Member of Music Teachers Association of California • National Association of Teachers of Singing

I have this slight problem.  I can never sleep more than five hours.  It doesn’t matter what time I go to bed.  If I go to bed at 11PM, which is usually not my style, at precisely 4:00 AM I wake up.  What am I supposed to do…feed the cows?  Since I don’t have any cows, I try to go back to sleep.  This does not work so I just lie there and remember all the things going on in my life which makes it even more difficult to go back to sleep.

With my presentation for the City of West Hollywood behind me (you can still watch it on my Harriet Bennish YouTube Channel) you would think I could relax.  But how can I take a break when I am encouraged to keep moving forward towards now making a documentary?

Currently, I am writing a more detailed video script for one of the songs featured in the documentary. The song “Yisrolik” (*scroll down to hear ‘Yisrolik’) was written by the writer and composer Leyb Rozenthal of the Vilna ghetto, who did not survive, but his sister Khayale Rozenthal, also of the Vilna ghetto, did.  I have developed a very creative relationship with Khayale’s daughter Zola Piatka-Shuman, where we have even collaborated on a project together! I can’t wait to share more about this collaboration in the documentary.

When seeking funding for a documentary, it is important to have something visual that people can view.  It’ll make all the difference in deciding whether or not they want to help fund the project. My very experienced and talented video editor Shaun Wood is helping me find the right direction for this project.

In writing this episode, it is exciting to find out more about a song than I originally thought I knew.  In fact, that is what is so interesting about continued research.  For example during a Zoom interview with Zola, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa, I learned that her mother was only sixteen years old when she entered the Vilna ghetto.  Also when Zola and her sister Naava would ask their mother, Khayala about her past, she would quote one of the lines in her brother Leyb’s song, ‘Yisrolik’ and say (in Yiddish of course) “Better not talk about it!” Whether it is an article I read or a conversation with a descendant of a perished composer; the more I share these songs with the public, the more connections I make. Recently I was talking to someone who announced that his parents knew one of the people I talk about in my program!  I said, “Really?!  We need to talk!”  Suddenly, I have some new threads of  interesting information about the songs I sing.  With all the new information that keeps coming my way, it only adds to the depth and honesty of my performance.

My next step is to create a budget, which is also very new for me.  Recently I asked a potential fiscal sponsor if in my budget I could include a trip to Vilna, Lithuania (where ‘Yisrolik’ was first written), take my musicians with me, and give a concert there. They said sure, but that they wouldn’t pay for  a side trip to Paris. I said, “Okay, if I go to Paris, I will pay for it myself.”  But I know me, all money raised will go towards creating the best possible documentary for “Tears, Joy, and Hope”.  So alas, I will not be going to Paris. These things take time, but rest assured when I am ready to start fundraising to keep these ghetto songs alive you will be the first to know. 

*Enjoy listening to the song ‘Yisrolik’ with words by Leyb Rozenthal and music by Misha Veksler of the Vilna ghetto. It is the song featured in an episode of the documentary I am currently writing.

Zay gezunt,