A private screening of “Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin” was arranged as part of Seyma Lederman’s 90th birthday celebrations at Protea Village, Israel, seen above with daughter Shosh.
Seyma Lederman, together with her daughter, Shosh Lederman, had decided to finance the production of the Yiddish musical documentary “Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin”. They both identified this as a project that would help reach out and take Yiddish song and the Yiddish language forward in a fresh way. They also believed that just as the initial intent of the Yiddish Song Festivals had been to raise funds for a worthy welfare cause, the film could continue with this social responsibility agenda. Screenings could be used as fund-raisers and the Cape Jewish Seniors Association (CJSA) could continue to receive a licensing fee.
The film was proceeded with a few words by Eliyahu Honig, one of the founding researchers and producers of the 7 volume Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs, published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“I want to thank you for a remarkable and enjoyable documentary and congratulate you on such important pioneering efforts. Kol Hakavod”, said Eliyahu Honig, addressing Philip Todres, who with Heather Blumenthal had co-directed the film.
Eliyahu then went on to read a note he had received a few years ago from the late Theodore Bikel, who was a well known Yiddish songwriter, performer and proponent of Yiddish:
“While I have a great fondness for the beauty and poetry of Hebrew literature, I have dedicated my efforts in the field of Jewish culture to the task of keeping alive the treasures of the Yiddish language and of Yiddish song.
This to me, is not just an exercise in nostalgia; we are not a people of nostalgia, we are a people of memory.
Yiddish re-awakens in us that which the barbarians had tried to take from us. Yiddish song and Yiddish poetry not only tells us who we were, but reaffirms who we are. Yes, some of it says “Vos iz geven iz geven” but also proclaims “mir zenen do!”
I know I am not alone in this as long as my friend Eliyahu can share his knowledge with you.
Dos Yiddishe vort vet vayter leben un dos lid vet vayter klinge.”
This beautiful message resonated so well with the words that Philip Todres had prepared to introduce the documentary. He wanted to acknowledge Seyma and Shosh for having faith in the project and identifying with the need to recognize the amazing cast and all the people involved in the 10 years of the Yiddish Song Festival in Cape Town. Seyma and Shosh also endorsed the hope that the songs would reach out and take our rich past into the future.
The audience - which included Seyma’s sons Elie and Zel, other family members and friends at Protea Village - responded enthusiastically to the doccie. There was some singing along, clapping and spontaneous laughter during the screening. And the Q+A afterwards with Eliyahu and Philip proved Theodore Bikel’s point that “we are a people of memory”. Many of the questions and comments related to personal memories of the songs and the people featured in the doccie. Co-incidentally, a Bikel song, Dire Gelt (Rent Money) is included in the film. There are also many references to the power of song to reconnect us to our past and also to re-evaluate that narrative.
“Heather and I are delighted and thrilled that tonight, we can screen the final version of Leah Teddy & the Mandolin, with you, Seyma – together with Shosh, Elie and Zel, your family and your friends here at Protea Village”, concluded Philip.
“It is even more special that this first time private screening in Israel is part of your 90th birthday celebrations. I am truly honoured and deeply moved to be sharing this occasion with you all tonight.”