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Shayla Fink and Debbie Maslowsky. Photos by Shane Marmel.


By Kaye Replach, May 17, 2010

For those of us that went to Hebrew school in my generation, there was generally not much emphasis given to speaking Yiddish. Growing up around my house, Yiddish primarily consisted of four basic words - mensch , chutzpah, meshugaas and potz –you hoped to fall in the first category but often got caught in one of the latter three. So my first thought to myself when asked to review the opening concert of the 3rd Annual Mameloshen Festival of Yiddish Entertainment was that I wasn't sure if I would be the right person. My husband solidified that thought by telling me I was unqualified to attend the concert (let alone write about it-- and certainly not write about it in Yiddish!)

Nonetheless, my dad [Frank Spivak] and I went on Tuesday May 11 to hear A Tribute To The Barry Sisters and both of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The evening, presented by I.L. Peretz Folk School Endowment Trust and the Rady JCC, featured Shayla Fink and Debbie Maslowsky and was produced by Kinsey Posen.

The Barry Sisters, the Yiddish singing internally acclaimed duo last performed in Winnipeg in 1965 at the Winnipeg Auditorium, (but I have  no recollection of that because I wasn’t born yet).  The Barry Sisters (Claire and Myrna), actually were born in the Bronx as the Bagelman sisters (but as Maslowsky noted, maybe the name change was for the best) and performed in a variety of countries throughout the world. They were featured on such notable shows as Ed Sullivan and even Winnipeg’s Noah Witman radio show.

Fink and Maslowsky were definitely a crowd pleaser and the evening was filled with warmth and humor. After a brief slide show of the actual Barry Sisters’ performance, the show began with Fink and Maslowsky descending down the aisles of the Winnipeg Art Gallery auditorium  with an opening “Heivenu Shalom Aleichem” while the sold out crowd bobbed their heads throughout.

The Fink/Maslowsky “sisters”, both of whom have strong voices performed energetically for an hour and a half solid of what they affectionately referred to as “Yinglish” songs. The dynamic duo belted out some terrific renditions of Zee Shpayt (Too Late), Bei Mir Bitsu Shein, Tumbalaika,  and a medley of Passover songs, all of which made me realize that culturally Yiddish probably played a bigger role in my generation’s collective memory than I realized.

Other memorable moments included Fink and Maslowsky’s recreation of various takes of the Barry Sisters performing the Manishewitz Canadian Matzah Commercial and the Yiddish variation  of Life is a Cabaret.  My personal favorite, though, was when midway through the show Maslowsky disappeared off the stage reappearing only moments later dressed in a housecoat seemingly thinking that the show was over - a scene that anyone with a   Jewish mother (or mother-in-law) can likely visualize.

The performance was supplemented with a terrific band consisting of Kinsey Posen on bass guitar, Eli Herscovitch on horn , Bryan Harder on piano and Jeff Gordon on drums.

As it turns out, the evening was special for another reason, in that it was the first time that  Maslowsky and Fink, both  Peretz School graduates performed on stage together. Maslowsky has appeared in  film and television roles. Fink is well known as part of  Winnipeg’s Klezmer group Finjan, and has performed at many community events.

For my dad, the evening was one full of nostalgia. Having grown up in a house filled with Yiddish and Yiddish singing, for him there wasn’t an unfamiliar song. For me, just the enjoyment and energy made up for the few words I didn’t understand. Walking back to the car my dad made a point of showing me where the old Winnipeg Auditorium was, just a couple of blocks away from the performance.

The  Mameloshen Festival is supported by the Jewish Foundation ( the Asper Endowment Fund, the Mark and Dorothy Danzker Fund and the fund of the late Sam Grosberg) as well as private donors.

A tribute to the Barry Sisters was the first of a series of three Yiddish concerts and was followed by Bisele Haimeshe Yiddish on May 17th.

The final Mitch Smolkin concert is on Tuesday May 25.  Concerts are sold out.    

[Editor’s note: Although Ms. Replach remembers  growing up in a household where four  Yiddish words were used, I  grew up in that same household and remember  a fifth word being used, more often by my mother---shmock. But, alas, that’s a minor detail].

Ms. Kaye Replach is an occasional “reviewer” for the Winnipeg Jewish Review. If you liked this article of hers, you may wish to read or re-read her last [very popular] article  ‘I MADE PAM REISS’S SPINACH AND ZUCHINNI SOUP AND IT WAS MMM GOOD!.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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