Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe

WATCH: Folksbiene ‘Fiddler’ cast performs ‘God Bless America’ in Yiddish

Read this article in Yiddish

To mark the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, the Folksbiene released a video on Tuesday featuring the cast of the company’s hit production of “Fiddler on the Roof” performing “God Bless America” in Yiddish.

In the video, created by actor Ben Liebert (who played Motl the Tailor), more than 20 actors, including Steven Skybell (Tevye) and Mikhl Yashinskiy (Mordkhe the Innkeeper) , appear alongside the play’s director, Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey.

The new musical arrangement was created by Dmitri Slepovitch, the clarinetist in the Folksbiene’s production of “Fiddler”, who accompanies the singers in the video on the piano together with the violinist Lauren Thomas, who played the role of the titular Fiddler in the musical.

The inspiration for celebrating the inauguration by releasing a Yiddish version of “God Bless America” came from Lisa Fishman, a longtime singer and actress with the Folksbiene. She noted that Irving Berlin, a Yiddish-speaking immigrant who created many of the most popular American songs of the 1920s-1940s, released “God Bless America” in 1938 during a time of rising fascism in Europe.

“As we emerge from this dark chapter of division and strife and welcome in a new presidential administration, singing this iconic anthem in Yiddish – the author’s native tongue, is a unique way for the Fiddler family to honor our incoming leaders, to celebrate the ideals and values of our country and to pray for this beautiful and fragile – yet enduring – democracy. I can’t think of a more appropriate time in history or group of people to share Berlin’s prayer with the world.”

An excerpt from the video can be viewed here. Click here to see the full video.

The Yiddish version of “God Bless America” was created by the singer and ethnomusicologist Henry Sapoznik for Mandy Patinkin’s album “Mame-Loshn”. It has since become popular with a variety of singers and cantors, including Hasidic pop star Lipa Schmeltzer, who has incorporated it into his repertoire.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, and credit to Foward. Have questions? Please email us at help@forward.com.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.