kazakhstan flag 88.
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Entertainment at national day events usually focuses on traditional music and dance. Thus it came as somewhat of a surprise at the Kazakhstan Independence Day festivities at the Tel Aviv Hilton when Ambassador Keirat Abdrakhmanov announced that there would be a recital of Yiddish songs by members of the Yiddishpiel theater company.
While it is true that since taking up his post in Israel in June 2003, Abdrakhmanov has not missed a single Yiddishpiel production, and while it is equally true that Kazakhstan, a predominantly Muslim country provided a haven for Jews during the Holocaust and prides itself on its lack of anti-Semitism, the choice of entertainment was still a curiosity to the hundreds of guests assembled in the hotel's ballroom.
The reasoning behind the choice was soon explained. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Polish born Yiddishpiel founder and director Shmuel Atzmon and his parents found themselves in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, and it was there that Atzmon was first introduced to Yiddish theater. His family went to see a play starring the legendary diva of the Yiddish stage Ida Kaminska. Recalling that influential experience on his life and his career, Atzmon in a voice that shook with emotion declared: "I could not know then that sixty years later I would organize a Yiddishpiel recital for Kazakhstan's Independence Day."
The Yiddishpiel ensemble includes several performers who came to Israel from the former Soviet Union. In most cases they had excellent credentials, but knew neither Hebrew nor Yiddish. Atzmon took a chance on them and sent them to the Yiddish Actors Studio which is affiliated with the Nissan Nativ studio. They were so keen to prove that his confidence in them was not misplaced that they acquired perfect Yiddish enunciation and picked up more than a rudimentary knowledge of the language.
Performers at Kazakhstan Independence Day were Odessa-born Lena Koplevich, who is Yiddishpiel's musical director, piano accompanist and complementary singer; Moscow-trained singer and actress Helena Iarlova who promised her grandmother that she would one day act in Yiddish; and Bucharest-born Monica Vardinon who has performed on Broadway as well as many other stages around the world.
Yiddishpiel's new production "How to be a Jewish Mother in 10 lessons" starring Gidi Yagil and Anat Atzmon, premiered in Tel Aviv last Saturday night and will have a nation-wide run till mid-February. While the production is new, the play is not. It was last performed in Israel some 25 years ago, but in the interim has proved to be an evergreen favorite in Paris.