Steve Sterner's bar mitzvah

Who's behind all this?

In Yiddish theater ALLEN LEWIS RICKMAN adapted, directed, and wrote supertitles for Leon Kobrin’s THE LADY NEXT DOOR and Goldfaden’s A NOVEL ROMANCE, and co-adapted, directed, wrote supertitles for, and acted in the Yiddish PIRATES OF PENZANCE, which was nominated for a Drama Desk award.  For the Congress For Jewish Culture he co-developed and directed the Sholem Aleichem evening TEVYE SERVED RAW, and conceived and directed their acclaimed online production of THE DYBBUK.  Other directing credits include his own translation of MONEY, LOVE, AND SHAME! for Target Margin; CHRISTMAS AT THE SMALL EMPIRE (also co-wrote) for Centenary Stage; and work at E.S.T., the Hasselfree Competition at Lincoln Center, Pulse, and the Duplex.


His co-written farce OFF THE HOOK was produced in Paris, Copenhagen, Madrid, and Luxembourg, and has had three regional productions stateside; his co-written-and-directed video THE FÜHRER’S FUNNYMAN was broadcast nationally three times and singled out by the NY Times in their Broadcast Highlights.

He has acted on Broadway (in RELATIVELY SPEAKING), Off-Broadway (for Encores!, the Mint, the York, Mirror Rep, JRT, etc.), in regional theater (Paper Mill, Cleveland Playhouse, Two River, et al), and in Yiddish theater; on television on BOARDWALK EMPIRE and Steven Spielberg’s PUBLIC MORALS (recurring roles on both), THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISELS, and Michael Moore’s THE AWFUL TRUTH.  In films he’s been seen in YOU DON’T KNOW JACK with Al Pacino, John Turturro’s FADING GIGOLO, and, appearing opposite his wife Yelena Shmulenson, in the Coen Bros.’ Best Picture nominee A SERIOUS MAN (for which he also did the Yiddish dialogue translation).


YELENA SHMULENSON was born in Belarus, grew up in Ukraine, and emigrated to the US in 1993.  She’s perhaps best known as the icepick-wielding wife in the Coen brothers’ Oscar-nominated film A SERIOUS MAN.  Other film and TV credits include ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (recurring), BOARDWALK EMPIRE (as ‘Mrs. Manny Horvitz’), CHICAGO MED, Robert De Niro’s THE GOOD SHEPHERD, MADAM SECRETARY, BLUE BLOODS, THE KNICK, ROMEO & JULIET IN YIDDISH, and CHINESE PUZZLE (w/Audrey Tautou).  Off-Broadway credits include TEVYE SERVED RAW, and five seasons with the Folksbiene; other stage credits include two seasons at the Ellis Island Theatre, THE GOLEM OF HAVANA (Miami New Drama), COVERS (New York/St. Petersburg/ Moscow/ Montreal), etc.  She has also been a Yiddish coach/translator for numerous projects, has won three Earphones Awards for her recorded books (in English), and is fluent in five languages.

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Yelena and Allen at home

STEVE STERNER is a native New Yorker who has appeared on Broadway in OH, BROTHER!, YIDDLE WITH A FIDDLE, and THE SHEIK OF AVENUE B; Off-Broadway in THAT’S LIFE!, THE GRAND TOUR, KUNI-LEML, VAGABOND STARS, and many others.  For years his voice was heard as the Singing Fire Hydrant on ABC-TV, and he succeeded Julius LaRosa as the star of THE SPECTACULAR DAYS OF RADIO at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.  At the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater Steve performed in DOUBLE IDENTITY, AN AMERICAN FAMILY, YENTL, A NOVEL ROMANCE, HERSHELE OSTROPOLYER, and as ‘The Pirate King’ in DI YAM GAZLONIM, the Yiddish version of “The Pirates of Penzance”. 

As a pianist Steve has accompanied Robert Merrill, Jerry Vale, Joan Collins, Joanne Woodward, and many others.  As a composer, Steve wrote the scores for the musicals LOVERS and WHO'S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD WOLF, which have been performed in the U.S. and all over the world.  He has composed music for and accompanied over three hundred silent films at Film Forum in New York (where he is the house pianist) as well as at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the Moving Image, and BAM Rose Cinemas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

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Paul Muni as 'Steve Sterner'

THE CONGRESS FOR JEWISH CULTURE (in Yiddish: Alveltlekher Yidisher Kultur-kongres) was founded in 1948 to promote the Yiddish language and culture in the United States and throughout the world.

In recent years, we have produced Yiddish programming in venues all over North America (New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto, Mexico City, and the Shalom Club at the Four Seasons of Metedeconk Lakes, New Jersey) as well as all over the world (Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, South Africa, and Sweden. Yes, Sweden.)

The CJC cultivates Yiddish in all its manifestations: spoken, printed (ink or pixels!), recorded, sung, or acted. We have a distinguished publishing record, including many of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s greatest works in their original Yiddish; we present concerts, plays, and Purim-shpiln; run classes in literature and Yiddish theater; facilitate literary reading circles; field Yiddish-related questions; and we can guide you in finding materials for your reading circle or research, provide your synagogue or community center with Yiddish programming, and, yes, we can even translate the writing on the back of your grandmother’s photographs.

IRENE KRONHILL PLETKA was born in Shanghai and grew up in Australia. She supports Yiddish language, human rights, secular Jewish culture and, when possible, the revival of Jewish communities that were wiped out in the Holocaust.