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Yiddish artists collective is launched in Melbourne

A new Yiddish artists collective in Melbourne has released two videos of mystical Yiddish poetry set to music.

The artists collective, called “Di Farborgene Khalyastre” (“The Gang of the Concealed”), took the name from a major Yiddish cultural avant-garde movement in Warsaw in the early 1920s which brought together poets, novelists dedicated to European expressionism, while at the same time firmly committed to constructing a new secular Yiddish culture. The Melbourne group similarly aims to create their own contemporary fusions of Yiddish poetry, art and music.

Both poems were written by Aaron Zeitlin, author of “Dona Dona” – a Yiddish song which, once translated into English, was widely performed by American folksinger Joan Baez as a protest song during the civil rights movement.

The first of the two videos,“The Seven Palaces of Breath: The Mysteries of the Flying Hobbler,” is a mystical poem based on a story from the 13th century religious text “Sefer ha-Zohar” (“Book of Radiance”), a foundational work in the literature of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.

The second video, “Kaddish by the Ruins: A Liturgy,” is based on a collection of Zeitlin’s Holocaust poems, set to original folk-rock melodies.


As a way of self-definition, the website of “Di Farborgene Khalyastre” quotes Yiddish poet Avrom Sutzkever:

We are just the notes. We change, we mix, confound.

And we give for others only: tones and chords and sound.

And above the strings and keys, over every part,

Only the conductor knows us all by heart.

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