The 100th anniversary or yortsayt/yahrzeit of the death of beloved writer Sholem Aleichem – known as the “Yiddish Mark Twain” and author of the Tevye the Dairyman stories that inspired Fiddler on the Roof – is coming up next month. Born Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich in Ukraine in 1859, he changed his name to a close approximation of the greeting “Peace be with you” as he began writing the vernacular tales of shtetl life and culture that made him a literary rock star in his own day. After a rollercoaster of a life that led him to Geneva and New York, through poverty and wealth and back again, he left some very explicit instructions to friends and family: to gather annually, “read my will, and also select one of my stories, one of the very merry ones, and recite it in whatever language is most intelligible to you.”
The Accord-based quarterly publication Jewish Currents takes that exhortation seriously – or as seriously as a “very merry” Aleichem tribute can muster. Four years ago, the magazine sold out the Rosendale Theatre with the first iteration of its Sholem Aleichem Variety Show, and the centenary edition is coming up on April 12 at the same venue. The author’s Last Will and Testament will be read aloud, along with one of his comic stories; latter-day Jewish words and music that speak in Sholem Aleichem’s spirit will round out the program.
Performances will include rapid-fire Jewish cabaret songs by singer/songwriter Daniel Cainer, and readings and skits by performance artists Mikhail Horowitz & Gilles Malkine, actress/director Ann Citron and Jewish Currents editor Lawrence Bush. Also promised are storytelling, video and great Jewish jokes, and attendees are requested to “Bring your hanky” – though whether for sniffles or folkdancing is not specified. Noodle kugel and tea will supplement the Theatre’s usual selection of movie snacks.
The show begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2514028, http://jewishcurrents.bigcartel.com/product/the-sholem-aleichem-variety-store or the Rosendale Theatre box office, located at 408 Main Street (Route 213) in downtown Rosendale. The program will be performed again the following evening in Manhattan’s SoHo, at the Pomegranate Gallery at 137 Greene Street. For more info, visit http://jewishcurrents.org.