In the 1960s, young survivors of the Holocaust, striving to express their communal resilience and that of their mother-tongue, began the tradition of The Third Seder, with a unique stage performance by the Yiddish cultural luminaries of the day. The early events often took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, under the auspices of the Workers Circle/Arbiter-Ring and its visionary Education Director Joseph Mlotek.
In April 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the isolation of individuals and communities, Rabbi Avram Mlotek, the grandson of Joseph Mlotek, initiated the first online Yiddish cultural Third Seder. Rabbi Mlotek, with his cousin and longtime concert producer Moishe Rosenfeld, quickly assembled actors, musicians, and activists, and oversaw an innovative international collaboration that attracted 20,000 viewers and was welcomed as a bright light of hope and resilience in the dark days of COVID-19.
“A year later,” Mlotek said, “as we continue to battle the pandemic, and as some rays of hope begin to shine through the darkness, a cast of brilliant Yiddish artists has once again been assembled to tell the story of the Jewish People, its moments of liberation from bondage, its resilience in the face of inquisitions and pogroms, its resistance to the genocide of the Holocaust, its continued determination to flourish as a nation in Israel, and as a culture around the world.”
On Sunday, March 21, at 2 pm, the Marlene Meyerson Jewish Community Center Manhattan, with lead sponsorship from the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, will head a global presentation of the second annual virtual Third Seder to celebrate Passover with a unique re-telling of the story, as well as the worldwide revival of the thousand-year-old Yiddish language and culture.
According to Mlotek, the event’s chief organizer and rabbi-in-residence at the MMJCC, “Telling the story with Yiddish songs and poetry brings our history alive. Since Passover is not till March 27th, we hope this virtual offering, which is airing a week before the holiday, will allow people from Melbourne to Manhattan an opportunity to incorporate songs or poems from our seder into their own family Passover celebrations. Though we can’t gather in person physically, we can still come together virtually.”
The pre-recorded 90-minute video (edited by Elisha Mlotek) will feature performances by Yiddish music and theater stars from the US, UK, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, Australia, and Israel. Among the participants are actors Steven Skybell, Joanne Borts, Eleanor Reissa, Theresa Tova, Tatiana Wechsler, and Elmore James; Yiddish teacher Nikolai Barodunin; Klezmer giants Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg, DJ SoCalled, Shura Lipovsky, Michael Alpert, Alan Bern, Marilyn Lerner, Sarah Gordon, Zisl Slepovitch, Polina Shepherd, Merlin Shepherd, Eric Stein and Michael Winograd; and a children’s chorus of the Sholem Aleichem College in Melbourne, Australia, who will perform the “fir kashes” (the traditional four questions of the Hagode, or Haggadah) with Ravi Mlotek and Dinah Slepovitch. Musical direction is by Zalmen Mlotek, Artistic Director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.
The Third Seder streams on Sunday, March 21, beginning at 2 pm, on Vimeo. Tickets are free or pay what you can, to ensure that the program is accessible to everyone. To register, go online; you will receive a link to watch the performance by 2 pm on Sunday.