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Talk to Me

Talk To Me: Celebrating Humorist Sholem Aleichem

Laughter filled The Cornelia Street Café at an event in late March honoring the 150th birthday of Yiddish humorist and humanist Sholem Aleichem.

Program host Paul Hecht turned out to be off by one year (it’s actually Aleichem’s 151st) so Robin Hirsch, the owner of the café and the self-appointed Minister of Culture, quipped to the audience "All right, for you, 150."

Aleichem's 99-year-old granddaughter, Bel Kaufman, kicked off the event by sharing memories of her grandfather — and showed that humor runs in the family. Kaufman is best known for her 1965 novel, Up the Down Staircase.

Above, stream and download Kaufman's talk for free.

The evening also included readings of Aleichem's stories about life in the shtetl and in America. Art Bailey and Tanya Kalmanovich also contributed music to the event.

Listen to George Guidall read from the short stories “Progress in Kasrilevke” and “On America."

Listen to Isaiah Sheffer read Aleichem’s “Dreyfus in Kasrilevke.”

Bon Mots from Kaufman

On Laughter: "Sholem Aleichem loved laughter. He said, ‘Even if you don’t see the joke, laugh on credit.’”

On Jewish Humor:  “His was laughter through tears—Jewish laughter, mocking adversity, thumbing the nose at disaster, losing everything, but winning the argument.”

On Her Relationship with Aleichem: “When I was 3, and we walked together, the tighter I held his hand, he said, the better he wrote. So, those of you who have enjoyed reading him — thank me. I held on very tight.”