The Jewish immigration to America was--and is--an intense experience that left its traces not only on the voyagers but on their children's children. It has accrued a rich literature. Currently, the hundred-year history of these events is being celebrated by the Washington area's Jewish Community Center in Rockville. The performing arts were represented in a concert of song, dance and drama over the weekend.
Folk songs by Frieda Enoch Swartz were the major attraction. Hers is not a big voice but it is blessed with a smooth, lively flow and its tonal coloration can be striking. All the pieces were from the East European Jewish tradition and were delivered in Yiddish, with a stanza sometimes repeated waggishly in English. As an actress in the famous farewell monologue from Bertold Brecht's "The Jewish Wife," Swartz was out of her element. She delivered her lines like a lecturer. Nor, as the wife packed her suitcase, did there seem to be a definite character at the source of the actions.
Providing the bulk of the program were Kinor and Kadimah, respectively the center's resident folk and modern dance troupes. They were not easy to distinguish. The work of both groups falls blandly between the spirit of genuine folk art and the ideas of the modern movement. Most of the choreography was concerned with the European and Oriental roots of the immigration. The final work, "Reflections," attempted to summarize the influence of the diverse strands on the current generation. An empty rocking chair was its most vivid image.