Isaiah Sheffer Remembered for Lullaby Voice and Enduring Legacy

Appreciation

Lullaby Voice: Isaiah Sheffer was known for his lullaby voice on radio. But he also left an enduring cultural legacy.
getty images
Lullaby Voice: Isaiah Sheffer was known for his lullaby voice on radio. But he also left an enduring cultural legacy.

By Sheerly Avni

Published December 19, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Most of America knew the great director, writer, actor and impresario Isaiah Sheffer through his deep lullaby of a voice, the one that guided them through his popular weekly syndicated radio show, “Selected Shorts.” But a bittersweet reminder of the many other gifts and achievements of the multitalented stage veteran was provided at the December 17 memorial service held in his honor on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at Symphony Space, the cultural center that, along with “Selected Shorts,” may prove to be his greatest legacy.

Perhaps “legacy” is too sterile a word to describe the impact that Sheffer, who passed away on November 9 at Mr. Sinai Hospital at the age of 76, had on his seemingly inexhaustible supply of friends, admirers and collaborators.

At the memorial service, it seemed as though everyone in the packed 760-seat Peter Jay Sharp Theater had a fond memory to share. The atmosphere was one of warm love, not cool appreciation, one so full of gut laughs and raucous applause that one almost expected Sheffer, like the Finnegan of his beloved James Joyce, to pop up and demand that celebrants pipe down.

The stories were as varied and multi-tiered as the man — a Bronx-born, Stuyvesant High School graduate who first took the stage as a child actor in Yiddish theater and then never left it, whether as an actor, a librettist and lyricist for musicals such as “The Rise of David Levinsky,” a commentator on public radio station WNYC or a host on the Jewish Daily Forward radio station WEVD (“the station that speaks your language”).

But all the reminiscences shared an appreciation for the man’s sense of humor, and almost every person who took the stage over the three-hour event (“We’re running long,” Symphony Space director of literary programs Kathy Minton joked at about the two-thirds mark, though it should be noted that almost no one left early) offered a favorite Sheffer line — for example, one he liked to repeat during his lengthy hospital stay: “I tell people I’ve had a stork,” he’d quip, “but it hasn’t affected my speech.”

Some of the evening’s biggest laughs were elicited when veterans of his long-running musical revue, “The Thalia Follies,” took to the stage to perform Sheffer’s own politically pointed song parodies, along with video clips.


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!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • 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.