In the mid 1980’s, Joseph Papp, the legendary Broadway impresario and founder of the Public Theatre/NY Shakespeare Festival, rediscovered his sense of ‘Yiddishkeit’. He fondly recalled his Yiddish speaking background and that his given name was Yosl Papirovsky.
He reached out to Columbia University Yiddish professor, playwright and journalist Miriam Hoffman, to help him reconnect with his love of the Yiddish language and culture. Together they approached famed actor Mandy Patinkin to share their path back to the ‘Mameloshn’ (Mother Tongue).
Together, in 1988, under the artistic direction of Avi Hoffman, they formed the Joseph Papp Yiddish Theatre in residence at the Riverdale ‘Y’ in The Bronx. In 1989 produced their first production: Professor Hoffman’s international hit musical ‘Songs of Paradise (Lieder fun Gan Eydn)’ at the Public Theatre. Directed by Mr. Hoffman and choreographed by Tony Nominee Eleanor Reissa, the response was overwhelming and critically acclaimed (NY Times Review). Advisory board members of the company included great leaders of the Jewish and Theatre communities, such as: Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel (z’l), Professor Alan Dershowitz, Theo Bikel (z’l), Tovah Feldshuh, Jerry Stiller and so many others.
Several presentations followed, but Joe’s progressive illness took its toll on him and the organization, which dissolved shortly after his death in 1991.
The Mendl Hoffman Foundation is now committed to revitalizing this beautiful, expressive language and culture by reviving the company that the late Joseph Papp (o’h) so graciously and proudly lent his name and prestige to. Under the guidance of Chairwoman Gail Merifield Papp, and in association with the renowned Joseph Papp Public Theatre, we intend to honor the memory of Yosl Papirovsky and his love of ‘Yiddishkeit’. Current and recent projects include the Drama Desk Award nominated Yiddish Death of a Salesman (Toyt fun a Saylsman), the Israel National Yiddish Theatre/Yiddishpiel remounting of Songs of Paradise (Lieder fun Gan Eydn) and Montreal’s Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.
Production, Promotion and Preservation
♦ Live and taped television broadcasts in association with the Jewish Broadcast Service
♦ Theatrical productions ♦ Concerts ♦ Movie and Documentary Screenings
♦ Dance Performances ♦ Poetry Readings ♦ Development of new works
♦ Children's Theatre and Theater for Young Audiences
History, Education and Awareness
♦ Documentaries and Academic Programs ♦ Classes on Acting in Yiddish ♦ Lectures
♦ Lost Jewish Languages ♦ Classroom discussion groups ♦ Interactive Workshops
♦ Curriculum Development ♦ Community Outreach
Striving to promote all forms of cultural expression, to preserve the richness of the past while encouraging the exploration of the future. To provide a nurturing home for contemporary artists, both in new works and in interpreting classic work, musical and dramatic. We will provide an outlet for new plays and new voices in the Yiddish culture.
To celebrate cultural arts and its effect on the world, as a form of international expression and to utilize all cultural mediums to pass our rich history, values and creativity from generation to generation.
To entertain, stimulate and educate.