After quickly selling out the first showing of the Yiddish play, “Mama’s Loshn Kugel,” Atlanta’s Eternal Life-Hemshech and New York-based National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene have added a second showing on Sun., Oct. 7, at the Rich Theatre at Woodruff Arts Center.
“I realized, after putting my four kids through Jewish day schools, that we always talk about the people we lost in the Holocaust, but we never talk about everything else we lost,” said Karen Lansky Edlin, president of Hemshech, referring to the rich Jewish culture in Europe that was destroyed. “That’s why we decided to bring Folksbiene to Atlanta. We wanted to do something fun.”
“Mama’s Loshn Kugel” presents little humorous Yiddish vignettes, Edlin said, noting that there will be screens projecting the English translations.
Hemshech, which means “continuation” in Hebrew, was founded by Atlanta’s Holocaust survivors in 1964 to create a permanent memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust at Greenwood Cemetery. Proceeds from the event will be used to restore the 54-year-old monument which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Edlin, a child of survivors, said she called Hemshech founder Benjamin Hirsch “one day and told him that we wanted to restore the memorial. We went out there and made a list of what we wanted to do, and just a few weeks later, he died.” German-born Hirsch, who came to Atlanta as a 9-year-old, died earlier this year after an award-winning career as an architect.
“I feel strongly that the Memorial to the Six Million is something survivors left for us. Hemshech was formed to build a place where they could say Kaddish because there were no graves,” Edlin said. Among the items on the wish list for the restoration project are a steam cleaning and electronic starters for the six torches. “Right now, the torches are lit by gas,” she explained. “Maybe we’ll do 80 percent of the work, or maybe 100 percent.” Hirsch’s original drawings for the memorial will be on display at the Rich Theatre.
“We started talking about this event in the summer of 2017,” said Edlin, explaining the long process of bringing a theater troupe from New York. Folksbiene is the world’s longest continuously performing theater company, now in its 103rd season. Currently in New York, Folksbiene is performing “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish, directed by Joel Grey. The play has received rave reviews and the production has been extended into October. Edlin said she flew to New York to watch the three-hour play. “I smiled throughout the entire thing.”
“Yiddish songs, humor, theater and literature embodied by Folksbiene are enjoying a huge resurgence across this country and around the world,” Edlin said. “We are fortunate to be able to bring the Folksbiene troupe from New York to Atlanta to help support the Hemshech mission.”
Part of that mission is to not only continue the legacy of the founding organizers, but to provide scholarships for educators and students teaching and studying the Holocaust. Hemshech participates in city and state Holocaust education and genocide programs, while supporting survivors who share their stories with younger generations. Hemshech’s logo is “Holocaust Survivors Family and Friends”.
“We have not had this big an event for the community in a long time,” Edlin added. “We weren’t sure about doing a second showing. We wanted to make sure we sold the first show.”
Sponsorships for the play range from $250 to $10,000, and can be purchased on the Hemshech website, eternallifehemshech.org. Sponsorships include tickets as well as free admissions for Holocaust survivors, who will be honored at the performance. ■