Kupishokers in the Cultural,
Entertainment, and Performing Arts
|Jews have always had an
affinity for music and the cultural and performing arts.
This has been mentioned many times, as far back as the Bible
where King David was noted as a well-known harp player and writer of
psalms. His soothing music "therapy" supposedly helped
calm depressed and agitated King Saul who is thought to have suffered
Further, in the
in Jerusalem, there were the harps, cymbals and psalteries which were utilized for
sacred music. In war, the Jews used horns and trumpets.
Choirs, songsters and dancers were always part of celebrations
and involved in sacred music.
Centuries later, in Kupiskis, there would have been cantors who provided
the musical accompaniment to prayer, but we have no knowledge of their
names or who they were, although we have listings of rabbis who served
the community. Kupiskis did
not have any Reform Synagogues, so the organs and other musical
instruments and choirs usually associated with these more westernized
places of worship were not a part of life in the shtetl.
The first musician, who we
find documented in Kupiskis, is the patriarch of the Muzykant family, Efroim
Kalman ben Mortkhel Muzykant (1819-1906).
Called into service with the Tzar, Efroim-Kalman became a musician.
During his service he was known to have created a new musical
instrument. After his twenty-five years of service ended, he
returned to his ancestral shtetl for retirement and marriage.
Imagine Kupiskis as a retirement venue . . .
|Later, we find Shimen
Abel ben Movsha Davidovich (b.1848) who was a musician and his
relative David ben Abel
Davidovich (b.1890), who was also a musician and a tailor.
How do we know this? They
are listed as saving money from the exercise of their profession in the
Postal Savings Bank in Kupiskis.
In 1927, the first movie
theater opened in Kupiskis in the shtetl’s central square at #2
Kosmonautu which showed silent and then talking films and was leased for
other types of performances and meetings.
Before each movie began, a trio of Jewish musicians, mainly young
women, played various tunes on a guitar, mandolin and balalaika to amuse
the crowd. Unfortunately,
the names of this trio of women are not known.
In addition to these,
there were amateur theater groups who entertained the populace in
Kupiskis. The following are
photographs of some of these groups and occasions where they performed.
A Purimspiel in Kupiskis with Kieval Isaac Tuber
on the bottom left of the photograph.
Let us not forget the writers
in Kupiskis. A well-known
young poetess in Kupiskis was Matilda
Olkenaite whose works were most recently performed, in memorium, in
Kupiskis on September 13, 2004. Matilda
and her entire family were killed in Panemunelis in 1941.
Another writer was Shlomo
Kodesh, who wrote two books about Kupiskis, one a prose piece with
beautiful illustrations and the other an autobiography entitled
My Father’s House”.
Apart from these,
there were other Kupishokers who kept diaries written in Yiddish and
later left these for their descendants.
Two of these were Miriam Sachar and Velva
There were those who
were born in Kupiskis and left to find fame and fortune such as the
Pelovitz – Singer, Jewish
People’s Chorus -
Moishe was the son of Avrom-Eliyahu and Sora-Rokhlia (Klasaite)
Pelovich, who was a shochet and mohel in Kupiskis.
He was born in Kupiskis and later settled with his family in Paterson,
NJ. He was an avid singer and
later became a member of the Jewish People’s Chorus.
He continued his affiliation with the chorus when he moved to Santa Monica,
CA, where some of his siblings had settled.
The fascinating story of his life and career with the Chorus is
found in an interview which is incorporated into the book by David
Philip Shuldiner Of Moses and Marx:
Folk Ideology and Folk History in the Jewish Labor Movement,
page 101. The book can be
read on-line at Google books.
Yiddish Jewish Day-Journal Newspaper, Co-Editor, Leksikon of the
The son of Josel ben Elia and Freida (unknown maiden name)
Swerdlin who were originally from Glubokoye,
Belarus, Nathan Swerdlin was born in 1907 in Kupiskis where his father owned a
pharmacy. Nathan came to
in 1936 and excelled in theatrical criticism.
|Many Kupishokers involved
themselves in community organizations which promoted Jewish culture such
as the Yiddish Theater. One
of these was Sheine Goldin Meyer who was very much an active participant
in the Yiddishe Kulturella in
and Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
|In today's world, there are
a number of Kupishoker descendants who have musical or performing arts
talents. Some of these are highlighted below:
Elkaim, Radio Show Host, Journalist - Son of Rachel
Furmanovsky and grandson of Joe Furmanovsky who was born in Kupiskis,
Ilan grew up in Zimbabwe. Primarily a businessman,
he also hosted a program on Radio ZBC (
) and covered southern
for Newsweek. He now
appears on the “Florida Forum”, Public Radio Station WXEL, Boca
Personality/Travel Writer -
Grandson of Abraham Esrock who
was the head of the Kupisker Society in Johannesburg, Robin has run the gamut of gonzo or high risk travel on television and
most recently did a film about his visit to find his roots in Kupiskis.
Rock Stars -
Daughter of Jack Furmanovsky, an architect, and granddaughter of Joe
Furmanovsky, who was born in Kupiskis and settled in Bulawayo,
Zimbabwe, Jill has become one of the notable photographers of many of the great
rock stars of the 20th Century.
Her web site gives a window into her world of entertainers and
Michael Furmanovsky, Historian and Lecturer in Popular Culture - Michael
is the son of Jack Furmanovsky, an architect, and grandson of Joe
Furmanovsky, who was born in Kupiskis and settled in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Brother of rock music photographer, Jill Furmanovsky. He is an
historian and lecturer at Ryukoku University
in Japan and the first person to document the impact of early American
country, rockabilly and pop music in Japan in the late 1950s and 1960s.
His work has appeared in the Japan Times and in the journal Popular Music and Society.
Producer/Director, TheatreSports - Megan is the great granddaughter of
Peretz and Chaia Etla (Blacher) Choritz, who were born in Kupiskis.
She is the granddaughter of Israel Choritz (who was also born in
Kupiskis) and Sophia (Lipshitz) Choritz. Her parents were Lazer (z'l)
and Elaine Choritz. She has specialized in writing, performing and
directing her own creations as well as industrial theater productions;
appeared in the South Africa soap opera "Isidingo"; and taught
and facilitated improvisation workshops. She has also created her
criticism blog. Taking into
account all of these areas of accomplishment, Megan has carved an
enduring niche for herself in the genre of improvisational theater in
- The great great grandson of Pincus Meyerovitz and great
grandson of Kasriel Meyerovitz and grandson of Tema Dina Meyerovitz, Ted
is a versatile professional pop/rock musician who plays the guitar,
keyboard, and violin and has vocal abilities as well.
Oshry, Concert Pianist
is a classical pianist, renowned in South African and the United
Kingdom. See his website
more details on where and what he plays.
Actor, Producer -
He is the great grandson of Kussel and Hannah Lottie (Kurlansky)
Sachar, who came to America
from Lithuania. He is also the grandson of
Edward and Libby Sachar, and the son of Leonard and Jean Sachar. Jonathan
has been both an actor and recently a producer of such indie films as The Box,
Just Add Water, Tooth & Nail, Cosmic
Radio and Foreign Exchange.
Louis is the son of Robert and Ruth Sachar, a grandson of
(Ungarman) Sachar and great grandson of Maisha and Ann (Bernstein)
Sachar. He is best known for
his popular book and subsequent film Holes and his
many other excellent children’s books.
He is the winner of both the National Book Award and the Newberry
Medal for Holes which is the only book to ever garner both awards
for children’s literature.
Serra, Dancer/Choreographer -
Mia Serra comes from a long line of Kupishokers.
Her late mother was Dina Serra, her grandfather was
David-Meier Abramowitz and great grandfather was Moshe Yitzchak
Abramowitz, the shtetl’s shochet and mohel.
Mia was a participant in the trip to Kupiskis in 2004 with her
mother, niece and cousins. She
is a belly dance performer and has a dance company called the BellyBliss
Allstars and runs a belly dancing school.
Trapido, light opera singer - Aviella, who was born in Johannesburg, SA, is the daughter of
Liba and the late Jeffrey
Trapido, who was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and the granddaughter of Chaim Trapido, who was born in Kupiskis in 1907, and Sarah
Chaim left Kupiskis in 1926 for
and settled in Zimbabwe. She is also the great granddaughter of Yankel Trapido, born in
Kupiskis in 1875, and Tila-Pese Katz. She now lives in Israel.
In addition, there are
a number of Kupishoker descendants who are prominent executives in the
entertainment industry such as:
Vice-President of MTV Networks, Inc. Harvey
is the grandson of Aba Mendel ben Movsha (Zlata) Klots, from
Kupiskis and the son of Paula and Philip Ganot.
was involved for many years with both MTV and Nickleodeon in the
advertising arena. Now, Harvey
is working on an innovative venture, New Markets Now, which provides
support for fledgling TV networks.
Grace, Chairman of Grace and Wild Studios, Inc.
is the son of Julian Grace whose parents were Meryl Segal from Kupiskis
and Abba Grace from Rokiskis. He
is the chairman of Grace and Wild Studios, Inc.,
MI, which is considered the largest film studio for production/post
. He is also a broadcast
investor and owner of several radio stations.
|As research progresses in
this area of accomplishment, more links will be provided.
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