Inspired by Story and Song – this was the topic of the JSA Snider Foundation Virtual Empowerment Series session held on Dec. 2, in partnership with the Louis Brier Home and Hospital.
Jewish Seniors Alliance co-president Gyda Chud welcomed the 45 Zoom participants, as well as the 35 Louis Brier residents, who joined to hear Shanie Levin’s stories and Myrna Rabinowitz’s singing.
Rabinowitz opened with a Chanukah song in Yiddish, “Drei Zich Dreidele” (“Spin Yourself Dreidel”), which was followed by Levin reading Sholem Aleichem’s Hanukkah Gelt (Hanukkah Money). In this story, Motl and his brother take part in the beloved customs of a favourite holiday: the lighting of the chanukiyah, eating potato latkes, playing dreidel, and the gift of gelt.
In the course of the program, Rabinowitz sang songs in Hebrew, Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish. She sang “Oh Hanukkah,” a song in Judeo-Spanish about the holiday’s eight candles, as well as more personal songs, including one she wrote on the occasion of her grandson’s birth and one she wrote for her father. She offered the audience a treat by singing the classic and sentimental Yiddish song by the Barry sisters from the 1950s, “Wie Nemt Men a Bissele Mazel?” (“Where Can You Get a Little Luck?”).
Levin chose the story by Abraham Karpinowitz titled Jewish Money, from the book Vilna My Vilna, which is a volume of his work that was translated into English by local storyteller Helen Mintz. Karpinowitz was known for his detailed and vivid descriptions of the city of Vilna and the odd characters who lived there.
The Spice Box is an anthology of Canadian Jewish writers and Levin read an illuminating story written in 1968 by Larry Zolf, who was a CBC personality and writer for the program This Hour Has Seven Days. The story, Boil Me No Melting Pot, Dream Me No Dreams, deals with the difference between the American and Canadian immigrant experiences.
Preposterous Papa, the final story read by Levin, was an excerpt from a book by Lewis Meyer. Meyer’s father grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, which had very few Jewish families. Unable to commute to the synagogue in the larger city, his father bought a house and converted it into a chapel, offering a place for the few Jewish families in nearby towns to socialize and pray on High Holidays.
Rabinowitz ended the program with an upbeat song in Yiddish, the title of which translates as “We Are All Brothers and Sisters.”
Nathalie Jacobs of the Louis Brier thanked the performers and expressed her wish to partner again with JSA in the future.
Tamara Frankel is a member of the board of Jewish Seniors Alliance and of the editorial committee of Senior Line magazine. She is also a board member of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.