Cultural Historian Henry Sapoznik to Host 3 Federation Programs This Winter

This winter, the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires will present three online programs hosted by Henry Sapoznik, an award-winning producer, musicologist, and performer, and writer in the fields of traditional and popular Yiddish and American music and culture.

For Sapoznik's Yiddish Radio Project story about C. Israel Lutsky, The Jewish Philosopher (reprinted in the January BJV), please click here. And there is much more to explore on his fascinating and entertaining website,

The Lost World of African-American Cantors 1915-1953

On Thursday, January 27 at 6:45 p.m., Sapozik will present “The Lost World of African-American Cantors 1915-1953,” a talk about his acclaimed study of the forgotten moment of Black cantors who entertained Jews in the theater, on record, and on the radio in the 1920s and 1930s. His research was covered by the Jewish press around the world.

The history of Black-Jewish cultural interaction primarily focuses on how Jews adopted and adapted Black vernacular music — ragtime, jazz, swing, R&B, and blues, etc. — as performers, promoters, managers, club owners, and record labels. Join Sapoznik and explore the unknown African-Americans who performed Yiddish and cantorial music in and for the Jewish community, in theaters on record, radio, and in concert, including now forgotten Black cantors – Mendele der Shvartzer Khazn, Reb Dovid Kalistrita, Abraham Ben Benjamin Franklin, Thomas LaRue Jones, and Goldye di Shvartze Khaznte the first – and only — Black woman cantor.

The talk will feature dozens of historical graphics and translations of period Yiddish newspaper previews, ads and reviews and the playing of the one known 1923 Yiddish and Hebrew recording of Thomas Jones LaRue.

Yente Telebende: The Bad Girl of the Yiddish World

On Thursday, February 10 at 6:45 p.m., Sapoznik’s topic will be “Yente Telebende: The Bad Girl of the Yiddish World."

Of all the words which have migrated from Yiddish to English, none have the colorful backstory of a fictional woman whose name has come to mean “gossip” but who first found fame in 1913 as a woman who stood up for herself and gave as good as she got.

Join Sapoznik on a whirlwind tour of the “Yente Telebende” to reveal her brilliant, prolific creator, B. Kovne. His one thousand Yente Telebende feuilletons in the pages of The Forward, numerous Yiddish theater stage show hits, and nearly 100 commercial 78 rpm records issued over almost half a century bring the presence and power of Yente Telebende back to life. 

Result? Yente, was no yente.

These Jewish Federation of the Berkshires programs will be presented via Zoom. Please visit our calendar of events at for links to our programs.

BANJEW: A Century of the Banjo in Klezmer Music

Sapoznik’s third program, “BANJEW: A Century of the Banjo in Klezmer Music,” will take place on Thursday, March 10 – more information in the next BJV.

About  Bad Girl of the Yiddish WorldHenry Sapoznik

Henry Sapoznik, a native Yiddish speaker and child of Holocaust survivors, grew up in an Orthodox home. In his teens, Sapoznik was introduced to traditional American music and took up the banjo. He studied with North Carolina masters Fred Cockerham and Tommy Jarrell during numerous trips to North Carolina with the late Ray Alden.

In 1972, Sapoznik co-founded the New York-area group The Delaware Water Gap String Band and confirmed his reputation as a noted player in southern playing styles and classic ragtime banjo. 

Sapoznik was the founding director of the sound archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York from 1982 to 1995. While there, Sapoznik founded and directed the internationally acclaimed KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program beginning in 1985 for the next 30 years.

A five-time Grammy-nominated producer/performer, Sapoznik has been on over 50 records. He was involved in reissuing over 30 anthologies of Yiddish, jazz, old-time, cantorial, ragtime, blues, Italian, swing, blackface minstrelsy, and bluegrass recordings.

Sapoznik won a 2002 Peabody award for co-producing the 10-part NPR series “The Yiddish Radio Project” drawn from his collection of over 10,000 items now part of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. 

Sapoznik published two books: The Compleat Klezmer (1982) became the standard tune book of the klezmer revival, and his Klezmer! Jewish Music From Old World to Our World won the 2000 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Music History.

Henry Sapoznik’s recent projects are his CD, Banjew (Jalopy Records, 2017) and the 3-CD reissue anthology Protobilly: The Minstrel and Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017, co-produced with Dick Spottswood and David Giovanonni. It has been submitted for 2021 Grammy consideration. 

He has also just co-produced and annotated a 2-CD anthology for Smithsonian-Folkways of American folk music from California recorded in the 1960s. He is currently working on a new book: Rediscovering Yiddish New York: A Guide to Jewish Landmarks in The City (Excelsior Press).