April 19, 2007 A group of us met up at Helen’s Restaurant in Chelsea to see a performance unlike anything we’ve seen: Kleynkunst! Warsaw’s brave and brilliant Yiddish Cabaret. As Generation X and Y’ers, we rarely experience Yiddish in forms like cinema, theater or Klezmer, let alone cabaret. The songs, in both Yiddish and English, offered us a glimpse of one of the most unique periods in Jewish history. Spanning the 20s and 30s, Yiddish Cabaret reflected the sophistication, as well as the politics and changing social status of Warsaw’s Jews.
In the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews, imprisoned, starved and faced with death, showed their will to live by clandestinely putting on cabaret shows. This was a form of resistance, alongside the armed resistance that began soon after. In fact, this show was performed in honor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began on the same date, 64 years ago. Following the performance, we were able to meet and talk with the performers, Rebecca Joy Fletcher and Stephen Mo Hanan.