Viewing Monmouth County as relatively unexplored territory, the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene will bring its distinctive brand of humor and song to the recently remodeled Freehold Jewish Center on Sunday, June 23.
“This will be only our second appearance at a public Monmouth venue and our first at FJC,” said Motl Didner, associate artistic director for the company, which is based in Manhattan.
It will likely not be the last, he suggested, noting that the sponsors of the show, Mama’s Loshn Kugel, include not just the synagogue but the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County and Jewish Federation of Monmouth County.
“Any area that can support a Jewish heritage museum must have a large and engaged Jewish population, and that is the potential audience we want to reach in order to fulfill our mission,” Didner told NJJN in a phone interview.
“This mission goes much beyond an afternoon of entertainment,” he said. “Our goal is to put on cultural programs that connect Jewish people to their roots. We hope to inspire people to investigate their heritage. And we have had significant successes. Many follow up by learning more about their family histories, and more than a few have actually taken Yiddish language lessons.”
Appropriately, Mama’s Loshn Kugel will be presented entirely in Yiddish, with English language supertitles projected on a screen to help those who are Yiddish-challenged.
The sponsors are expecting a strong turnout for the event, and that’s why the FJC facility was chosen. Didner said that a different production by the National Yiddish Theatre has played to an audience that topped 500 at East Brunswick High School. FJC boasts a theater-style seating capacity of 550.
Michael Berman, copresident of the Jewish Heritage Museum, said this was the deciding factor in choosing not to use the museum’s performance space in its building — the old Levi Solomon barn at 310 Mounts Corner Dr. in Freehold — for the Folksbiene production. “We can only handle about 150 spectators,” Berman explained.
For those who think they detect a typographical error in the show’s title, Didner said there is a double meaning at work here. “‘Mamaloshn’ is the ‘mother tongue’ — Yiddish — and ‘lokshn kugel’ is a pudding generally made with noodles, eggs, sour cream, or cottage cheese, and optional raisins.
“What we’re doing in this show is presenting a Yiddish pudding filled with classic comic sketches, some original material, and lots of songs — some funny and some plaintive. It’s a blend of the familiar and the new.”