top of page

michael wex

Yiddish Language and Culture

Author of Born to Kvetch, columnist, bon vivant and raconteur, Michael Wex has been called “a Yiddish national treasure;” Born to Kvetch, the best selling book ever written about Yiddish, was hailed by The New York Times as “wise, witty and altogether wonderful.”

A native of Lethbridge, Alberta, Wex has worked in virtually every area of contemporary Yiddish. Some of his songs have been recorded by such klezmer bands as Sukke, The Flying Bulgars, and 2007 Grammy winners, The Klezmatics.
Wex’s teaching and lecture activities–a unique combination of learning, stand-up comedy and probing investigation into the nature of Yiddish and Yiddishkayt–have taken him from Toronto to Budapest, and to many points in between. His approach is so unique and appealing that his annual series of classes at Klezkamp (a yearly Yiddish cultural event in upstate New York) has been renamed Wexology–and not at Wex’s instigation. The only complaint ever heard is that people are enjoying themselves so much that they forget to take notes.
Michael Wex’s Yiddish translation has been called “the finest around”, and he’s got the résumé to prove it. From Mendele Moykher Sforim’s The Wishing Ring to Sholem Aleykhem (Classic Yiddish Stories), Itsik Manger, testimony for projected war crimes trials and countless family documents, letters, and unpublished autobiographies, there’s virtually no area of the language in which he isn’t experienced.
This is only half the story, though. Wex is also an accomplished translator into Yiddish. He has done the only such translation of The Threepenny Opera authorized by the authors’ estates, and has also translated songs by such artists as Holly Near, Gloria Gaynor, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Bob Dylan and scores of others. His uncredited work lies at the heart of Mandy Patinkin’s Mamaloshen CD.


His one-person shows include Sex in Yiddish, Wie Gott in Paris, and Gut Yontef, Yoko. I Just Wanna Jewify: The Yiddish Revenge on Wagner was recently revived (on Zoom) by the Ashkenaz Festival. His most recent major project, Baym Kabaret Yitesh, an all-star recreation of a 1938 Warsaw Yiddish cabaret written and directed by Wex, was the surprise hit of Ashkenaz 2022 in Toronto. Bas Sheve, the long-lost Yiddish opera restored by Wex and composer Joshua Horowitz was the not-so-surprising hit of the same festival.

bottom of page