Ruth Wisse on Sholem Aleichem and Yiddish Humour

Ruth Wisse

Ruth Wisse was at the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, on October 22, 2012, talking about Jewish humour. In this clip she discusses the beloved author, Sholem Aleichem, “The Jewish Mark Twain” (1859 – 1916), and she analyzes his gift of humour and how it helped to define Jewish comedy and succeeded in bringing Jews together to this day.

Ruth Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She is currently writing a book on Jewish Humour which will be published next year.

This was one of a number of lectures presented by the Shaar Hashomayim as part of their Tuesday night learning seminars. For more visit their events calender.


Alan Dershowitz Delegitimization of Israel: Video in Four Parts

Alan Dershowitz, Yale graduate, Harvard law professor, who considers himself a dyed in the wool liberal, spoke about the current dynamics of de-legitimization of Israel in Europe, the US, and on college campuses  at the Shaar Hashomayim, (Montreal 9/15/2011) – Defending Israel from a Liberal perspective.The full lecture which included a dialogue between Allan Dershowitz and Irwin Cotler, the Liberal MP, former Canadian justice minister, law professor and human rights activist discussing the current state of affairs in Israel and the Middle East is captured below in four parts.

Part two of the talk reviews Dershowitz’ experiences in Europe, where he is blackballed by universities from speaking and has had to suffer the accusations that “Israel is worse than the Nazis!!!!”. The inroads that Arab Islamists and Palestinians have made towards delegitimizing Israel are truly shocking as per Dershowitz’ experiences in Europe.

(Parts 3 and 4) a discussion between Allan Dershowitz and Irwin Kotler is also worth watching as it shares the experiences of two individuals, both law professors, one a former Canadian minister of justice and a current member of the Canadian parliament, who have confronted these issues over many years.


Why Yiddish?

As many of you know I am working on a documentary on the transmission of Yiddish since the Holocaust. Many people say to me, Yiddish? Why? Of what use is it? Yiddish was the day-to-day language of 11 million Jews living in Northern Europe, from France to Russia, for over a thousand years. The Holocaust caused the deaths of millions of European-born Jews many of whom spoke Yiddish. Yiddish in our time could easily be lost to us since the primary  language of the Jewish people has now become Hebrew, the national language of Israel. Hebrew, the language of our holy texts, the Torah, has been revived as a spoken language during the last century and is the official language of Israel, spoken by Israelis. Most of the Jewish world now lives and breaths in Hebrew.

Yiddish a tale of Survival

Yiddish a tale of Survival

So of what use is Yiddish? Israel Bercovicci wrote … it is through Yiddish theatre that “Jewish culture entered in dialogue with the outside world,”both by putting itself on display and by importing theatrical pieces from other cultures. So “Is Yiddish important”? Is culture important? Is being Jewish important? Only you can answer that question.

In my documentary I focus on the lives of three characters who have devoted their lives to ensuring the survival of Yiddish: Shmuel Atzmon, a Holocaust survivor; Bryna Wasserman, a second generation Yiddish artist, and Milena Kartovsky, a third generation Yiddish performer from Paris.

So, is Jewish history and literature important? If your answer is yes! that Yiddish is part of the Jewish legacy! and you feel it is important to appreciate the story of Yiddish in our time with future generations, I invite you to watch this important documentary about Yiddish which talks about the transmission of Yiddish from generation to generation in North America, in Israel, and in Europe.


Jerusalem Post Conference: Elyezer Shkedy

jewish people I recently attended the Jerusalem Post conference and videotaped it in its entirety. I personally resonated with the talk of Elyezer Shkedy since he and I share some personal history. His father is a sole survivor of a Hungarian family and my family, also, is Jewish, Hungarian, and survived those terrible times.

Elyezer Shkedy just happens to be the current CEO of El Al, Israel Airlines, and the former chief of the the Israeli Air Force. The theme of the conference was building the Zionist Dream and he exemplified this in the talk below.

Here is his talk in its entirety: I think you will enjoy it.

Highlights of the CIJR conference Combatting the Delegitimation of Israel

I am, as we speak, reviewing the footage from the recent conference, Combatting the Delegitimation of Israel, which my company videotaped. The morning was devoted to exposing the issues. Efraim Karsh pointed out the attempt to deny Jewish claims to the land of Israel, from its inception by the Arab states, Egypt, Trans Jordan and Syria, who were eager to divide the the current land of Israel and divide the spoils among themselves in 1948. Asaf Ramirowsky analyzed the history of the “refugee problem” and UNRWA, pointing out that UNRWA, the recipient of Billions of dollars has a life of its own, and has no interest in resolving the refugee issue.

Other enemies of Israel are holocaust deniers and leftist internationalists, both Jews and non-Jews who deem the creation of the nation state of Israel to be a “mistake”. Sally Zerker pointed out the anti-semitism seminal to the God of the leftists, Karl Marx. Barbara Kay analyzed the leftist intelligentsia in Israel that also sides with the leftist ideological camp.

Richard Landes, pointed out the “psy-ops” and “memes” that are part of the delegitimation war against Israel. Israel is being painted as the “Nazi Goliath” dominating the Palestinian David, because she dares to defend herself and her people with all means necessary. Mordechai Nissan, was the standard bearer for Jewish pride, as he pointed out the remarkable history of the Jews, a people, most loyal to each other, and yet also most aware, and concerned for others.

Catherine Chatterley and Charles Small ably described how the virus of anti-semitism has reignited in the West in respectable academic circles. Charles Small pointed out the danger of anti-semitism as it has a genocidal intent as regards Jews and Israel.

And here is Catherine Chatterley speaking about the resurgence of anti-semitism in our midst.

Prof. Krantz ended the conference with a resolution and a call to all of us, Jews, non-Jews, individuals, and institutions, to do everything in our power to expose and counter this situation in defence of Jews, and the Jewish State of Israel.

A Combatting the Delegitimation of Israel highlights video has been posted and CIJR will be posting the full conference talks on their website and is also planning to create a DVD for educational purposes.

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Multicultural Dinner – Fundraiser for Fondation Senegal Sante Mobile

Edit: The event was a great success! Thanks for coming out to support this worthy cause. Here are the photos from the event, which are now also all on Facebook. Visit our Facebook page to see the pictures and tag yourself or friends.

Fondation Senegal Sante Mobile is having a fundraiser on October 29th. The foundation was established by a friend of mine Shara Rosen to provide healthcare to Senegal’s most disadvantaged populations. Her medical background has made her well-aware of the needs for basic medical care in the developing world. Shara is a brilliant writer and has been a dedicated volunteer for American Jewish World Services in Senegal.

Title: Multicultural Dinner – Fundraiser for Fondation Senegal Sante Mobile
Location: Hotel Ruby Foo’s Singapour Room (7655 Decairie Blvd)
Link out:
Description: Multicultural Dinner – Fundraiser for Fondation Senegal Sante Mobile
With Music and Parables in English, French, Wolof & Yiddish
RSVP by contacting
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2011-10-29

The Fondation has accepted to furnish and support a birthing centre that is part of Gorom 1’s health complex. The centre serves some 10 villages and about 40,000 people. This pilot project will serve as a template that could be replicated throughout Senegal. The birthing centre will offer prenatal and postnatal care aimed at reducing the level of child mortality, which is now at approximately 151 per 100,000 live births in Senegal.  By comparison the rate of child mortality (0-1 years) in Canada is 5 per 100,000 live births. Further, for every woman who dies from causes due to pregnancy, there are about 20 to 30 more who suffer from short and long term effects of unmanaged pregnancies, such as obstetric fistula, ruptured uterus or salpingitis.  (Senegal Department of Health and Prevention, Division of Reproductive Health)  Prolonged difficult births can result in obstetric fistula, which make women incapable of controlling their bladder and rectum., which causes them to be ostracized in their villages.

But these are just statistics, there are women and children behind these number that desperately need quality maternal and child care services.

More importantly, in 2012, the Fondation will bring these prenatal services to the villages by way of nurse-animators that will work with village women to educate them on hygiene and nutrition and screen them for anemia, diabetes and hypertension.

Clearly this is a worthy project and the evening of storytelling in English, French ,Wolof and Yiddish sounds like great fun!

Hope to see you there.