Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Meeting with our Masters

We had one of those "only at KlezKamp" moments last night.  It epitomized our goal to have older masters of the Yiddish folk arts transmit authenic Yiddish culture directly to the next generations.

We screened the new film documentary about Yiddish poet and songwriter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, a member of our KK faculty this year.   The film consists entirely of Beyle speaking in Yiddish, telling her life story and reciting and singing the poetry that has come from her experiences, illustrated with her paintings and photos.  The audience, most of whom are not Yiddish speakers, sat rapt by Beyle, even through the filter of subtitles.  After the film, Beyle answered questions posed by KKers. 

KKers heard the story of a person whose life and whose art is conducted entirely in Yiddish.  They heard directly about Yiddish life in Eastern Europe before the war and the impact of the war on a single individual.  They heard a story of coming to American and making a life and making art here.  Here, at KlezKamp, they have the opportunity to sit and talk with elders who are eager to share their experiences.  It is an increasingly rare opportunity, tsum badoyern.  It's a privilege to help make it happen.

Er, what day is it again??

Oh, yeah, Christmas.

Who could have possibly known?

I mean, there's yiddish music in every corner and yiddish language at every table. There's no dead tree propped up in every corner, and no snow men anywhere. Like Andy Statman said last night, the sound of no jingle bells anywhere is the sound of home.

At this moment, I'm playing hooky from Jill Gellerman's Hassidic dance class to write these few lines, and already I feel guilty for pulling away from the the immediate "nowness" that this event creates. It's been only 24 hours and I in the zone: I feel like this is how I've always lived and I cannot forsee a life any other way. (Strange to think like that when in a pitiful few short days I'll be dodging drunks driving home from New Years Eve parties.)

My first impressions this year is the vast number of first timers here, and of the high level of cultural literacy that they bring with them. It's a gas to see folks line up the dots and find the context to the music, art and dance that they have devoted themselves to. Even a jaded staffer like myself has to step back and marvel at these moments. It's heartening to know that these folks will take this contextual depth with them, and hopefully inform the communities that they come from, with any luck raising the bar that we here will have to rise to.

But enough palaver, back to the dance band stage!!