Welcome to the twenty-first-century Yiddish renaissance!
The Yiddish Philharmonic Chorus, formerly the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus (JPPC), is a multigenerational forty-voice ensemble. We’re students, professionals, and robust retirees, all in love with singing and committed to promoting Yiddish language and culture through beautiful four-part harmony.
Few of us are fluent, but we all learn together from the Yiddish vocal literature—traditional folk songs, settings of classic and contemporary poetry, labor anthems, theater works, holiday standards, and modern pieces in translation.
Each season, our conductor, Binyumen Schaechter, creates brand-new choral arrangements to invigorate our growing repertoire of Yiddish choral music by renowned composers. We’ve also commissioned and premiered works by Helen Medwedeff Greenberg z”l, Robert Ross, Josh Waletzky, and Mark Zuckerman.
We perform each spring and fall at Merkin Concert Hall and most summers at the North American Jewish Choral Festival in Stamford, Connecticut. We’ve also performed at Symphony Space, Carnegie Hall, Shea Stadium, West Point, the World Trade Center site after 9/11, and places of worship throughout the New York metropolitan area. See our CONCERTS page to find out what we’re doing next and what we’ve done over the past decade.
Our mission is to share Yiddish culture through choral music, both in the concert hall and in more intimate settings at private events. We can help you plan a program and spice up your celebration in a novel way. We can offer just a few songs or a longer set, with a small group of singers or the full chorus—depending upon your needs and our availability. Do email us to discuss your vision: info@YiddishChorus.org.
Since medieval times in Central and Eastern Europe, Yiddish has been the everyday voice of the Ashkenazic Jewish people. It has elements of Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, High German, Slavic, and Romance languages but is written in Hebrew characters. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries produced internationally known writers including Sholom Aleichem, Y. L. Peretz, Itzik Manger, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. During that time, native speakers emigrated to cities and towns in North and South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. In New York City, Yiddish was the mame-loshn—the mother tongue—that Jewish immigrants spoke with their children, heard in Second Avenue theaters, and read in newspapers like the Forverts and the Freiheit.
Just prior to World War II, the world had around 13 million Yiddish speakers. The Holocaust and then assimilation largely silenced the sound of Yiddish, but it’s estimated that nearly a million people are speaking it today. Census data from 2013 found that more than 155,000 people in the United States speak Yiddish at home. Most of them, nearly 130,000, live in the state of New York. Of these, the five boroughs of New York City are home to more than 85,000 Yiddish speakers, including more than 81,000 in Brooklyn alone. Rockland and Orange counties have their own enclaves, with a combined total exceeding 37,000 Yiddish speakers.
More than sixty universities worldwide now offer Yiddish language classes. In New York City, several colleges offer graduate programs in Yiddish studies. The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Jewish Theological Seminary offer Yiddish classes, and the Workers Circle offers classes at all levels, both in person and online.
The past few decades have seen a surge of interest in Yiddish music, literature, theater, art, and the language itself. Cultural organizations continue to thrive, including the Yiddish Book Center, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, and, of course, the Yiddish Philharmonic Chorus.