Jacqui Sussholz, a diamond dealer in Antwerp, Belgium wasn’t satisfied just being a successful businessman. He had dreams of being an entertainer. His 3-CD album, “Yiddish is Forever” is based on his popular one-man show. It is filled with Yiddish humor and song.
The performance “bug” bit him when he was a young child and his grandmother gave him a violin. For a time, in his youth, he embraced Hassidism and the disciplines of a way of life that seeks contact with God through joy in song and dance, and this is reflected in the intensity of his singing. A multi-linguist, he has lived in at least five different countries, but always in his heart has been a fondness for Yiddish and Yiddish music. “These songs should be sung, not wailed”, he has said, “My style is soul with passion – I express the spirit of traditional songs, but in arrangements that are modern and exciting.”
Yiddish is Forever is a celebration of Yiddishkeit that makes you feel good to be Jewish. “And if you’re not Jewish?” Jacquie laughs, “It makes you feel good anyway!”
JACQUI SÜSSHOLZ THE STORY SO FAR
Jacqui Sussholz is full of surprises. He’s a diamond dealer in Antwerp – and he sings like an angel. He sings traditional Yiddish and Hassidic songs – with brilliant arrangements that transcend categories.. He’s proud to be Jewish – but he’s reaching out to the world. He performs in English, French, Dutch, German, Hebrew – and, of course, Yiddish.
Jacqui is a born artist, a natural all-round performer who has recorded 3 CDs and created his own one-man show Yiddish is Forever. He sings, he tells stories, he can make you laugh, he can break your heart.. And everything he does, he does with passion; he lives each moment to the full. You can sense that in every song he sings and every story he tells – hilarious monologues, Woody Allen style, about his own life. The full stage show blends the music and the humour to create great entertainment: it has played to packed, enthusiastic audiences in Belgium, France and Germany . He has now adapted a smaller-scale version for private functions, based on humorous stories of his experiences in the diamond world. ‘It’s doing great with all audiences’ he says. ‘And I can put it on anywhere. So long as the technical backup – sound system, etc. – is professional’
What’s a diamond dealer doing in showbiz, you may ask? ‘My mother’s always asking that’ Jacqui says. ‘You spend all your time and money on singing, she says. What will become of you? So I say, ‘Listen. Other guys in business, when they want a break, they drink, they gamble, they keep a fancy mistress somewhere. So what should I do?’ And she gives me a look and says, ‘Sing, Jacqui, sing!”
And that’s what he does – with a warmth and humanity that will touch the hearts of audiences everywhere.
• Yiddish is Forever : Just another jewish story ?
Jacqui Sussholz really is an entertainer with a difference. This successful diamond dealer from Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world, has channelled a lifelong passion for Yiddish humour and song into a unique one man show, Yiddish is Forever.
A diamond dealer who sings? Yes, and he has more surprises up his sleeve. He performs traditional Yiddish songs – but with sophisticated modern arrangements. He is a wonderful storyteller – but not a stand-up comic. He explains: ” I don’t tell Yiddish jokes: I see Yiddish itself as a powerful story, a journey that never ends. Along the way you meet people: they can make you laugh, they can break your heart. That’s life – and the show must go on. Mine is a happy show, a celebration of Jewishness. I want people to have fun.”
His audiences seem happy to oblige: they’re laughing right through the show, which has played to packed houses in major venues in Antwerp, Brussels and Paris. He has released a compact disc of songs from the show, also titled Yiddish is Forever, and two more compact discs are on the way. There’s no doubt that Jacqui Sussholz has arrived on the Jewish music scene in Europe – now he plans to do the same in the States.
A MODERN MINSTREL
Jacqui is in fact a modern minstrel whose talents reflect a life as multifacetted as one of his own diamonds. The performance instinct was sown in him as a child by a beloved grandmother who gave him a violin. For a time, in his youth, he embraced Hassidism and the disciplines of a way of life that seeks contact with God through joy in song and dance: that experience shows through in the remarkable intensity of his singing. He speaks English, French, Dutch, German, Hebrew and – of course – Yiddish, and has lived in many of the countries where they are spoken. He has always loved Yiddish songs, though he felt they deserved a wider audience – and better treatment. He explains: “These songs should be sung, not wailed. My style is soul with passion – I express the spirit of traditional songs, but in arrangements that are modern and exciting.”
HAPPY TO BE JEWISH
He feels that the time is ripe for a revival of Yiddish music, when Jews all over the world have a renewed sense of identity and pride. “It’s such a powerful cultural bond,” he says, “and we should be happy to be Jewish. What this show does is, it makes you feel good to be Jewish.” And if you’re not Jewish? He laughs, oft makes you feel good anyway! It’s a happy experience.” He sees his beloved Yiddish songs as a unifying force. “They touch us – in the heart, in the soul – on a level that transcends the differences between people.” And when you hear him sing it’s difficult to argue: the intensity of voice and delivery is deeply moving.
In his art as in his life, Jacqui Sussholz may be reaching for the stars, but he is doing it with all the vision and drive that brought him success in another tough business. His measure of success is an ambitious one – he is aiming for a gold disc – but then he got where he is by aiming high. His highly organized promotion campaign is going out to publications and radio shows nationwide, and to Jewish opinion leaders everywhere. So he’s leaving nothing to chance – but he does believe in luck. “Take Brain Blauman, the Diamond King. I asked him once how he made his billions, and he said `80% luck, 20% my own skill and judgement – and without that 20% I would have been much richer.’ But seriously, I consider myself very lucky because I have chosen the art that goes most directly to people’s hearts – singing, telling stories …. >>
….BUT ENTERTAINMENT FOR ALL
He believes Yiddish music and humour are accessible to non-Jews, too. “People have always found the Jews fascinating. And my show is universal. It’s in English, of course, but in fact many of the songs have no lyrics – they all have the kind of catchy melody that encourages people to sing along. And as for humour: look at all the Jewish comics making it big in Hollywood – or at least scratching a living! Our humour is like us: it travels well.”
AND NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION. WHAT MAKES JACQUI TICK?
I think the answer is in the question. I once heard Dustin Hoffman say he `could hear the big clock ticking’, that was what drove him. I feel that, too: I’ve gone through lots of different phases in my life, now, in my forties, I’m very conscious of the importance of roots, where you came from, what you’re part of. What values should I try to pass on to my children? The essential human values, I suppose, wrapped up in humour and song. I try to live each moment to the full.” Yes, but why do it on the public stage? “It’s very simple,” he says. ” I love that contact with the audience. Like all performers, I guess, I want to be loved, I really want to reach out to people all over the world, share moments with them.”
Isn’t this rather eccentric behaviour for a diamond merchant? He smiles. “Well, my mother asks me that every two weeks or so. `Jacqui’, she says, `I thought you were gonna be a diamond dealer. And now I see you spending all this time and money – for what? To be a singer!’ And I say – Listen. Other guys in business, you know what they do for pleasure ? They drink, they gamble, they keep some fancy woman somewhere in diamonds and furs. So what do you want me to do? And she looks at me and she says `Sing, Jacqui! Sing !’>>.
And that’s what he does, this diamond merchant turned minstrel. He sings, he tells stories. And if we’re tempted to dismiss him as just another hopeful with stars in his eyes, we should bear in mind that, not so long ago, Jacqui Sussholz was just another Jewish kid in Antwerp who wanted to be a diamond merchant.