Sarah Mina Gordon, 31

The Yiddish mash-up artist

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A decade ago, Sarah Mina Gordon was studying abroad in Israel. In researching a paper on Yiddish poetry, she realized that most of the English translations she was reading had been done by Jewish New Yorkers, much like herself. “I was like, ‘What was I doing here [in Israel]?’ It was a great place, but it wasn’t for me.” She found her Jewish identity, she says, where she last left it — among the arty Yiddish-loving milieu she grew up with here. “I’m not so religious, but I’m incredibly Jewish. And I’m comfortable with that.”
 

She’s so comfortable with it that she professes it publicly at music halls across the city — as the lead singer of a rock Yiddish band called “Yiddish Princess.”

Gordon grew up going to Klez Kamp in Canada, the summer music program led by the titans of the klezmer revival. But it was not until that year in Israel that she’s been writing and performing as a Yiddish singer. Nonetheless, she’s had an audacious start, singing with Alicia Svigals, the Grammy-winning founder of the Klezmatics; Frank London, another Klezmatics alum and a renowned composer and trumpeter; and, last and especially, her mother, Adrienne Cooper. 

A Yiddish singer herself, Cooper had a day job at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. After school, Sarah would hang out there. Those experiences, she said, had a big influence on her Yiddish music career years later. And while she is now a committed teacher of Yiddish language and music — as a children’s teacher at Workmen’s Circle and director of the children’s program at Klez Kamp — “Yiddish Princess” is her most passionate, novel pursuit. It combines classic Yiddish songs with power-rock chords — imagine Journey singing “Ver Vet Blaybl.”
 

Though the idea for the music started in jest, while her band mates were messing around after a more serious gig, they realized they might have something.

“We were like, ‘Wow, we can do this’,” she said. The group will release its first album this month. “People have been saying that Yiddish is about to die for a hundred years,” Gordon added. But she is proof it won’t.
 

Favorite musician: Kate Bush.

Favorite Jew: “Bette Midler or Gluckel of Hameln, I can’t decide.”

Want to weigh in on this year's "36 Under 36?"  Join the "Friends of the Jewish Week's 36 Under 36" group on Facebook 

 

Signup for our weekly email newsletter here.

Check out the Jewish Week's Facebook page and become a fan!  And follow the Jewish Week on Twitter: start here.

 

Staff Writer

Comments

Like the previous poster, I note that Sarah Gordon grew up going to both KlezKamp, (held annual in the Catskills in the winter) =and= at KlezKanada (the latter is held each summer in Canada, just north of Montreal). I thank the Jewish Week for trying to publicize both camps, noting, as did the previous writer, that it does neither organization much good to be confused as one--both are invaluable and different: http://www.klezkamp.org and http://www.klezkanada.com I also note that these are but two of the largest in a growing sea of camps, workshops, and classes exist today to preserve, teach, and carry Yiddish culture forward. As for Ms. Gordon, bis 120 may her accomplishments continue. I am so looking forward to hearing Yiddish Princess on its current CD release tour (http://www.myspace.com/yiddishprincess )
Sarah did NOT "grow up going to Klez Kamp in Canada, a summer program". She grew up (and went on to become director of the children's program) going to KlezKamp, The Yiddish Folk Arts Program, which takes place in the winter in the United States. (http://www.klezkamp.org) Nice to see Sarah get a mention. Pity that The Jewish Week fired all their fact checkers. It would have only taken a two second Google search to get that right.

Comment Guidelines

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.