From Opera to Yiddish Standards.

Position:New Faces of the Yiddish Revival: July/August 2018 Special Section

Anthony Russell first considered a career in Yiddish music after watching A Serious Man. The Coen brothers' film features the classic Yiddish folk song "Dem Milners Trern" ("The Miller's Tears"), which tells the story of the Jews' expulsion from their villages in Czarist Russia. Russell felt an immediate connection to "this beautiful, rounded, deep bass voice kind of lulling out of the record player." He soon discovered the voice belonged to Sidor Belarsky, a Ukrainian opera singer and Yiddish artist who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1930s.

Russell, 38, is also a trained opera singer. He discovered an online archive of Belarsky's music and knew at once that he had found his calling. An African American convert to Judaism, Russell began teaching himself Yiddish in 2011, eventually attending an intensive summer program at Tel Aviv University. Soon he was performing Yiddish standards under his Hebrew name, Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell, at Yiddish festivals and concerts around the country.

In addition to performing solo Yiddish standards, Russell collaborates with keyboardist and accordionist Dmitri Gaskin under the name "Tsvey Brider" ("two brothers"). The...

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