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Pepi Litman, Comedienne in a Hasid’s Pants: A presentation by Jeanette Lewicki

  • Jewish Community Library 1835 Ellis Street San Francisco, CA 94115 (map)

Free admission with free garage parking on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy streets.

What did nineteenth-century Galitsianer Jewish workers do for fun? Some packed wine cellars and bathhouses for Pepi Litman's traveling drag show featuring satirical songs about yearning housewives, rogue rabbis, free-thinking epicures, and Hasidim gone wild.

From 1890-1930, Pepi Litman (born Peshe Kahan) crisscrossed Eastern Europe cross-dressed as a male Hasid, belting provocative songs in a husky contralto. In an era when nice Jewish girls didn't sing in mixed company, and grown women couldn't wear pants or vote, Litman (1874-1930) led her own vaudeville troupe everywhere from Budapest to Brooklyn. She moved in literary circles, joined the Broderzinger (itinerant singer) movement to enlighten poor folks through Yiddish comedy, sold out Gimpel's Lemberg Yiddish Theater, was banned by the Soviet Union, and died penniless in Vienna.

Jeanette Lewicki, Yiddish singer and accordionist (and editrix of the zine Yiddish Tango Illustrated), has been obsessed with Litman’s songs for twenty years, but Pepi’s rapid patter and broad Polish accent defied transcription. Thanks to Yiddishists around the world and a grant from the Workmen’s Circle of Northern California, Lewicki has mustered seven full or partial translations of Litman songs. She'll premiere them in her Library presentation, joined by singer and concertina player Laura Rosenberg, and fiddler Josh Laurenzi.            

Co-sponsored by the Workmen’s Circle of Northern California. Co-presented by KlezCalifornia.


Earlier Event: January 15
Jewish Overnight Camp Fair
Later Event: January 26
Film Class: 'Little White Lie'