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Expatriates As Compatriots
Timely Themes Invoked in Timeless Language at Museum of Jewish Heritage 
Composer Josh Waletzky: “We’re in constant need right now of the kind of encouragement that songs can help provide -- a feeling of being together to confront these problems.”
In 2019, filmmaker and composer Josh Waletzky was invited by the Yiddish Summer Weimar festival to write a new song cycle “based on the flourishing of Yiddish culture that was taking place in Berlin, in particular, between the two World Wars.” But Mr. Waletzky told his patrons, “I’d love to write a new Yiddish song cycle, but I don’t want to write about 1919 or 1939. I want it to be about today.” The result, “Pleytem Tsuzamen” (which translates at “Refugees Together”), will be performed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on Sunday, March 26, staged by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.

“The great crises of rising authoritarianism were burgeoning in 2019,” Mr. Waletzky observes, adding that, “things have only continued to worsen since then. I write about that, using metaphors from Jewish texts, thought, and idioms. One of the songs throws back to the plagues of the exodus from ancient Egypt to address the fires and floods and plagues of today.” The haunting lyrics, although rooted in the idiom of Biblical tradition, ring with contemporary resonance:

“This is a time of flood
A time of big fires
And wherever you look
A wild plague.”

Mr. Waletzky reflects his work has taken on a relevance that he could not have predicted even four years ago: “The war in Ukraine has created so many refugees. The great disasters, impending disasters, and current disasters in the world, and how autocracy and would-be autocracy have fed those flames, have only gotten worse since 2019. That has only made it feel more important to bring this work to the public, because we’re in constant need right now of the kind of encouragement that songs can help provide—a feeling of being together to confront these problems.”

The work also exhibits an intimately personal side, mingling yearning and remorse as it chronicles the impact of world events on the smallest and most helpless victims, as in these lines sung by a mother to her child:

“You floated in,
A little star,
precious as gold,
a bright streak of heaven-joy.
But there was always a bone
stuck in your laughter,
lurking like the slaughterer’s knife,
the cry for help
that wasn’t rocked to sleep
in the cradle.”

Asked what theme “Pleytem Tsuzamen” is meant to invoke, Mr. Waletzky says, “To have faith in our community and our connectedness as Jews—and as members of wider communities and alliances. Not to despair at all of the threats that we feel in this world today. To build on the power of solidarity and of knowing oneself and one’s place in the world, situated in our history, situated in our proud traditions of fighting for justice and survival.”

Although Yiddish theater has undergone a resurgence in recent years, this has rested largely on legacy material, rather than newly created works. “Pleytem Tsuzamen” aims to fill that gap, drawing more from today’s headlines than from history books. Bringing together an elite, international cast of Yiddish vocalists and instrumentalists, the show will be presented with supertitles in English and Ukrainian.

The show is being produced by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the longest consecutively producing theatre in the America and the world’s oldest continuously operating Yiddish theatre company. The troupe, which is based at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, gained renewed notoriety in 2018 when it mounted an acclaimed production of “Fiddler on the Roof” (also in Yiddish), which sold out for six months before moving uptown to an Off-Broadway theater.

“Pleytem Tsuzamen” will be performed for two shows only—at 1pm and 6pm—at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (36 Battery Place) on March 26. Tickets are priced at $36. Get more information.

Matthew Fenton
Of Gendarmes and Genes
Downtown Public Service Group Slams DNA Collection from New Yorkers Convicted of No Crime 

On the third anniversary of promises by City officials to disclose demographic information about New Yorkers whose genetic material was gathered without their knowledge or consent, a non-profit organization based in Lower Manhattan is denouncing what it calls continued stonewalling on those commitments. Read more...
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
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Putting Her on a Pedestal
Local Leaders Seek to Remedy Monumental Mistake 

Community Board 1 is urging the City to erect a monument in Lower Manhattan to a civil rights pioneer who desegregated New York transit in the decade before the Civil War. While the saga of Rosa Parks and the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott has become a canonical American parable, New York played out its own version of the same drama, more than a century earlier. In July, 1854, Lower Manhattan resident Elizabeth Jennings Graham was on her way to church, and boarded a horse-drawn streetcar at Chatham and Pearl Streets. (This is now the intersection of Park Row and Pearl Street.) Read more...
Friday, March 10
6 River Terrace
Improve balance, strength and focus through gentle exercises. Free.

Saturday, March 11
Skyscraper Museum, 39 Battery Place
Family program. The Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid gained fame as a designer who broke the rules. She designed distinctive and freeform museums, concert halls, and skyscrapers that gave her the nickname “Queen of the Curve.” Enjoy a reading of The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid, then draw inspiration from the natural world to create freeform tower models. In-person program; masks required. Free.

Livestreamed by Fraunces Tavern Museum
Julie Flavell presents her book, The Howe Dynasty, the first biography of a British “First Family.” The Howe family had as much at stake as the Washingtons and Adamses in the conflict that created the United States. Free.

290 Broadway

Livestreamed by China Institute
Lecture. In 1860, China was opened to foreign missionary activity. By 1900, missionaries were establishing schools, colleges, hospitals, medical schools, museums, printing presses, and YMCA chapters. A few of these institutions have evolved into elite institutions: Beijing University, Qinghua University, and Peking Union Medical College.

Sunday, March 12
Winter Garden
Celebrate college hoops at Brookfield Place! Show off your skills with the interactive Pop-A-Shot. Free.

Livestreamed by the Museum of Jewish Heritage
A picturesque destination in southern Germany, Breisach’s Jewish heritage has been woven into the fabric of the place, nestled across the Rhine from France. From the Middle Ages until the Holocaust, Breisach was home to a thriving Jewish community that played a vital role in the economic, social, and cultural development of the town. $36.

National Lighthouse Museum, Promenade, Staten Island
Staged reading. When a visitor comes to the Robbins Reef Lighthouse, not only is the lighthouse keeper Kate Walker's nighttime routine upended, but possibly the rest of her life. $10.

St. Paul's Chapel and livestreamed
Join the Trinity Youth Chorus, alongside the Trinity Baroque Orchestra for a performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. Free.
Today in History
March 10
Harriet Tubman was 93 when she died on this day in 1913. Born into slavery in Maryland, she escaped and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, guiding others to freedom. During the Civil War, she was an armed scout and spy for the Union Army.
241 BC - The Romans sink the Carthaginian fleet, bringing the First Punic War to an end.
1681 - King Charles II hands over a large piece of his American land holdings to William Penn to satisfy a debt the king owed to Penn's father. This land includes present-day Pennsylvania and Delaware.
1801 - First census in Great Britain
1862 - US issues first paper money ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 & $1000)
1876 - First telephone call is made—Alexander Graham Bell said to Thomas Watson, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you." 
1945 - Deadliest air raid of World War II sets Tokyo on fire after nighttime bombings. More than 100,000 people die, mostly civilians
1951 - FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declines post of baseball commissioner
1975 - Dog spectacles are patented in England
2013 - Aung San Suu Kyi is re-elected leader of the Burmese National League for Democracy
2020 - Russian lower house of Parliament passes legislation to allow Vladimir Putin to hold office of President for life

1867 - Lillian Wald, pioneering nurse and social activist who started American community nursing with the Henry Street Settlement in New York City
1928 - James Earl Ray, assassin
1935 - Gary Owens, announcer
1957 - Osama bin Laden, Islamic militant, founder of al-Qaeda
1994 - Bad Bunny, rapper, singer-songwriter 

1913 - Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor, dies at 93
1942 – Wilbur Scoville, pharmacist and chemist (b. 1865)
1948 – Zelda Fitzgerald, author, artist, ballet dancer (b. 1900)
1985 – Konstantin Chernenko, soldier, head of state of the Soviet Union (b. 1911)
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