Bente Kahan and her yiddish songs
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Bente Kahan - yiddish songs

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Bente Kahan, the Norwegian born Jewish actress, musician, director and playwright had her formal training in performing arts at Tel-Aviv University and continued at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York City.

After graduating in 1981, she worked on various stages, including "Habima" Israel's national theatre, and "Nationaltheatret" in Norway.

In 1986 she jointly wrote the monodrama "Bessie - a Bluesical" (also a TV production), with the Norwegian stage director Ellen Foyn Bruun. This collaboration was followed by "Letter Without a Stamp" (1988) and "Voices from Theresienstadt" (1995), the latter under the umbrella of Teater Dybbuk - Oslo (TDO).
All three monodramas were staged by Ellen Foyn Bruun and performed by Bente Kahan.

In 1990, Bente Kahan founded the production company "Teater Dybbuk - Oslo" (TDO), and produced her own concerts, monodramas and CDs, with the aim to convey Jewish-European culture and history through drama and music.
Her first TDO production was the concert "Yiddishkayt" with the Norwegian band Gjertrud's Gipsy Orchestra, 1990 (also a TV production and CD.)

In 1991, she premiered with the monodrama "Gitl" by Frank Kelber based on Shalom Aleichem's train stories and in 1992 she produced the concert "Farewell Cracow", Yiddish Songs by Mordechai Gebirtig, later also a program for Polish National TV and a CD.

Other production under the TDO-label to be mentioned are: "Voices from Theresienstadt", a monodrama and CD with an English(1997), German (1996) and Norwegian version (1995); "Wir Wollen Wachen die Nacht", a commissioned concert for Berliner Festwoche (1997); Bente Kahan & Di Gojim, a concert and CD (The Netherlands 1997) and "HOME : Songs and Tales by a European Jew", produced for Bergen European City of Culture,( 2000). A CD was released the following year.

Bente has also taken part in TV-Ventures' documentary film, "Karussell" (also a CD), has been a guest singer on several CDs and done numerous international workshop with Yiddish songs, among them with the internationally renowned clarinetist, Giora Feidman.

The two Polish musicians Dariusz Swinoga and Miroslaw Kuzniak have worked with Ms. Kahan since 1992 and have accompanied her in most of the above mentioned productions.

She has also appeared alone with her guitar or collaborated with European klezmer bands such as Gjertrud's Gypsy Orchestra (Norway), Di Gojim (The Netherlands), Jowel Klezmorim (Germany), "Sabbath Hela Veckan" (Sweden) and Chudoba (Poland).

Since the early 90ties, Bente Kahan has toured internationally with her programs and repeatedly been called upon to perform in connection with official commemorations paying homage to the victims of the Holocaust.
Her work has unfailingly received critical praise by newspapers and audiences alike.

In 2001, Bente and her family moved to Wroclaw, Poland, where she has continued to use art in order to present Jewish heritage and culture to a larger audience.

In 2003, she produced the children's concert, "Sing with Us in Yiddish", with her daughter Voja and friends from the Jewish school in Wroclaw to the accompaniment of the folkloric band Chudoba. The concert was followed by a much sought after CD.

In 2005, Bente Kahan became the director of Wroclaw Center for Jewish Culture and Education in the White Stork Synagogue. In February 2006, she registered The Bente Kahan Foundation. Since its inception, this institution runs the Center and oversaw the work of restoring the White Stork Synagogue, which was completed in May 2010.
After its opening, the 200 year old synagogue has become a prestigious concert venue, featuring internationally renowned performers from the ethno, jazz, klezmer and classical scenes. In addition, it is a space for exhibitions and a major tourist attraction. During the Jewish High Holidays, the synagogue serves the Congregation.

Bente has staged three of her own plays for the Wroclaw's Center featuring Polish actors. These are:
"Voices from Theresienstadt" (2005), "Wallstrasse 13" (2007) and "Mendel Rosenbusch" (2011), the latter based on Ilse Weber's pre-war children stories. More than 10 000 youngsters and children from Lower Silesia, Poland, have seen Bente Kahan's plays in the synagogue. Another major attraction of the Center is the permanent exhibition, "History Reclaimed", which tells the 800 year old history of the Jews of Lower Silesia. The exhibition was produced by the Foundation under Bente's leadership.

An active Cultural and Educational Center showing programs all year round, two events are annual, the international music festival, "Summer in the White Stork Synagogue", and the "Days of Mutual Respect", in November.

In 2011, during the November event, the Foundation introduced the "Workshop of Mutual Respect" in which 40 young people from Poland, Norway and Israel participated. "Days of Mutual Respect" has taken place since 2005 and includes theatre performances, concerts, exhibitions and lectures, culminating in an annual March beginning at the White Stork Synagogue to the plaque commemorating the burning of Die Neue Synagoge, the largest synagogue to burn in Germany during Kristallnacht in 1938. The March has become an important event for the citizens of Wroclaw in which the mayor always participates.

In September 2013, Bente Kahan received the Order of the Cavalier Cross of Restored Poland for her outstanding artistic achievements, for her efforts on behalf of intercultural dialogue and understanding and for rescuing the heritage of Lower Silesia.

While running the Foundation, Bente has also continued to perform internationally, mostly appearing in "Home" and "Songs from the Ghetto", accompanying herself on the guitar. After writing and staging the Polish version of "Wallstrasse 13" in 2007, she performed the Norwegian version in Oslo in 2008, and the German performance followed the next year. An English version is currently being translated.

2008 and 2009 also saw Bente Kahan performing "Echoes", an evening of dance, music and theatre, a cooperation with the American choreographer Carolyn Dorfman and her dance company. "Echoes" was based on Ms. Dorfman's production "Cat's Cradle" produced in 2007, in which she uses Bente's compositions from "Voices from Theresienstadt" , as well as additional material from productions by both artists. "Echoes" was performed both in NYC and at the Opera House in Wroclaw.

In 2011, the Dutch Klezmer Band "Di Gojim" invited Bente to perform with them in their new production "The Glanzberg Project", which also incorporated the German version of the songs from "Voices from Theresienstadt".

Bente's newest production is the meditative concert "Ani Ma'amin" (2011) with Mirolsaw "Carlos" Kaczmarczyk (electric and acoustic guitars), Piotr Iwicki (synths) and Maciej Ostromecki (percussion), a concert which also shows art work made by the Israeli-born artist Yoav Rossano, underlining the theme of the concert.

A CD of "Bente Kahan in Concert: Ani Ma'amin" will be released in 2012.

Awards and Acknowledgements   
- "Wroclaw Ambassador" an official honorary title awarded by a jury of local dignitaries and initiated by the Polish newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" (2010)
- The Marshal of Lower Silesia's Culture Prize, Poland (2010)
- The Premier of Lower Saxony's Culture Prize, Germany (2010)
- An award given by the Foundation for Tolerance for promoting tolerance, Poland (2010)
- The Wroclaw Mayor's Award, promoting Wroclaw internationally as a city of tolerance (2006)

- A Lifelong Stipend for Artists by the Norwegian Art Council (Garantiinntekt for kunstnere 2000)
- Josefine's Prize for shedding new light on the European ballad tradition (Josefines Visepris 1999)