Yiddish, Jewish culture alive and well among young adults
October 14, 2012 | Mike Cohen - Quebec Bureau ChiefcloseAuthor: Mike Cohen - Quebec Bureau Chief
Name: Mike Cohen
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The Yiddish language is alive and well with Montreal’s Jewish youth. It is being fuelled these days by the Segal Centre for the Arts’ Academy, via performing arts courses and workshops for children, teenagers and young adults.
As the director of academy and educational outreach programming, Lee Haberkorn said YAYA (Young Artists for Young Audiences) is the key component to this entire process.
Haberkorn noted that past successful YAYA productions such as No More Raisins, No More Almonds by Batia Bettman and The Children of Terezin, featuring the opera Brundibar, still resonate throughout the community.
Haberkorn, 27, grew up in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Côte Saint-Luc. He studied acting at the New York Film Academy and is now enrolled at Concordia University in a specialization in human relations program, with plans to move on to Law School. He joined the academy nearly three years ago and was promoted to his current post last January.
Highlights this year at the Segal Centre include Baby YAYA, YAYA Kids, YAYA Teens as well as Broadway Stars and Wandering Stars. They each promote heritage, history, leadership and intercultural understanding, with programming now available in English, French, and indeed, Yiddish.
YAYA, said Haberkorn, forms the cornerstone of youth arts education at the Segal Centre.
Jewish heritage and Yiddish culture will be explored in each program.
YAYA Teens (ages 13 to 17) serves as the true training ground for the renowned Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre and an entrée into participation in its high-level productions. There are classes in acting techniques, songs styles, theatre performance styles, diction, vocal projection and body movement. It all culminates in the presentation of a play with music in English and Yiddish, based on Jewish heritage and intercultural values.
“I think that one of the aspects setting us apart from other performing arts schools are our production values,” Haberkorn suggested.
Wandering Stars (ages 16 to 22) is supported by community leaders Barbara and Donald Seal. It’s a multicultural and multilingual touring troupe composed of young adults from varied backgrounds. The company’s vision is helping young emerging artists promote a message of cultural dialogue through the performing arts.
“My years of passion and training in the performing arts, coupled with my experience as an event planner, proved to be a perfect match to bring the Wandering Stars across Quebec and reach more than 15,000 youth in just over two years,” Haberkorn said. “We are now gearing up for a tour in Israel in January. Also in the pipeline is a new musical show that will tour high schools across the province on anti-bullying. I know first-hand how the performing arts can influence today’s youth and I want that same opportunity to be given to as many kids as possible. The best gift is watching kids build self-esteem and self-confidence while discovering a passion for the arts.”
The academy will also launch the inaugural Segal Goes to School program this year, beginning with a pilot arts program in Bialik High School that incorporates music into the existing Jewish history curriculum.
Haberkorn has been working closely with Segal Centre CEO Manon Gauthier to completely re-envision the academy.
“My goal was to create an academy offering the best arts education program and reaching as many people as possible,” he explains. “Wandering Stars, for instance, promotes a troupe of young aspiring actors touring a musical show to young audiences promoting multicultural unity and understanding.”
YAYA was inspired by the vision of the late Dora Wasserman and her daughter Bryna. It has expanded to become the cornerstone of youth arts education at the Segal.
“This new vision builds on the Wasserman legacy of youth arts education,” said Gauthier.
“As we train the next generation of young performers, we also recognize the power of the arts to instill core values, build bridges and promote diversity. Above and beyond performance, they learn about themselves and the world they live in.”
For more information go to segalcentre.org.
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