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How Judah Maccabee saved the Yiddish Language

Teaneck, NJ — In honor and celebration of the miracles of Hannukah which took place some 2200 years ago, Ergo Media at www.jewishvideo.com is delighted to release Pripetshik Sings Yiddish!, a new DVD/video in Yiddish. Pardon me, you must be saying to yourself, what in the world does Yiddish have to do with the festival of Hannukah? The Yiddish language, after all, appeared on the stage of Jewish history some 1,200 years later.

There is a very simple explanation. The Seleucid-Greek king, Antiochus Epiphanes was determined to wipe out the Jewish religion back in 168 B.C.E. He came pretty close to succeeding, until Mattathias and his five sons, the most famous of whom was Judah Maccabee, beat the oppressors and cleansed all pagan idolatry from the Temple in Jerusalem. (The entire Hannukah story can be found on "Emperors and Rebels: The Story of Hannukah" on DVD/VHS from Ergo). Had Judah and his faithful warriors not succeeded in their sacred mission, Judaism, as we know it today, would not have survived. More than one thousand years later, there would have been no evolution of Yiddish, the language of Eastern European Jewry. Fast forward another thousand years to New York City, circa 2004, where, almost sixty years after the Holocaust, the Yiddish language today is making a comeback.

The Pripetshik Singers, an exciting ensemble of eight native-Yiddish speaking teens and children, have been touring throughout the Northeast United States and giving concerts in Yiddish. The group, which grew out of the Pripetshik Shule, a Yiddish Sunday School in New York City, sings adult and children’s songs, appropriate for all ages. Ergo Media is pleased to be releasing the group’s first DVD, Pripetshik Sings Yiddish!, just in time for Hannukah. The music is comprised of old Yiddish favorites such as "Az der rebe lakht" (When the Rabbi Laughs), "Mu asapru" (Who Knows One), and American classics such as "I’m a Little Teapot", "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", all sung in Yiddish, of course. Their musical director, Binyumen (Ben) Schaechter, is an award-winning composer whose music has been heard in many off-Broadway shows and on television. He is also the conductor of the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus. Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Joshua Waletzky, best known for his Image Before My Eyes and Partisans of Vilna, directed and produced the program.

So thanks, Judah, for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this terrific new Yiddish program. And after we’ve lit our Hannukah candles, we’ll gather family and friends together and sing along with the Pripetshik Singers, as we celebrate the miracle of Jewish survival, from generation to generation.

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