Yiddish: A Tale of Survival on Mountain Lakes PBS


I am delighted to share that Yiddish: a tale of survival will be screened On Mountain Lakes PBS, Thursday May 22, at 9pm. Yesterday I was interviewed by Thom Hallock, news anchor and producer for Mountain Lakes Journal. It was a thoughtful interview about the history of Yiddish in Montreal and worldwide since the Holocaust and about the documentary, Yiddish: a tale of survival. The interview segment will be aired this Friday, May 9th, 2014 at 8pm and several times during the weekend.


Yiddish: Un histoire de survie

DVT110 DVD Trapsheet narrow 6.5mm spine
Avant la Shoah /l’Holocauste, une majorité de Juifs en Europe parlait le yiddish. Apres la decimation des juifs pendant la deuxieme guerre mondiale,   la culture yiddish – la langue, la littérature et le théâtre – a été pratiquement, entièrement détruite. Le sort de la langue yiddish était menacée et nul n’osait croire  que  le yiddish allait revoir le jour. Ce film, crée a Montreal, est un documentaire sur la survie du Yiddish après la Shoa par la route du theatre. Comprenant qu’est-ce que c’est de perdre sa culture, les Quebecois français était des grands amis du theatre Yiddish a Montreal et cela est clairement démontré  dans le film.

Ce documentaire se concentre sur trois générations d’artistes yiddish qui examine l’état du yiddish dans le 21e siècle.

Arrivé au Canada en 1950 avec deux jeunes filles, Dora Wasserman, a réussi à créer une troupe de théâtre yiddish composé d’étudiants et de leurs parents, de nombreux survivants de la Shoah. Son travail a été réalisé par sa fille Bryna Wasserman, qui a récemment présidé le cinquantième anniversaire de la Yiddish Dora Wasserman Troupe en lançant le tout premier Festival international de théâtre yiddish à Montréal.

Milena Kartowski, une étudiante de 23 ans qui a exploré la danse, le jazz et l’opéra à Paris, une  petite-fille de survivants de la Shoah, a récemment découvert la langue yiddish et sa culture d’origine. Elle est «tombée en amour» avec le théâtre yiddish et sa chanson. Milena comprend non seulement l’essence de la culture yiddish, mais aussi l’importance de préserver une culture qu’elle craint être menacée d’extinction.

Voici Milena chantant à Montreal, 2011 à la Festival Internationale de Theatre  Yiddish.

Il y a vingt-cinq ans, Shmuel Atzmon, un survivant de la Shoah, a commencé à faire renaître le théâtre yiddish en Israël. Il a pris les jeunes acteurs de langue hébraïque et leur a enseigné la langue yiddish, sa musique et sa culture. Il est maintenant responsable du yiddish Repertory Theatre à Tel Aviv,  appelé Yiddishspiel.

Abigail Hirsch est née dans une famille juive qui a survécu à la Shoah en Europe. Abigail est arrivé au Québec à l’age de cinq ans, finit l’école à Montréal et parle plusieurs langues, mais pas le yiddish. Elle écrit : « J’ai redécouvert la beauté et la profondeur du yiddish à travers le Festival international de théâtre yiddish qui a eu lieu à Montréal en 2009. J’ai été inspirée et je me suis lancée dans ce documentaire. Partout où je suis allé en Israël, aux États-Unis et au Canada, j’ai partagé ce projet avec des gens de toutes les langues, juifs et non-juifs, qui se sont montrés très intéressés par ce sujet.»
Jeudi, le 22 mai, Le documentaire sera presenter sur le canal PBS Mountain Lake à neuf heure du soir.

Après avoir vu la bande-annonce, vous serez sans doute d’accord avec Abigail, comme c’est important de préserver le francais c’est aussi un projet important de continuer à faire des efforts pour préserver l’héritage yiddish pour le monde.
Merci pour Abigail !
Pour plus d’information ou pour contacter Abigail…

KLEZ KANADA 2012 (Photos and Video)

Klez Kanada

Klez Kanada is Quebec’s largest annual festival of Jewish/Yiddish culture and arts. Every year, musicians, Yiddishists, Jews, and non-Jews gather in the Laurentian Mountains at camp B’nai Brith for a week of inter-generational song, dance, and culture.

This year I attended several very interesting lectures and was treated to numerous musical performances by a wide range of artists, both young and old, from all corners of the globe.

Here are a few of the photos from the festival, and I’m currently working on a short video highlighting parts of the festival.

Photos by Chris Zacchia

video by AskAbigail Productions

Rosh Hashanah: Angst

Rosh Hashana is the season of Jewish angst. It is the Jewish New Year, a time when Jews are supposed to grapple with their own demons. It is a time for self assessment, for asking forgiveness from those we have harmed and making resolutions for the future. Life however is not entirely in our hands and we reflect also on the fragility of life and ask for a new year of joy, good health and continued life, all the time knowing that none of us has any guarantees in this regard.  Our prayers meditate on the question “Who will be raised up, and who will be brought down? Who will live and who will die in this new year?” And this suspense is the suspense of life itself. And this is the drama of the Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Holiday cycle to which we have to bring our mind and soul.

A friend sent me the following parody of New Years wishes.

May your hair, your teeth, your face-lift, your abs, and your stocks
not fall .And may your blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white blood count and your mortgage interest
not rise.
May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastroenterologist, your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your psychiatrist, your plumber, and the Internal Revenue.
May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere during rush hour in less than an hour, and when you get there may you find a parking space.
May this Yom Tov, find you seated around the dinner table, together with your beloved family and cherished friends, ushering in the Jewish New Year ahead.
May what you see in the mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them.
May the telemarketers wait to make their sales calls until you finish dinner, may your checkbook and your budget balance, and may they include generous amounts for charity.
May you remember to say “I love you” at least once a day to your partner, your child, and your parent(s). You can say it to your secretary, your nurse, your butcher, your photographer, your hairdresser or your gym instructor,
but not with a “twinkle” in your eye.
May we live as intended, in a world at peace with the awareness of the beauty in every sunset, every flower’s unfolding petals, every baby’s smile and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous part of ourselves.
Bless you with every happiness, great health, peace and much love during the next year and all those that follow.

And here is an Israeli musical video that says it in a different way: Wishing everyone a “Shana Tova Umetooka”: A good and sweet year to everyone.


L’shanah Tova to all of us.




Montreal World Film Festival screens Yiddish: A Tale of Survival

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Yiddish.

After a successful launch of “Yiddish: a tale of survival” at the New York City International Film Festival, the documentary will now be screened at the Montreal World film festival (MFF).

The resilience of Yiddish since the Holocaust which wiped out six million potential Yiddish speakers is revealed by exploring the lives and careers of three Yiddish performers. The first, Shmuel Atzmon, an Israeli actor who at the age of fifty, after a lifetime spent in the Hebrew Theatre in Israel, founded the Yiddishpiel  Repertory Theater in Tel Aviv. The second, Bryna Wasserman, heir to the legacy of her mother, Dora Wasserman who championed Yiddish Theatre in Montreal, has continued her mother’s legacy and shepherded it into the twenty-first century, by commissioning new Yiddish plays, and also initiating the International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal. And lastly, we meet singer and actress Milena Kartowski, who at the young age of 23 has discovered Yiddish and is helping to bring it to a new generation.

The film explores the paths that brought each artist to Yiddish and how it has shaped their lives. In the words of one reviewer, “The film is deeply moving and surprisingly entertaining. Watching it, one hears the sounds of the almost forgotten language of Yiddish from the echoes of Sholem Aleichem to the young people’s YaYa group performance, Raisins and Almonds. We are reminded of the legacy Montreal’s Jewish community and of Yiddish culture worldwide.”

This subject is particularly poignant in Quebec where awareness of the vulnerability of culture and language is so strong.

The film will be screened twice at the Montreal World Film Festival:

Thursday, August 29, 7:30 pm and Sunday, September 1st at 10am in the Quartier Latin Cinema: Salle 15

Tickets can be acquired from the MFWW Website

There will be a Q&A after the screening with Abigail Hirsch, the filmaker and Bryna Wasserman will be in attendance at the Sunday Morning screening.

Tonight at NYCIFF: Yiddish: A Tale of Survival

If you’re in New York City this evening the film Yiddish: a tale of Survival will be playing at the New York City International Film Festival at 8:00pm (NYIT auditorium on Broadway and 62nd St).

Here is a review of the film from Montreal blog ForgetTheBox.net.

There was once a time when the languages you heard in the streets of Montreal were English, French, and yes… Yiddish. In the early 1920s, Yiddish-speaking Jews from Europe immigrated to Montreal and were a large part of our diverse cultural landscape.

Early Jewish and Yiddish settlers opened the first Bagel shops, Smoked Meat dinners, and founded Yiddish theatres. In a new documentary, Abigail Hirsch looks at Yiddish theatre in Montreal, New York, and even Israel.

In Yiddish: a tale of survival, the history of Yiddish is revealed by exploring the lives and careers of three Yiddish performers. The first, Shmuel Atzmon, an Israeli actor who founded the Yiddishpiel Theater and has been acting for 50 years. Bryna Wasserman, from Montreal, is the heir to the Dora Wasserman Yiddish theatre legacy. And lastly, we meet singer and actress Milena Kartowski, who at the young age of 23 has discovered Yiddish and is helping to bring it to a new generation.

The film explores the paths that brought each artist to Yiddish and how it has shaped their lives. The film is deeply moving and surprisingly entertaining. Watching it, one hears the sounds of the almost forgotten language of Yiddish from the echoes of Sholem Aleichem to the young people’s YaYa group performance, Raisins and Almonds. We are reminded of the legacy Montreal’s Jewish community and Yiddish culture worldwide.

Yiddish: a tale of survival

Yiddish: A Tale of Survival, is a documentary about Yiddish after the Holocaust. It focuses on three generations of Yiddish performers: Shmuel Atzmon, Bryna Wasserman and Milena Kartowski, and examines the state of Yiddish in the 21st century. Here is the trailer:

Yiddish was the main spoken and literary language of Northern European Jews from France to Russia for several hundred years. During the Holocaust a majority of the world’s Yiddish speakers were annihilated. As a result, the Yiddish culture – language, literature, and theatre was nearly destroyed, leaving many wondering whether Yiddish had any future at all.

Twenty-five years ago, Shmuel Atzmon, a holocaust survivor, started a Yiddish Repertory theatre in Israel. He took young Hebrew speaking actors and taught them the Yiddish language, its music and culture. There is now a first rate Yiddish Repertory Theatre in Tel Aviv called Yiddishspiel.

Arriving in Canada in 1950 with two young daughters, Dora Wasserman, succeeded in creating a Yiddish theatre troupe made up of students and their parents, many Holocaust survivors. Her work has been carried on by her daughter Bryna Wasserman, who recently presided over the fiftieth anniversary of the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Troupe by initiating the first ever International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal. Milena Kartowski, a twenty-three year old student of dance, jazz, and opera, from Paris, and a grand daughter of Holocaust survivors, has recently discovered the Yiddish language and its attendant culture. She has fallen in love with Yiddish theatre and song. Milena not only understands the essence of Yiddish culture but also the importance of preserving a culture that is on the verge of extinction.

Yiddish Poster

About me:
My name is Abigail Hirsch. I was born into a Jewish family that survived the Holocaust in Europe. I rediscovered the beauty and depth of the Yiddish theatre through the International Yiddish Theatre Festival that was held in Montreal in 2009, and was inspired to initiate this documentary. Everywhere I went in Israel, the US and Canada and shared this project, people of all languages, Jews and non-Jews were excited about it.
Update 1/10/2013:

We have completed the film and have been submitting the film to Festivals and distributors and potential sponsors.  We held a press screening at McGill University in Montreal on December 10, 2012, Human Rights Day and got some very favorable press coverage. Pierre Landry interviewed me on the CBC Home Run radio show on Dec. 10:  Janice Arnold published a review in the Canadian Jewish News.


A hartzigen dank (a heartfelt thank-you) to everyone who has donated to help fund this film!  Will keep you all posted on future screenings and how to access the film.

The film has been self-funded and any donations are gratefully appreciated.


Abigail Hirsch

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.


The Yiddish Book Center

The miracle of Yiddish in our time is embodied by the Yiddish Book Centre in Amherst Massachusetts. The center which was originally founded by Aaron Lansky in 1980, when he saw the need to save Yiddish books that would have otherwise ended up in the trash heap. The organization has saved over 1 million books to date!

yiddish book_centerThe Yiddish Book Center’s mission is to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating and disseminating Yiddish books and presenting innovative educational programs that broaden understanding of modern Jewish identity. As part of continuing the legacy of Yiddish, they regularly invite speakers to talk about Yiddish and Yiddish initiatives.

Last week it was my pleasure to give a talk about my upcoming documentary Yiddish: A Tale of Survival. I was invited to talk to a group of University students studying Yiddish over the summer. Below is a short excerpt from the talk.

And for more about the film visit, Yiddish: A Tale of Survival

Yiddish: A Tale Of Survival on Radio Shalom in Montreal

Did you know Montreal has an all Jewish radio station? Radio Shalom Montreal 1650 AM, is located in Ville St. Laurent and is the only Radio station in the city dedicated to a religious group. Radio Shalom plays 24hrs, 6 days a week (sabbath off of course).



I was recently invited onto the program to speak with long time host, Stanley Asher. We discussed my forth coming documentary, Yiddish: A Tale Of Survival, as well as Yiddish culture in Montreal.

It was a pleasure to speak with Stanley, and he is such a professional, I hope to be back soon!

You can listen to the whole interview with 

      1. Abigail Hirsch

      2. abigail-hirsch


And for more about the film visit, Yiddish: A Tale of Survival