Tag Archives: Yiddish

State Sen. Malcolm Smith’s corruption trial declared a mistrial


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

File photo

Judge Kenneth M. Karas declared a mistrial Tuesday in the corruption trial against state Sen. Malcolm Smith, reports said.

The decision was made after it was revealed that the United States Attorney’s office failed to turn over 9,000 recorded conversations to defense lawyers until well into the trial, prompting several jurors to say that they could not wait for the defense to process the new recordings, according to the New York Times.

The recordings, almost 300 hundred of which are in Yiddish, were made or received by Moses Stern, a Rockland County developer who became a government informer in order to avoid a prison sentence.

The case against another defendant, the Queens Republican leader Vincent Tabone, was also declared a mistrial. But the case against Dan Halloran, a former councilman, will continue next week, according to the Times. A new trial date of Jan. 5, 2015 is set for Smith and Tabone.

Smith, who currently holds office and is seeking reelection, is accused of trying to bribe his way into a GOP nomination for mayor.

On  June 12, the morning before the day’s trial, federal prosecutors argued that the conversations were irrelevant to bribery crime and wire fraud with which the defendants, including Smith, are charged, the Times said. But the defense – including Smith’s lawyer Gerald L. Shargel – convinced the judge that somewhere in the recordings there might be evidence that Stern and an undercover agent entrapped the defendants. The judge decided to postpone his decision until Friday to give prosecutors a chance to show him how the recordings might be translated quickly enough for the current case to continue.

But it could take weeks to translate the Yiddish material since none of the lawyers speak Yiddish, according to the Times. And that’s something the jurors can’t wait for.

“The lawyers are working around the clock as it is, and now you’re adding a pretty substantial review of the recordings,” the judge said.

Jurors were then ushered into the courtroom where more secretly recorded conversations were played and they heard Smith say that bribes are the “business of government,” according to the New York Post.

“Tell them I got a kid in Albany that needs to be born. So when you birth him . . . I’ll help you with your children,” Smith is heard saying on the tapes. “I’d say absolutely not,” to giving more bribe money.

“I’d say, ‘I’m not giving you a freaking dime.’ I’d say, ‘If I even give you a nickel more, you have to stand on the Empire State Building and drop every person you endorsed and hold Malcolm up and say he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Matter of fact, he’s better than sliced bread.’ ”

Smith, a Democrat who was for a time the State Senate majority leader, is charged with being the linchpin in a conspiracy to bribe Tabone, then the vice chairman of the Queens County Republican Committee, and Joseph J. Savino, the Bronx Republican chairman, so he could get their authorization to run for mayor as a Republican in 2013. Savino pleaded guilty to bribery. Tabone has argued that the payment he received was a legal retainer and he was entrapped into taking it. Halloran allegedly served as a go-between in discussions with the Republicans.

 

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Newly revealed recordings may halt Malcolm Smith’s corruption trial


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

File photo

State Sen. Malcolm Smith’s corruption trial might be put on hold, according to reports.

The United States Attorney’s office failed to turn over 9,000 recorded conversations to defense lawyers until well into the trial, prompting the judge in the case to consider adjourning the case or declaring a mistrial, according to the New York Times.

The recordings, almost 300 hundred of which are in Yiddish, are made or received by Moses Stern, a Rockland County developer who became a government informer in order to avoid a prison sentence.

Smith, who currently holds office and is seeking reelection, is accused of trying to bribe his way into a GOP nomination for mayor.

On Thursday morning before the day’s trial, federal prosecutors argued that the conversations were irrelevant to bribery crime and wire fraud that the defendants, including Smith, are charged with. But the defense – including Smith’s lawyer Gerald L. Shargel – convinced the judge that somewhere in the recordings there might be evidence that Stern and an undercover agent entrapped the defendants. The judge, Kenneth M. Karas, decided to postpone his decision until Friday to give prosecutors a chance to show him how the recordings might be translated quickly enough for the current case to continue.

But it could take weeks to translate the Yiddish material since none of the lawyers speak Yiddish, according to the Times.

“The lawyers are working around the clock as it is, and now you’re adding a pretty substantial review of the recordings,” the judge said.

Jurors were then ushered into the courtroom where more secretly recorded conversations were played and they heard Smith say that bribes are “business of government,” according to the New York Post.

“Tell them I got a kid in Albany that needs to be born. So when you birth him . . . I’ll help you with your children,” Smith is heard saying on the tapes. “I’d say absolutely not,” to giving more bribe money.

“I’d say, ‘I’m not giving you a freaking dime.’ I’d say, ‘If I even give you a nickel more, you have to stand on the Empire State Building and drop every person you endorsed and hold Malcolm up and say he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Matter of fact, he’s better than sliced bread.’ ”

Smith, a Democrat who was for a time the State Senate majority leader, is charged with being the linchpin in a conspiracy to bribe Vincent Tabone, then the vice chairman of the Queens County Republican Committee, and Joseph J. Savino, the Bronx Republican chairman, so he could get their authorization to run for mayor as a Republican in 2013. Savino pleaded guilty to bribery. Tabone has argued that the payment he received was a legal retainer and he was entrapped into taking it. The third defendant is Daniel J. Halloran, who allegedly served as a go-between in discussions with the Republicans.

 

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Towers residents loved the show


| dbeltran@queenscourier.com

Diane Cypkin 2W

“Oy vey!”

It was quite a night in the VIP Room on January 13 as many “yentes” came out to see Dr. Diane Cypkin, professor of media and communication arts atPaceUniversity, salute and sing the songs of Molly Picon —considered by many as the first lady of Yiddish theatre.

The concert, which began at 8 p.m., drew many residents. Tables even had to be moved and extra chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the large audience.

 “It was very enjoyable,” said Towers resident Renee Sanders, who had heard many of the songs before. “Especially since I understand most of what she’s saying.”

Cypkin, who performed the songs in Yiddish and told stories in English, drew many laughs and loud applause from the audience, which contained a large group of residents who understood Yiddish. Even those who didn’t quite understand the language had a good time.

     “I don’t understand Yiddish, but it’s very interesting,” said resident Helaine Matvid. “She’s very good at explaining it.”

Bringing an icon to life


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Diane Cypkin

College professor by day and entertainer by night, Diane Cypkin brings nostalgia, harmony and history with her to every performance.

Born in a displaced persons camp in Munich, Germany after the war, Cypkin grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home.

Now inBrightonBeach, Brooklyn, her shtick is making sure the story of well-loved entertainer Molly Picon — said to be the star of Yiddish theater inNew York City— lives on. 

Picon, a New York-born Yiddish icon, is well-known for her theater, radio, television and film performances over the span of seven decades. The film many may remember her most for is “Yidl with His Fiddle,” which debuted in 1936. She also starred in the 1963 film “Come Blow Your Horn” and “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1971 before she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in her later years and died at age 93.

Still, the ties Cypkin has to Picon are many and strong.

Not only was Cypkin raised by a musically-inclined father and theater-loving mother, she has infinite knowledge of Yiddish theater in New York City after writing a great deal about it and even performing there for many years.

Cypkin also curated an exhibition at the Museum of the City ofNew Yorkentitled “One Hundred Years of Yiddish Theatre inNew York City” before the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts inNew Yorkasked her to do an exhibition on Picon.

Now, through a few hundred artifacts — including pictures, programs, reviews, posters, music and costumes — Cypkin tells Picon’s story in English and sings her songs in Yiddish.

“I love her music, and her lyrics are poetry. When I sing it, I see it,” Cypkin said.

Although the premise of her performances revolves around the life and times of Picon, Cypkin said the concerts end up focusing more on the stories of the audience members.

“It’s Molly’s story, but it’s also our story. At the end, you end up talking about the lower east side, and the audience members all remember going to the Yiddish theater. They all remember their old homes and their parents. Molly is the icon around which our lives have turned. It’s the story about everybody who lived in her time.”

Cypkin, who recently performed forNorthShoreTowersresidents, said she got lost on her way to the venue. With no map and no G.P.S. system, Cypkin said she pulled over and found an AAA service truck on the side of the road.

“I said to him, ‘Listen, I have a show. Please lead me there,” Cypkin said. “It was just a pleasure to be there, and it was truly a wonderful audience.”

Cypkin is a professor of media and communication arts atPaceUniversityand has been teaching there for more than 20 years. In just the last year, she and her pianist Lina Panfilova have done about 30 shows throughout the tri-state area.

“I can honestly say it’s not just a concert I offer. It’s a community event,” she said. “By the time the show is over, we know each other well. I can feel the audience with me, and after the show, people run up to talk to me and share their memories. Every time I do a show, I love it all over again. I don’t get bored. You can, but I don’t.”

And Yiddish or not, Cypkin said everyone can enjoy the performance.

“You don’t have to understand every word of Yiddish. It’s the music, and it’s the way it’s presented. It’s the sound of a language.”