Avi Hoffman Channels Poet Itzik Manger at City University

By Masha Leon

Published September 21, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

“Why Manger?” I asked Matthew “Motl” Didner, producer and associate artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre—Folksbiene production of “Reflections of a Lost Poet: The Life and Works of Itzik Manger,” at the show’s September 9 performance, held at Baruch College’s Engelman Recital Hall. “Because it is the perfect companion piece to his ‘Megile of Itzik Manger’ — a poetic cycle about the Book of Esther that was set to music and was the last entirely Yiddish musical to play on Broadway in the 1968 season,” he said.

Binyumen Schaechter with Avi Hoffman
Karen Leon
Binyumen Schaechter with Avi Hoffman

“Reflections” was written by Miriam Hoffman. Binyumen Schaechter arranged the music. Avi Hoffman, speaking in impeccably articulated Yiddish, gave voice to Manger’s wailing arrival in this world, declaring, “I had no desire to be born.” Manger rants against God and mourns the loss of the Jews. His tone is not a pleading one, but rather a Yiddish j’accuse “over the ruins of Poland.”

Between sips of wine, Hoffman morphed into Manger, known as a hopeless romantic who was fond of creating fictional biographies of himself and passing them off as truth. He was born in 1901 in Czernowitz, then a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and he died in Israel in 1969. When Hoffman performed Manger’s “Yidl Mitn Fidl, Arye Mitn Bas” (“Yidl With Your Fiddle and Arye With Your Bass”), many in the audience joined in singing its refrain: ““Dos lebn iz a shpas*” (“Life’s but a joke”).

After the performance I chatted with Bryna Wasserman, executive director of Folksbiene. She seemed pleased with the audience’s reaction. “Bringing [Yiddish theater] to new audiences… is part of what we want to do with Avi’s production,” Wasserman said. “It inspired an audience that didn’t necessarily understand the Yiddish, but, through the musicality of the language and the supertitles, got the best of both worlds… a fully rounded experience.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.