Dancing In The Aisles
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Dancing In The Aisles

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

Carnegie Hall has had many memorable performances, from Benny Goodman’s legendary Jazz concert of 1938 to Andy Kaufman treating the audience to milk and cookies in 1979. But Tuesday night’s National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene gala may be the first time the audience rose en masse and danced in the aisles.

More than $1 million was raised for NYTF. The elegant Isaac Stern Auditorium was packed, as superstar Itzhak Perlman presented “In The Fiddler’s House,” playing his violin along with more than a dozen of the greatest klezmer musicians performing today, including Andy Statman, Frank London, Michael Alpert and Judy Bressler.

Introducing “Macheteneste Mayne,” Perlman challenged the audience: “No pressure. They danced in Symphony Hall in Boston.” The aisles were promptly filled with chains of audience members doing an improvised hora, twirling and skipping up and down the aisles, as though at a boisterous wedding, joined by NYTF executive director Bryna Wasserman and artistic director Zalmen Mlotek.

Jordan Roth, one of the honorees gave one of the best brief tribute talks ever. To begin, the young president of Jujamcyn Theaters greeted the crowd with outstretched arms. “Mishpokhe,” he called out. Pointing to Gala Chair Bruce Ratner, he said “Macher” and then to himself, “Feigeleh.” From humor, he switched to a serious note, masterfully linking a recent trip to Israel, a visit to the ruins of the ancient theater in Caesarea and the legacy of Yiddish theater.

The evening ended with Perlman and all of the musicians playing a rousing “Ale Brider,” joined by more than 300 school children of all backgrounds conducted by Mlotek. With a nod to Passover, the musicians played Shlomo Carlebach’s version of “Adir Hu” as an encore, joined again by the kids. For the final encore, the children’s choir accompanied the musicians in a foot stomping rendition of the chassidic anthem “Moishe Emes.”

Earlier, Ratner announced a significant development: The NYTF and the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust signed a memorandum of understanding that will give the groups two years to explore a potential merger that would make the NYTF the resident theater company at the Museum.

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