ROCHELLE ZUCKER is a graduate of the I.L. Peretz Folk School Yiddish Dayschool and Mitleshul in Winnipeg, Canada. Rochelle worked for Air Canada. She is a member of the Group for Yiddish Heritage and The next Generation Yiddish reading group. Since April 2007 she has been hosting a weekly half hour Yiddish Radio show on CKJS Winnipeg www.ckjs.com. She researches Yiddish music and culture on the Internet. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the IAYC.
Zucker was raised in Winnipeg in a Yiddish-speaking home. She was a student at the I.L. Peretz Folk School — the Yiddish school founded in the North End in 1914 — and eventually became involved in the local Group for Yiddish Heritage. This group now produces the Yiddish portion of the radio program.
“I started to realize that for many reasons, Yiddish is something that we as Ashkenazi Jews shouldn’t let die. It is a vital part of our history, culture and heritage. My personal interest in Yiddish was renewed and I become more involved in Yiddish activities.”
This involvement included signing on as the host of the Yiddish half hour, even though she had no radio experience.
During her weekly time on air, Zucker plays a wide range of Yiddish music. She devotes many of her shows to a particular musician, composer or theme, and sometimes features music related to a specific holiday or event.
“Most of the songs I play are cultural — Yiddish folk songs, well known songs from the Yiddish theatre and the prewar period as well as new Yiddish music,” she says.
“I routinely feature Canadian artists,” she adds, and “several times a year I make sure I do a 100 per cent Cancon program showcasing the many fine Yiddish and Klezmer artists here in Canada. ”
Zucker learns about many of these artists from the Yiddish cyber community. When she first assumed hosting duties, she listed her show on the Jewish music website Klezmershack and joined the Jewish music mailing list. Once she put the word out that she was on the lookout for Yiddish music and material, she was contacted by Yiddish entertainers from around the world eager to have their music played from a Winnipeg studio.
Winnipeg’s history after all is steeped in Yiddish music, language and culture.
During much of the 20th century, the city boasted competing Yiddish day schools, the first Yiddish kindergarten in North America, a Jewish public library, a Yiddish language weekly newspaper, and a Yiddish-speaking Bnai Brith Lodge.
While all of these vehicles for Yiddish cultural expression disappeared long ago, Zucker and Halpern, with their co-hosts and supporters, are still keeping Yiddish alive through the Jewish Radio Hour.