Contact: Dan Klores Communications
Bruce Bobbins/Gary Baronofsky/Johanna Flattery
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE YIDDISH ARE COMING…THE YIDDISH ARE COMING –
JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Sound Portraits Productions and HighBridge Audio Release
Two CD Set of Landmark Yiddish Radio Project Series With Performances by Carl Reiner, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Eli Wallach
The best of one-of-a-kind recordings from the “Golden Age” of Yiddish radio (1930-55), which were rescued from attics, storerooms, and even garbage dumpsters and restored for an acclaimed series on National Public Radio earlier this year, will now be available in a special two CD set from Sound Portraits Productions and HighBridge Audio.
The Yiddish Radio Project, which will be for sale at fine bookstores and other shops across the country beginning October 24, offers an unprecedented window to Jewish immigrant culture in the U.S. during the first half of the 20th Century. Produced by MacArthur Fellow David Isay, musician/historian Henry Sapoznik, Sound Portraits Productions, and Living Traditions, the series explores the Yiddish and English language dramas, music, news programs, advice and game shows, man-on-the-street interviews, and even commercials that were stalwarts of Yiddish radio.
The audio collection is hosted by NPR’s Scott Simon and translations are performed by a stellar cast, including Carl Reiner, Eli Wallach, Jerry Stiller, and Anne Meara, as well as Yiddish stars. The compilation includes a 20-page booklet on the history of Yiddish radio by Mr. Sapoznik, America’s foremost expert on the topic.
The release of the double CD collection (also available on two cassettes) coincides with the November rebroadcast of the 10-part Yiddish Radio Project series that ran on NPR’s “All Things Considered” this past Spring, as well as the beginning of Hanukkah on Friday evening, November 29.
“An extraordinary trove of audio-archeology -- remarkably intimate and unselfconscious,” wrote The New York Times in its review of the Yiddish Radio Project. The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “remarkable…like recovering a few blocks from the pyramids,” while Entertainment Weekly described it simply and succinctly as “matzo ball soup for the soul!”
P. 2—Yiddish Radio Project
“It’s like opening up King Tut’s Tomb,” said Isay. “These discs allow us to eavesdrop on a people in the midst of a cultural Renaissance. These shows are mostly in Yiddish, but the voices and spirit captured on them is universal.”
Almost 10 million public radio listeners heard the historic NPR series, according to Jay Kernis, senior vice president for programming. “This is an important part of not only Jewish history, but American history as well.”
Yiddish was the language of the two million Jewish immigrants who came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe at the turn of the last century. As the last great wave was arriving at Ellis Island in the 1920s, radio was beginning to make its mark on American culture. The Jewish immigrants embraced the medium and, by the early 1930s, Yiddish radio flourished across the country. There were more than a dozen such stations in New York alone.
All stations were required by the Federal Radio Commission to make reference recordings of their programs in case the FRC received a complaint. The vast majority of these discs were melted down for scrap metal during World War II. Only about 1,000 fragile aluminum discs the size of pizzas survived. Since 1985, Mr. Sapoznik explored attics, storerooms, and even dumpsters on his mission to locate and preserve every one of the remaining recordings before they vanished or decomposed. In all, some 500 hours survived.
“What a story they tell,” he declared. “These programs offer an unprecedented opportunity to travel back to a lost world. They are incalculably precious remnants of a culture all but destroyed in the Holocaust.”
The collection includes:
The Radio Dramas of Nahum Stutchkoff: Stutchkoff created some of the most intense, intimate and emotional dramas ever broadcast on radio, providing listeners the opportunity to experience life in the Jewish tenements of New York City. The segment profiles this forgotten genius of the 20th century and airs one of his classic episodes for the first time in 60 years. Narrated by Stutchkoff’s son, Misha, who was part of his father’s radio drama acting troupe, the English translation of Nahum Stutchkoff is performed by Eli Wallach.
The Jewish Philosopher: Before Dr. Laura, before Dr. Ruth, before Ann Landers, there was C. Israel Lutsky, “The Jewish Philosopher”—the first advice columnist of the air. Despite his lack of credentials and abrasive personality, Lutsky quickly became one of the best known and most beloved figures on Jewish radio. The English translation of "The Jewish Philosopher" is performed by Carl Reiner.
P. 3—Yiddish Radio Project
Yiddish Melodies in Swing: The show, which ran from 1938 until 1955 on radio station WHN in New York, celebrated a peculiar but wonderful hybrid: the mixture of traditional Yiddish klezmer music with popular American swing. Only 40 episodes of the program survive. This segment is narrated by Yiddish singing star Claire Barry, the last surviving member of the show’s cast.
Levine and His Flying Machine: Two weeks after Charles A. Lindbergh’s historic flight across the Atlantic in June 1927, a second plane set out to cross the ocean. It was carrying Charles A. Levine, the man destined to become the world’s first transatlantic passenger. To America’s Jewish immigrants, Levine's accomplishment was nothing short of miraculous, celebrated in song and story, retold again and again on Yiddish radio, and then completely forgotten. The tale of Levine's spectacular rise -- and the previously unknown account of his terrible fall -- is told in this segment.
Reunion: Decades before the term "Holocaust" was even part of our vocabulary, this short-lived series featured the voice of a Holocaust survivor telling his own story. Seigbert Freiberg was his name, and his story was unlike anything ever before heard on the radio. The Yiddish Radio Project presents this extraordinary historical artifact.
In addition to the original episodes from the series, the CD collection features musical segments, including versions of the classic “Bei Mir Bist du Schon” by both
the Andrew Sisters and Louis Prima and Keely Smith; the legendary crooner Seymour Rexite performing Yiddish interpretations of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” among other standards; and the prolific Sam Medoff and his Orchestra on “Oh Mama Am I in Love,” “Samson and Delilah,” and “Yidl Min Fitl.”
There are also commercials for Manischewitz Matzo, Hebrew National, Barbasol shave cream, and Ajax cleanser, among other products.