duo Controverso Klezmer Concert
Concert Presented April 24, 2022 Annette Bjorling (harp) and Kurt Bjorling (clarinet, basset-horn) present a musical journey through different eras and styles of klezmer. The program includes liturgical music, virtuosic mazltovs and celebratory dances, as well as instrumental versions of traditional folk songs. Based on research and musical exploration of traditional East European Yiddish wedding music, folk songs and liturgical pieces, Duo Controverso creates a unique soundscape, presenting a program to entertain, educate and elate listeners.. ANNETTE BJORLING, harp ”The World’s First and Only Klezmer Harpist.” Beyond merely adapting Jewish tunes to the harp, Annette creates a unique voice that fits naturally within the idiom of Yiddish music. Annette is a member of several performing groups, including the international ensemble Myridián. She was co-director of the Klezmer Orchester (Germany). She has per-formed and taught at inter-national harp conferences and music festivals in Europe and North America. Annette is a private teacher of harp, ensemble music and ethnic dance. KURT BJORLING, clarinet & basset-horn Director of the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble and a member of Brave Old World, Kurt has also toured and recorded with the Klezmatics and violinist Itzhak Perlman. He has taught klezmer music style and techniques at numerous festivals and workshops in Europe and North America, and he has composed symphonic pieces based on klezmer music. In addition to his Yiddish music, he has been active playing jazz, chamber music and various styles of ethnic music, as well as performing music for theater. Kurt studied clarinet with Lloyd Scott and Larry Combs.
Corned Beef and Camaraderie: The Jewish Deli in Chicago with Ted Merwin
Lecture Presented April 3, 2022 Few locations of Jewish life rival the delicatessen for its place in the hearts—and stomachs—of Jews in Chicagoland. Especially for those who had gravitated away from shul attendance and strict religious observance, the deli became a kind of surrogate synagogue, a home away from home where Jews of all backgrounds could nurture and sustain community over no more than a beef sandwich and a glass of chocolate or raspberry phosphate. Ted Merwin will take us from the origin of Jewish delis in Eastern Europe and their growth in New York to Chicago, following Jewish delis from Maxwell Street to Lawndale to the Gold Coast to West Rogers Park to Skokie and the northwest suburbs. His talk recovers a lost chapter of Chicago Jewish history, and considers the role that Chicago delis continue to play in the life of the city and its environs today. Ted Merwin earned a doctorate in Theatre from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. From 2000 to 2016, he taught Judaic studies at Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pa), where he directed the Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life. He now serves as Senior Writer for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). He is the author of two books, most recently, Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli, which won a National Jewish Book Award. His articles on Jewish culture have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Haaretz, and many other major newspapers and magazines. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and three daughters.
“AF PURIM DARF MEN LAKHN!” – “ON PURIM YOU GOTTA LAUGH!” with Stewart Figa
Concert Presented March 13, 2022 Cantor, actor, and Yiddish performer Stewart Figa returns to Chicago YIVO to present a program of humorous Yiddish songs, jokes and stories keeping with the fun of the holiday of Purim. Figa pays tribute to such Jewish comedy legends Menashe Skulnik, Aaron Lebedeff, Mickey Katz, Bruce Adler, Allen Sherman and others. Accompanied on piano by Ilya Levinson, much of his material will be in mamaloshen with translation provided. STEWART FIGA has served as cantor at West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, since 1998 and has been a cantor in the Chicago area since 1990. An established and in-demand performer of Yiddish and Jewish music, his programs for the annual Chicago YIVO Society Summer Festival have been cheered by capacity audiences. In the 1980s Stewart Figa performed several seasons in Yiddish theater productions in New York City where he had the rare privilege of working with and befriending some of the legendary greats of the pre-war Yiddish Theatre and Yiddish Film scenes. In 2015, Mr. Figa received a Grammy nomination for his work as a vocalist with the New Budapest Orpheum Society on their CD “As Dreams Fall Apart”. With the NBOS he has also delighted audiences on tour in several cities in England and throughout Germany, in Vienna and New York City. Most meaningful for him, Stewart has sung at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, where an historic picture of his father Leon Figa, a Partisan resistance fighter in the forests of Belarus, is on permanent display.
Dress Rehearsal for Dreyfus: The Duchesse de Berry, Simon Deutz & France’s First Antisemitic Affaire
Lecture Presented on January 23, 2022. In 1832, the duchesse de Berry led a civil war to recapture the French throne for her 11-year-old son. She was betrayed to the government by her trusted confidant, Simon Deutz, the son of France’s chief rabbi, setting off the first outpouring of antisemitism in modern France. Maurice Samuels shows how this colorful but now forgotten historical event set the stage for the century of antisemitism to come. Bio: Maurice Samuels is the Betty Jane Anlyan Professor of French at Yale University, where he directs the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism and chairs the Judaic Studies Program. A specialist of 19th-century literature and culture, he is the author of four books including The Betrayal of the Duchess.
bottom of page