The Besht’s Magical Journey

The Besht’s Magical Journey

The Besht’s Magical Journey


Zshuk Art Initiative, announces the First Interactive Show
for the entire family in Russian,


Sunday May 29, 4pm


Shorefront Y, 3300 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11235

To be a part of the interactive circle please register

Past shows: Kings Bay Y, May 15, 1pm, May 8th, 11am, JCH of Besonhurst
April 17, 11am, JCC of Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023

pictures from the show on May 15

pictures from the show on May 8th






“Играют Все!” an article from The “Reporter” Newspaper. click to read.


“The Besht’s Magical Journey” is an educational and entertaining show for the entire family. This Russian language experimental theater performance depicts the adventures– as well as the good deeds — of the 17th century Jewish mystical rabbi, the Baal Shem Tov (“The BESHT”), during the Turkish occupation of Ukraine. Created and produced by Zshuk Art Initiative in under 30 days, it is scheduled to be performed in five Jewish Community Centers around the New York area.

Zshuk artists and educators have adopted this story from the legendary book “Jewish Folk Tales”, written by Efim Rayze and published posthumously in 1999 after the author’s imprisonment by the Soviets. Zhuk artists and educators, Zhenay Plechkina and Misha Sklar, will direct a cast that includes Yelena Shmulenson (“A Serious Man, “Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish”), and Genadiy Vysotsky (San Francisco Lyrical Opera). Michael Evans (whose past collaborations include Evan Parker, Alexander Hacke Einsturzende Neubauten), is the show’s composer and musical director.

Participant space is limited (please RSVP). Preference is given to families with children. If you would like to be a part of interactive circle during the show please write to

Yelena Shmulenson emigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine in 1993. Her TV and film credits include the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd, Life on Mars (ABC), American Experience: Fire At The Triangle (PBS), and Romeo & Juliet in Yiddish. Stage: 4 seasons Off-Broadway with the Folksbiene, 2 seasons at the Ellis Island Theatre, Enemies: A Love Story in Russian, Frank (‘Klezmatics’) London’s musical of A Night In the Old Marketplace, the tours of Lady of Copper: The Statue of Liberty Musical and The Essence: A Yiddish Theater Dim Sum, etc.  She has also recorded several audio books, winning the Earphones Award for her recordings of Train to Trieste and Cynthia Ozick’s The Shawl and Rosa. She can be heard in the radio drama The Witches of Lublin, currently playing on various radio stations across the country. She is fluent in four languages.


Michael Evans – is an improvising drummer/percussionist/ thereminist/composer whose work investigates and embraces the collision of sound and theatrics. As well as being a drum set player, his work with unusual sound sources includes found objects, homemade instruments, the theremin and various digital and homemade analog electronics.  He has worked with a wide variety of artists including Samm Bennett, Jac Berrocal, EasSide Percussion, Fast Forward(Gobo), God is my Co-Pilot,  Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubauten), Susan Hefner, Skip LaPlante’s Music for Homemade Instruments, Karen Mantler’s Pet  Project, Sean G. Meehan, Gordon Monahan, Joe Morris, Evan Parker, William Parker, LaDonna Smith, Toronto Dance Theatre and Peter Zummo.

Genady Vysotskywas born in Odessa, Ukraine. Gennady graduated from the Odessa School of Music. He became interested in acting at an early age, and began to explore that interest by participating in numerous musical theater performances, as well as appearing in several major motion pictures. After emigrating to the United States, Gennady graduated from the University of California at Davis, earning a double degree in Economics and Mathematics. At the same time Gennady continued his musical education. In the last few years Gennady has participated in the productions of the Magic Flute and Macbeth in the San Francisco Lyric Opera. Gennady has recently moved to New York to further pursue his musical career.

Anton Rayn - Originally studied all aspects of Puppet Theater and Performance in Kiev, Ukraine, and continued his education in the US, graduating from Brandeis University. He spent the better part of his childhood as a child performer and continues to be actively involved in children’s theater as an adult (with and without puppets): Les Misérables (JCHS), You Can’t Take It With You (JCHS), Joe and Mary’s Irish/Italian Wedding (NY Dinner Theater), Sleeping Beauty (Growing Stage), New York Renaissance Faire.


Baal Shem Tov or Besht - Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (רבי ישראל בן אליעזר August 27, 1698 (18 Elul) – May 22, 1760), was a Jewish mystical rabbi. He is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism . The Besht was born to Eliezer and Sara in Okopy (Ukrainian: Окопи) a small village that over the centuries has been part of Poland, Russia, and is now part of Ukraine, (located in the Borschiv Raion (district) of the Ternopil Oblast).  Better known to many religious Jews as “the holy Baal Shem”, or most commonly, the Baal Shem Tov (בעל שם טוב). The title Baal Shem Tov is usually translated into English as “Master of the Good Name”. The name Besht (בעש”ט) — the acronym from the words comprising that name, bet ayin shin tes—is typically used in print rather than speech. The little biographical information that is known about Besht is so interwoven with legends of miracles that in many cases it is hard to arrive at the historical facts. From the numerous legends connected with his birth it appears that his parents were poor, upright, and pious. When he was orphaned, his community cared for him. At school, he distinguished himself only by his frequent disappearances, being always found in the lonely woods surrounding the place, rapturously enjoying the beauties of nature. Chapin and Weinstock contend that the Besht was essentially the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Eighteenth century Podolia was an ideal place to foster a sea-change in Jewish thinking. A Turkish occupation of Podolia occurred within the Besht’s lifetime. Once the Polish Magnates regained control from the Turks, Podolia essentially went through an economic boom. The Magnates were benevolent to the economic benefits the Jews provided and encouraged Jewish resettlement to help protect the frontier from future invasions. Thus, the Jewish community itself was essentially starting over. Within this context, the Jews of Podolia were open to new ideas. The Besht’s refreshing new approaches to Judaism were welcome, expanding with little resistance in a community hungry for change.

Efim Rayze -  collected “Jewish Folk Tales” from FSU. This collection is vibrant and reach with moral and funny stories and mystical tales. The book published posthumously in 1999.  These stories represent a slice of Jewish history and identity that has long been neglected and even forbidden in the Former Soviet Union.


Leon Theremin - Lev Sergeyevich Termen, Russian: Лев Сергеевич Термен) (27 August 1896, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire) was a Russian and Soviet inventor. He is most famous for his invention of the theremin, one of the first electronic musical instruments. He is also the inventor of interlace, a technique of improving the picture quality of a video signal, widely used in video and television technology. His invention of “The Thing”, an espionage tool, is considered a predecessor of RFID technology.



This program has been created by Zshuk Art Initiative, sponsored by CWW project of COJECO, funded by the UJA Federation of New York and Genesis Philanthropy Group and Joshua Venture Group



Solomon’s Chair at JCC of Manhattan

Solomon’s Chair at JCC of Manhattan

Generation R

This big scale Installation containing 42 separate pieces will invite audiences of all ages to actively participate throughout the course of 3 days while it will be on display at the auditorium space at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. The audience will be able to rearrange the pieces and construct their own Solomon’s Chair, an amassing artifact that originally emerged as a result of genius engineering and magic. As artists we are inspired by the idea of opening space for people to actively engage with the art and offer everyone a chance to participate in the making off the project. Similarly to how The original Solomon’s Chair changed based on who had approached it, our installation will change as more and more people pass through it.

Chavurah Reunion teen group

instructions for printing

Reflection notes from Pre-k classes:

Nov 22 Solomon’s Throne

November 22

The Making of Solomon’s Chair

The installation will be accompanied by artist talk with Misha Sklar and Zhenya Plechkina. Families and children of all ages are invited to participate in a special art making workshop inspired by the making of Installation, with Zshuk artist and teacher Zhenya Plechkina.

The installation will be open 10am-6pm November 20-22.

The 2 art making workshops will take place:

Saturday November 20

2:15-3:00 and 3:00-3:45(space is limited)

Zshuk Channel

all broadcasts

“For no king was the throne made like it, and no kingdom could produce similar ones.  This throne was made as follows: Twelve lions of gold stood upon it, and opposite to them twelve eagles of gold, a lion opposite and eagle, and an eagle opposite a lion. The right paw of the golden lion was toward the left wing of the golden eagle, and the left wing of the golden eagle was toward the right paw of the golden lion. The sum of all the lions upon it was seventy-two, and there were the same number of eagles. Towards the top, where the king’s seat was, the throne was round. It had six steps of gold, as it is written: ‘The king made a throne of ivory, and this throne had six steps’ [1 Kings 10:18-19]. Upon the first step lay a golden ox, and opposite to it a golden lion; upon the second step lay

a golden bear, and opposite to it a golden lamb; upon the third step lay a golden panther, and opposite to it a golden owl; upon the fourth step lay a golden eagle, and opposite to it a golden peacock; upon the fifth step lay a golden cat, and opposite to it a golden hen; and upon the sixth step lay a golden hawk, and opposite to it a golden dove. Upon the throne stood likewise a golden dove, holding a golden hawk in its claws. Thus one day will all nations and languages be delivered into the hands of King Messiah, and into the hands of the house of Israel….”

Megillah Esther, Targum Sheni

image source: painting “The Judgment of Solomon”, 1649 by Nicolas Poussin

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This project is made possible with a grant through Mini Grant From COJECO and CWW .