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Jane Enkin

Jane Enkin: Klezfest 2015 Preview

by Jane Enkin, September 30, 2015


Singer and teacher Janie Respitz has a passion for Yiddish folklore, Yiddish language and especially Yiddish song, and she is coming to Winnipeg to share her enthusiasm and delight.


Respitz is one of the featured presenters at Winnipeg's first Klezfest. The event opens with a sold out concert on Saturday, October 10.


On Sunday, October 11, Klezfest at the Rady Centre is packed with workshops and concerts.


For registration information, look at

or contact Debora Figowy,

Cultural Arts and Adult Services Program Coordinator

Rady Jewish Community Centre

B100-123 Doncaster Street

Winnipeg, MB R3N 2B3

Phone: 204.477.7534


There will be Klezmer music workshops for instrumentalists, with the opportunity to learn from Winnipeg musicians and visiting members of the Klezmatics.


But there is also lots to enjoy for people who would rather listen, sing or dance, with workshops, jams and concerts everyone can attend.


Janie Respitz will offer a series of workshops about three great Yiddish songwriters – you can attend one, two or all three. “What I love to do is teach the language through song, so I'll be doing a little of that. We'll also be delving into the songs, the lyrics, because there's so much of the culture and the folklore you can learn from the songs. We will pull out information about Eastern European Jewish life from this material and when we sing a song, even if it's a familiar song from a long time ago, there will be a whole new appreciation and a whole new understanding of what we're singing.”


What if you don't speak Yiddish? While those who do know Yiddish will enjoy the discussions and learn something new, explained Respitz when I spoke with her this week, just after her return from Prague and Berlin, “those who don't know Yiddish will have an incredible exposure to something that would otherwise be unattainable,” because of the background information, the explanations, the translations and transliterations of the songs.


Growing up in a home filled with Yiddish song, Respitz attended folk-shule and Jewish high school in Montreal, learning Yiddish and Hebrew. A master's degree in Yiddish language and literature led to a career teaching language and folklore at all levels, including the courses Respitz gives at McGill University.


Asked to name a favourite Yiddish songwriter, Respitz chose Itsik Manger, because of “his use of folklore elements, and his brilliant use of rhyme and language...I show the play on words and I show his use of different dialects and accents.” Respitz is looking forward to presenting in Winnipeg. “It will be a lot of fun!”


Lorin Sklamberg is a founding member of the Klezmatics. “The legendary music critic Robert Christgau has described Lorin Sklamberg’s voice as 'transcendent, ethereal and sensual,' while a writer for Folkworld gushed that the Klezmatics’ frontman 'brings tears into my eyes with his fabulous way of singing.'” The Klezfest concerts will give Winnipeg audiences the opportunity to hear Sklamberg perform.


Another important aspect of Sklamberg's career is his work as the Sound Archivist for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. At Klezfest, participants will have the pleasure of learning with Sklamberg. The Music of Ruth Rubin will explore the wonderful songs archived, recorded and researched by the folklore collector Ruth Rubin. The Hidden Gems will be an illustrated lecture sharing rare commercial and private recordings from the collection of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Sound Archive in New York.


For information about music workshops, dance instruction workshops, and the fabulous closing performances, go to

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