Moriel Rothman-Zecher & Zoë Aqua

Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship 2018–2019

The 2018-19 Annenberg Helix Fellows Zoë Aqua (Brooklyn, New York) and Moriel Rothman-Zecher (Yellow Springs, Ohio), along with tsimbl player Pete Rushefsky, editor Talya Feldman, and videographers Cameron Henderson and Michael Winograd, teamed up in 2020 to create Wetland — a socially-distant reading of Moriel’s original poetry set to Zoë’s original music. Inspired by the dense forests, former shtetlach, and cultural legacies of formerly Jewish spaces, WETLAND transports viewers.

Moriel and Zoë met through the 2018-2019 Helix Fellowship, and spent many hours discussing language, art, history, music, Yiddish and more during their time in Belarus.

After hearing Moriel read one of his poems, Zoë composed a draft of original music to accompany the piece. The two began working back and forth on the edits, and decided to expand the project to include a second poem, entitled Kobilnik, and new original song. The poem was written during the 2019 Helix Fellowship itself. They also decided to do professional grade recordings and videos as a way of presenting the two new pieces to the wider public.

“I remember sitting on the banks of a placid lake in central Belarus, a moment of sunshine and stillness, a moment that felt both radiant and haunted: next to me, Zoë was playing her violin to our friends in the distance, to the trees, to something unnamable, intangible, but present. I remember feeling the way time bent around itself, the way in which the past seeped into the present and the present into the past. It was truly a gift to collaborate with a brilliant artist like Zoë Aqua on this project, and to have the spirit of Yiddishkayt, and David Shneer’s beloved memory, with us as we envisioned the contours of this collaboration.”

— Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Poet & Novelist

Zoë Aqua

Watch the full recording of WETLAND here.
WETLAND is made possible with the support of Yiddishkayt’s David Shneer Memorial Grant of the Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship to foster new creative work rooted in Yiddish language, culture, and history.