Songs from Testimonies

Updated: May 11

Kaunas is the second city in Lithuania holding the European Capital of Culture title after Vilnius in 2009.


Its slogan – From temporary to Contemporary Capital’ – illustrates the city’s ambition. Kaunas 2022 program includes over 600 projects involving more 80 organizations and their partners (210 from abroad), 4,000 creators, totaling around 1,000 events.


Kaunas 2022 Memory Office program aims at awakening stories of multicultural memory of Kaunas city. International Yiddish Center in cooperation with Kaunas 2022 Memory office and Fortunoff Video Archives for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University is proud to present a concert "Songs from Testimonies", a fascinating musical journey through the memories of Holocaust's survivors, that will be performed May 29, on the Summer Stage in heart of Kaunas Old Town.

The concert is presented by Zisl Slepovitch Ensemble, an international chamber group (New York-Berlin) consisting of five musicians, including Sasha Lurje (vocals), D. Zisl Slepovitch (woodwinds, vocals), Joshua Camp (accordion, keyboards, guitar), Craig Judelman (violin), and Dmitry Ishenko (contrabass).


Songs from Testimonies is a captivating musical journey down the memory lane of the Holocaust survivors who have been recorded for the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University.


The songs and poems that will be performed were originally sung in villages and towns, across Poland and Lithuania, and in the ghettos and concentration camps of Central and Eastern Europe. They convey the history of the period, in a very personal way.


In 2018, The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, along with musicians D. Zisl Slepovitch and Sarah Garibova, began production of an album of songs recalled in some of the more than 4,400 testimonies from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust in the Archive, held at Yale University. The 12,000+ hours of recorded material – in over a dozen languages – represent thousands of people whose life stories provide insights into the Holocaust survivors’ experiences both before, during and after World War II. Songs from Testimonies now include two volumes, with the third one being in production as of 2022.


About the musicians:


Zisl Slepovitch, the producer and artistic director of the recordings, arranged all the tracks and also contributed as composer, lyrics translator, additional vocalist, and musical instrumentalist on most of the tracks. A native of Minsk, Belarus, he is a musicologist (Ph.D., Belarusian State Academy of Music); a multi-instrumental klezmer, classical, and improvisational musician; a conductor, music director, composer, orchestrator/arranger, and poet; he is also a music and Yiddish educator. Zisl Slepovitch is a founding member of the critically acclaimed bands Litvakus, Minsker Kapelye, and Zisl Slepovitch Trio. Additional info at his website: zislepovitch.com


Sasha Lurje, the main vocalist of the recordings, is an internationally renowned Yiddish singer, born in Riga, Latvia, and now based in Berlin, Germany. She is the featured singer of several Yiddish music bands and projects, including Forshpil, Litvakus, STRANGELOVESONGS with Daniel Kahn, Semer Ensemble, and You Shouldn’t Know from It. Additional info at her web site: sashalurje.com


Organizers: International Yiddish Center, Kaunas 2022