Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
The Schmooze

A Funky Little Yiddish Princess

It’s hard to beat Yiddish Princess’s own self-description (as per their MySpace page):

“Melodramatic Popular Song”

“Kick Ass Yiddish Power Ballads”

“Influences: Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Mina Bern, Molly Picon, Pat Benatar, Suki & Ding”

“Sounds Like: Celine Dion (if she went to Kheder)”

Not all of this is strictly true — there’s really little resemblance to Celine Dion, for example, even if she had gone to kheder. But what’s important here is the impish sense of humor that underlies one of the weirder musical projects in recent memory, Jewish or otherwise.

Put simply, Yiddish Princess plays Yiddish songs arranged to sound like ‘80s power pop. It’s a crazy combination, but an inspired one — shtick at its most sublime. Surprisingly, it works. Their inaugural, self-titled EP — which they launched last night at Brooklyn’s Galapagos, the first stop on a short East Coast tour — includes pieces such as “Dem Milners Trern” by Mark Warshawsky, lately made famous by its inclusion on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”; “Ver Vet Blayb,” whose lyrics were penned by the late poet Abraham Sutzkever; and the traditional Hasidic song “Az Nisht Keyn Emune.” Somehow, Yiddish Princess makes it seem as if they had all been written by Debbie Harry.

While it would be a mistake to get too analytical about a band that is clearly just for kicks, Yiddish Princess does represent an intriguing development on the Jewish music scene. Recently, a veteran Yiddishist told me that he couldn’t really get into them — “It’s a generational thing,” he said. “For them it’s nostalgia, but for me, I didn’t like ‘80s music then, and I don’t like it now.” Fair enough, but when was the last time you heard anything Yiddish-related being described as a “generational thing” in a “those crazy kids” kind of way? Clearly, Yiddish Princess has something going on.

But even if there’s something to be said about the rumors of Yiddish’s death being greatly exaggerated, at bottom, Yiddish Princess is just pure, unadulterated, no-take-home-message fun. Indeed, for all of the efforts to somehow make Jewishness seem cool, Yiddish Princess is one of the only acts whose Jewishness is both intrinsic and not at all self-serious.

Its members are, to one degree or another, rooted in the more conventional Yiddish music world, particularly singer Sarah Mina Gordon and synth/keyboard player Michael Winograd, who is better known as one of the top young klezmer clarinetists playing today. Unlike bands who strain unconvincingly to incorporate Jewish elements, Yiddish Princess has got the Jewish thing down, and now they’re having fun with it. And if last night’s show was any measure, fun it is indeed.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

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