International Yiddish Conference & Retreat

Itsik Goldenberg: Ontario, Canada; Yiddish Sheet Music

Itsik Goldenberg

Itsik (Robert) Goldenberg worked under the direction of Prof. Leonard Prager of Haifa University on Yiddish Projects for the Mendele Review and Di Velt fun Yidish, especially on the online Yehoyesh Tanakh project.

Itsik Goldenberg was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1936 and lived there until 1959, then moved to a small town near Buffalo NY, but still in Canada. He taught high school chemistry there until his retirement in 1991.

Itsik learned Yiddish as a child, at home and in an old-fashioned kheyder where he learned Yiddish by repeating after the rebbe line-by-line translations from siddur and khumesh. He also learned to write letters but never studied Yiddish grammar or Yiddish literature. His father took him to the Yiddish theatre in Toronto, where he was introduced to Maurice Schwartz backstage and to hear the great cantors who performed there. His father lovingly read him stories from Sholem-Aleykhem and from the Yiddish newspapers.

Although he maintained an interest in Yiddish, he had little time to cultivate this interest. Just when he retired, his wife, who had no background in Yiddish, was invited to join a klezmer band as a vocalist. In 1992, they went to KlezKamp, the Yiddish Music and Folk-Arts Institute, and it proved to be a seminal experience. The following summer, they attended the workshop at the National Yiddish Book Center, and also participated in theYiddish Cultural Experience program run by the Workmen’s Circle in upstate New York. They travel constantly, often hundreds of miles, to attend klezmer and other musical and cultural events.

A few years ago Itsik undertook to catalogue the 1000+ folio Yiddish sheet music collection of the NYBC, a project that greatly increased his Yiddish vocabulary. He began subscribing to the Forverts, and sought out native Yiddish speakers with whom he could converse. He became an active zamler for the NYBC and, in the process of collecting many thousands of books, has made friends with many Yiddish speakers. He assists his wife who performs concerts of Yiddish art and theatre song. His work for The Mendele Review and Di Velt Fun Yiddish under Leonard Prager’s direction, has been a significant and challenging contribution.

Yiddish has become his prime interest, forcing him to neglect my bookbinding, microscopy, letterpress printing, darkroom photography, woodworking, gardening, antique phonographs and antiquarian book collecting. He subscribes to more than a score of journals! Itsik leads two Yiddish groups, one across the border, in Buffalo, New York and one closer to home, in St. Catharine, Ontario.

Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada