May 18, 2022

Truth in Gay Clothes, or Gagarin’s Space Suit: Part II

By Jenny Romaine & Yevgeniy Fiks

A conversation between Jenny Romaine and Yevgeniy Fiks

Yevgeniy Fiks, photograph by Daniel Terna, 2022

Yevgeniy Fiks

Jenny, maybe we can return to Birobidzhan and cemeteries: I think there are definitely connections here between your work and some of my work that we’ve been discussing. In the project you sent me—Vu Bistu Geven? / Where Have You Been?—I noticed that there are a lot of shots from Seekers of Happiness, the Soviet movie about Birobidzhan. So there’s a connection there.

And there’s also a bit of a connection between my experience at Jewish cemeteries in Moscow and the play you did about that Belarusian town, The Revival of the Uzda Gravediggers. Because the guy who was in charge of the Jewish cemetery in Ivanteevka—outside of Moscow, where my grandfather was buried—was a Muslim Tatar. His name was Nikolai and he was in charge of everything that had to do with the Jewish cemetery, the technical aspects and maintenance and all of that. And just like in The Revival of the Uzda Gravediggers, the Muslim cemetery in Ivanteevka was right next to the Jewish one. People would usually call it a Tatar cemetery because Tatars were the largest Muslim minority in most Russian cities. So that’s kind of an interesting connection.

Jenny Romaine

Yes, definitely. Well, I think it’s important to say that my work—because of where it sits as theatrical work—happens in community. It happens with people watching. It’s a public conversation. It asks for people to laugh, to be entertained, but also to understand themselves as a public or as a community for the time that they’re together. So I see that as a great opportunity for study, and I think it’s something I really love about theater: it’s like you can feel the response to what you’re doing immediately, and you have to be entertaining—you have to grab people. You have to make them want to look at you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m interested in storytelling as a way to create new stories about what’s possible, and to shed light on some old stories that may or may not be true. Just like the story you mentioned of the gay men who went to Birobidzhan looking for Christopher Street, or whatever. That is so good.

And something similar is happening in the Uzda Gravediggers project, which calls into question the relationship between Islamophobia and the daily life of Eastern European Jews. I created this work that centers on a pair of adjacent cemeteries, one Jewish and one Muslim Tatar, because when I see people lying in the ground right next to each other—this does not suggest enemies to me. To this day, the Tatar cemetery in Uzda actually is next to the Yiddish cemetery. These are people unified in eternal rest. I read a lot about cemeteries in the region, and specifically the cemeteries of that town, Uzda: who worked there and what everybody’s occupations were, what the Jews did and what the Tatars did, what everybody else was doing, and who these professional mourners were who came from the different communities. But like you, for my story, I had to invent the town.

I mean—the town exists, Uzda is a real place––but I wanted to recreate this place through a collage methodology that tells a fluid story you can follow and enjoy, but also shows the frames and operations—not hiding the montage-mechanics of the collagists. Like when you can see the glue around the fragments of a collage. This is about a folk surrealism that creates language and symbols, enabling you to build a new concept of a world. That’s why I felt a real kinship with your Pleshka-Birobidzhan project, and how you’re remaking the world through collage. In a way, it’s Benjamin’s montage theory of history. 

But to understand the context and the characters for the piece, like the professional mourners for instance, there’s this relationship between actual history and different ways to talk about history. Because usually, in my experience, the people who tell the stories can be authoritarian assholes, and so we don’t necessarily want to believe what they say.

For instance, I got interested in telling the story about these adjacent cemeteries when I was learning about the Ringworm Affair, an example of the Orientalism and racism Mizrahim have faced in Israel. 

I was amazed that Zionism—with the ways it has seen “Eastern-ness” as a disease—was nurtured in Belarus, which is itself considered “Eastern” by Western Europeans. 

And I wondered, how can the Jews who were sleeping next to Muslim Tatars in eternal rest—the people connected to all this other magnificent stuff that I know about Belarusian Yiddish culture—incubate this idea? I mean, whose idea of “East” is this? I feel like that’s what I was trying to understand.

So, this story is saying—hey, maybe all these people could have different affinities. They happen to be Yiddish-speaking, or they happen to be Tatar, or they happen to be bears—that’s another thing, the story crosses the species line. Because not far from Uzda, in Smorgon, there was a bear training academy. There also happened to be a Zionist school there. But there was also an academy where they would train dancing bears.

And so some of the characters in the Uzda Gravediggers are refugees from the bear training academy who’ve escaped, and they sing a song my friend Geoff Berner wrote called “What Kind of Bear Am I? In the song, the bears tell their story of being asked to dance on murderously hot coals, and how they ate their master one day and fled, and bleached their hair blonde, and ended up being the barkeepers in the town of Uzda, and how they now run a tavern. So they have this great solidarity with the women who work in the cemetery, the professional Yiddish mourners and the keeners in the Muslim community. This is in a town where all the men who control social power want the mourners to shut up. They’re like: too much, too loud, too female. Shut up women, stop talking about pain.

Throughout the theatrical piece, in addition to more historical sources, I also wove together narratives from different novels and stories that were written in Uzda. So it’s not quite archive work, but I think—similarly to your work—it’s fact and fiction, arayn-gemisht (mixed together), as they say.

And one other thing I’ll add about the story of the play (which is, again, a parable) is that it’s a story about this ordinary town, where the issue wasn’t whether you were Muslim or Jewish. It was a place characterized much more by class-based tension and solidarity.

When I got to go to Belarus to do my research, one element missing from my knowledge was a full context for Uzda. Until then, my understanding was based on my own projections of a pre-revolutionary history onto the place. My grandfather left Odessa in 1907, so while he was there for the revolution in 1905, he and the rest of my family left the region before the Russian Revolution of 1917. That particular pre-revolution moment was my reference and connection, along with all the images from working at YIVO that were in there somewhere. On the one hand, it felt very important to honor that Jewish history in my lineage, but there also needed to be a Slavic voice in the project, especially in that part of the North where Christianity came so late. They’re very pantheist. They’re tree-worshiping.

There were so many layers. And I realized that the more complicated the story was, the more fun it could be for more people. I guess that’s the thing about laughter, again. A crazy, good, well-told tale can hold it all together. If it’s a mess, no one’s going to be able to understand it. But if there really is a voice given to the trees and the mushrooms, and to the bears, and the professional gravediggers, and the imams, and the Lithuanian landowners, and everybody is colorfully talking about economics, and all in the context of death, which is a thing that unites us all . . . ?! So I invited these two Slavic partners from Belarus, a Tatar community member and a poet, and it’s been very hard to continue working on it, but they’re saying, “Please come.” They’re excited. They’re like, “Let’s finish this epic story here.” But the political situation has made it impossible. 


For sure. It’s really trying times in Belarus these days. There are a lot of artists that I know from Belarus; all of them left. I mean, contemporary artists from Belarus. A lot of them are in Central Europe now: Vienna, Prague, places like that. It’s pretty strange.

Jenny, I’d love to hear you talk now about the connection between Birobidzhan and your project Where Have You Been?


So, there’s this Yiddish folk art program that takes place in the Laurentian Mountains outside of Montreal that’s been going on for like twenty-five years, and they asked Geoff Berner to do a pageant or something to celebrate their anniversary. And he reached out to me right away. Geoff’s a musician, and he’s like, “Oh, Jenny, you have to help.” But we couldn’t go there because of COVID. We couldn’t be there. 

I had been to New Orleans before the pandemic and met with these radical farmers who run a workshop called History of the Land at this youth farm in downtown New Orleans called Grow Dat. They work with the descendants of enslaver classes, the descendants of enslaved people, Indigenous people, white people, other newcomers, Vietnamese people, everybody who’s come to New Orleans. They have these frank conversations asking: “What should we do with this land given the history of what’s happened here?”

So, in the workshop, they do this timeline study of the Grow Dat farm space where everybody learns about different layers of time on this land. What was it like when there were sugar cane labor camps here? What was it like before that? What was it like during the Great Depression? What was it like during Hurricane Katrina? And what are all the different people’s relationships to it?

Then they created an archive of that information and asked people to identify the particular stories or frames that jumped out to them as unusual or intriguing. Like, “Ha, I never would’ve thought of that”—because there’s no way a person can take in all the information. That would be impossible. But something new can begin to happen when looking at these overlapping fragments and frameworks and asking, “How can we take a framework from the New Deal, and another from a slave revolt, and layer them onto what’s happening right now?”

So we did the same thing with the land where KlezKanada, a Yiddish folk art school in rural Quebec, sits. We researched the history of Yiddish-speaking Jews coming to this land as a vacation paradise or a place to heal from tuberculosis. We also spoke to some people who were Francophone Jews, but because our focus is so much on Yiddish language, Yiddish culture, and Yiddish dance, we stayed a bit more in that arena. Still, it’s a whole other amazing story, and there is a huge French connection to this piece of land as well.

What was going on in this camp is part of the story: the bunks and cabins are all named after rivers and towns and places in the Israeli nation-state. There are also, of course, the Indigenous stories connected to the land. And then there are all these Yiddish narratives, including tales of the Tuberculosis sanatoria, and people going there to recover.

We interviewed a ton of people, created an archive, and then we used a Hasidic story to frame and weave it all together. Briefly, the story is about someone who gets lost right before Shabbes, and he meets a mystical guide who says, “Listen, I’m going to take you on a beautiful journey for Shabbes. The only thing is you can never ask or say anything about what you see.” And basically what ensues is a tour of the senses: the smell, the touch, the taste of Shabbes. But in our story we explore all the senses in relation to this land and its many stories.

We did a live film shoot of these two traveling tzaddikim, played by Ira Khonen Temple and Sadie Gold-Shapiro, and a mystical guide, and we shot it on my friend’s land in the Hudson Valley. The film of the journey is layered with original songs, and other content provided by people who are indigenous to the land on which this takes place. 

The Birobidzhan connection to this piece came about as I was looking at Soviet cinema connected to Yiddish stuff. As part of my research, I watched a lot of Soviet movies from the ’50s that reflected back on the Yiddish past, and that was super interesting. So I must have found the Birobidzhan film during that process, and folded it into my project, not consciously knowing I was tapping into that history.


It makes a lot of sense. I really enjoyed your film. And I woke up even more when I heard that song from the Birobidzhan movie. I think the whole piece is really great. I mean, considering the story of the land of KlezKanada from a standpoint of Native Canadian history, I think it’s amazing. It’s such a right thing to do, and makes you think about the role of the North American Jewish community, and Yiddish in North America; it’s all very complex, very complex.


Yes. And the solidarity generated around language and honoring a connection to land, and the recognition that identity is so many things, as you bring up in your work. It’s like, oh, we’re a minority group, we’re gay, so we should be given territory, because that’s what you do with minority people. And if you have your own dictionary, then you obviously have a language, so then you should be given a heimland, and then—why not space? (That’s maybe the last thing we could talk about in your work, that we could circle back to.) 

One of the things we also wanted to do with Where Have You Been? was to make sure that people in the community were up to speed in understanding the multidimensional history of this place. So many of these projects are done in communities because my work doesn’t get funded by institutions. I don’t necessarily get invited to go someplace with a big amount of money to work with. Sometimes I do, but often I’ll just get a gig at some folk art school where there will be singers from all over the world, and then I do these stupidly ambitious projects, which sometimes I get to run for a couple years, but basically they’re community-embedded processes where we study, and then create art together.

So it’s this weird thing of talking and listening at the same time; it’s like you’re learning, learning, and then you’re talking, and then making. In the case of Where Have You Been?, the first year was just like, where are we? Who lived here? What is this land? What is this place? And then the next year we revisited, and we brought a whole layer of stuff about Canada’s residential schools, which were meant to erase Indigenous culture and profoundly ruptured Indigenous communities, as well as an anti-Zionist layer. We weren’t trying to have the whole thing be about the Middle East, but you can’t talk about the landback movement and anticolonial stuff without talking about Israel|Palestine. The parallels are very clear. And I think one thing that informs and inspires the theater work I do, and I think the work you do too, is that through juxtaposition and shared space, and by putting things that don’t normally or necessarily belong together together, there’s all this opportunity for new thinking. 

And, yes. Oh my gosh. Can we talk about the space program now?


Okay. Sure.


So these works about space. Oh my God. First of all, what’s AO? I can read all the Yiddish in these things, so very often I have to slow down the video to read what’s happening in the posters . . . but what’s AO?


AO is a language that was developed by this Russian Jewish anarchist, Wolf Gordin. He was the brother of Abba Gordin, the well-known Yiddish anarchist writer and publisher who published an anarchist newspaper here in New York until he moved to Israel, I want to say in the ’50s, very late in his life. He did some anarchist work in Israel also. That’s Abba Gordin. But his brother Wolf was also an interesting personality. 

In 1919, he developed this language of intergalactic communication, and he gave it the name AO. Basically, you write it in code––you write it in numbers. I’m still not very clear on its structure, but it’s supposed to be this open language that could be developed perpetually. It’s not a set language and it’s supposed to be this anarchist answer to Esperanto. Wolf Gordin really hated Esperanto because he felt that it was a language of the European bourgeoisie, that it was very Eurocentric. 

Yevgeniy Fiks, photograph by Daniel Terna, 2022

So the language that he was developing, AO, was supposed to be the language of universal, cosmic, interplanetary communication that not only people would speak, but also perhaps aliens; perhaps the planets and stars would understand and also communicate somehow.

And this language would really be set in motion when a global revolution happened. Not only a social revolution on Planet Earth, but some type of much larger revolution that would involve the Earth, humanity, other planets, various planetary systems, and so on. So he was talking about a global—even intergalactic—transformation that would require a new language, and that language was AO. 

He developed two versions of the language: the first one in 1918, and then the second in 1924. And he published an AO-Russian dictionary and a Russian textbook on AO.

After the 1920s, Abba went his own way and Wolf went his. But in the early 1900s, they cowrote some anarchist manifestos and signed them as “the Gordin brothers,” as a team, as a collective. Also, they wrote a lot of educational materials; I think that’s how they were making a living. They wrote materials for Yiddish-speaking youth on subjects like how to master the basics of the Russian language or the basics of math––things like that for Jewish young people who had no access to Russian-language education, but wanted to self-educate.

They were the sons of a rabbi, and they worked primarily in Yiddish at the beginning of the century. Then they started doing more and more in Russian closer to the time of the Russian Revolution.

So I included this AO story in my Yiddish Cosmos project because there was definitely a Yiddish flavor to AO, to this language. When I read Wolf Gordin’s Russian-language textbook on how to master AO, I could kind of hear the Yiddish accent. I mean, his Russian was not flawless, and you could hear some Yiddish.


Verb as second sentence unit.


Yes, yes. So it felt like a perfect fit—well, one of the perfect fits for this Yiddish Cosmos series. In the posters I made for the project, I was trying to mix Yiddish and AO in the same sentence, along with some Russian and some English. The texts I used for the posters come from Wolf Gordin’s articles about AO and his textbook on AO. I had both the Russian text and the AO text of those works, and using the Russian, I could make out certain phrases in the AO. I was only able to replace parts of the AO sentences with Yiddish text because I had the Russian translation.


Can I just say what I find so incredible about that work? In my American, Eastern European, and Jewish lineage, I look at Abba Gordin’s work and I think, okay, all these movements emerged out of this Pale of Settlement. Judaism as I grew up with it, and all its multiplicities. Hasidism. Misnagdim. Secularism. And all this stuff is thriving pre–Russian Revolution and pre–Second World War. And there is also the Zionism that emerges there in all its different flavors, and the territorialism. And then of course the revolutionary big move, which transforms everything: the Russian revolutionary movement and ideology. And then after the Second World War, Jews get wrapped up in this Soviet science thing, which is what you explore in this work.

I don’t feel like I have to give a spoiler alert, but what you’re doing visually and what you’re doing in terms of content is so rewarding. You have designs of rockets and scientific models in the same panels as Torah scrolls. You are operating on so many levels. From pure form––I mean shape––to a new belief system that is both inside and outside of the Soviet framework, that isn’t a religious system per se, but that pulls on religious tropes, iconographies, and impulses. Could you talk about all that and then the relationship to leaving––like getting out of the Soviet Union––by going to outer space or emigrating? 


So the Yiddish Cosmos project has that pre-revolutionary story of the Gordin brothers, how Wolf Gordin developed this crazy language for intergalactic communication coming from a Yiddish background—from a strictly religious background, actually. And then there is another story of Ary Sternfeld, the space scientist who came from Poland, got his PhD in Paris, and then wrote one of the pioneering texts on astronautics. He was published first in French and then translated into Russian and other languages; he came to the Soviet Union in the 1930s to work for the Soviet space program—because they were already working on it before the Second World War. He was also from a religious background and he said in his memoirs that, as a kid, he would recite Kiddush Levana with his father and think, well, how can we not reach the stars? At least that’s what he was recalling. I’m not sure if he was just being poetic at that point, or maybe that was in fact how he felt as a kid. I don’t know, but he was saying it in the ‘60s and ‘70s, as an older person, and drawing that connection in his own life. So there is this very specific link between the ritual experiences of a Polish Jewish boy “sanctifying the moon” and his desire as an adult to become a space scientist, which would ultimately prompt his move to the Soviet Union to work for the Soviet space program.

But, unfortunately, his was not a very happy story because he was only able to work for a couple of years. And then he was kind of pushed aside and not allowed to get too close or work in a really hands-on way for the program. Because he was considered a foreigner, right? Not so much because he was Jewish, but because he was Polish-born. He came to the Soviet Union in his thirties with a Polish passport. But at least he was not purged. He stayed alive. Actually, he was prevented from leaving. After the war, he tried to go back to Poland and couldn’t get permission. I interviewed his daughter who lives in New York, and she said that he applied to leave a couple of times after the war because his career had stalled in the Soviet Union. He was respected, he was able to publish—but that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to be more involved, to actually contribute to the space program.

He was finally given permission to leave the Soviet Union and go back to Poland, I think in ‘56, after his third application. But he ultimately decided not to leave because one of his daughters was dating this guy, and they were supposed to get married. She refused to go, and then they all stayed. So Sternfeld never left. He died in 1980 of natural causes. By the end of his life, he’d received many honors from the state and was very secure economically.

But in a way it was still a bitter situation. He had a lot of hopes coming to Moscow in the ‘30s because he felt that the Soviet Union had the willpower to work on the space program, which France absolutely did not at that time, nor did most European nations. So the Soviets had the willpower, the economic opportunity and possibilities, but in the end, he was not part of the space program anyway. 

But I think his story, the story of Ary Sternfeld, definitely connects the prewar Soviet Jewish life to the postwar Soviet Jewish life, and the latter is a very different story. I think, just looking at my parents who were all engineers and first-generation Russian speakers in the family—they all got a Soviet education, a university education, and PhDs, and looking at them and the people around them, I have a very strong feeling that this kind of postwar Soviet Jew was really a person of science and technology. After World War II, they really had this belief in scientific progress, in the betterment of society through technology.

I think this kind of future-facing orientation was very characteristic of my parents’ generation, people who were young adults in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I think for that generation, Jewish culture was all in the past. The Yiddish language was all in the past. Especially for those who lived in Russian capital cities, such as Moscow or Leningrad. I understand it was different in smaller towns—in places like Ukraine and Moldova, and maybe in Belarus—but in Moscow and Leningrad, there were people of my parents’ generation who didn’t grow up with Jewish culture for the most part. Science and technology was almost, I feel, a replacement for spiritual or religious belonging.


Messianic hope.


Yes, yes. I think so. And this operated even on a daily practical level, right? Because they worked everyday in the sciences, and on technology issues. So that’s one thing I wanted to highlight in Yiddish Cosmos, focusing on the space exploration project as the high point of Soviet science and technology developments. And quite practically, there were a lot of Soviet Jews working for the Soviet space program. Like Yefrem Ratner, the guy who worked on Yuri Gagarin’s space suit—and was actually the first person to wear the suit in the process of testing it—he was also Jewish. I mean, there were a lot of Jewish scientists working behind the scenes in the Soviet space program. 

So regarding Yiddish Cosmos, there is a lot of fact to this fact-and-fiction project, right? It’s all quite realistic. Real people, real Soviet Jews behind the real Soviet space program.


And also what makes it feel very queer to me is this feeling like, okay, here we are, kind of trapped . . . My understanding of living under Stalin was that it wasn’t a picnic. So you’re stuck in this situation that has gone in a very difficult direction. What do you do? Maybe it’s a futurism thing, people turning to Soviet futurism as an art movement. And then the space framework says, all right, here’s our next way to get the fuck out of here. To me, that seems like very contemporary thinking about how to make a way out of no way, whether it’s creating your drag world or an Afrofuturist world or considering going to space as a form of emigration.   


Oh, yes.


It was just so interesting, this impulse to leave, and imaginatively navigating the challenges of getting out.


Oh, yes, yes, yes. I see what you mean.


Going to space, or emigrating. It’s all an expression of how do we get out of here?


Yes, it’s very contradictory. Another one of the historical personalities in this project is this Soviet cosmonaut Boris Volynov, who was Jewish by birth, but Russian on paper. In his identity papers, he was listed as Russian, but still his mother’s Jewishness hindered his career as a Russian cosmonaut. He trained with Gagarin and was supposed to fly right after Gagarin, but was prevented until 1969. So his first space mission was in 1969, but he was originally supposed to fly, I think, in 1964. And it was all because of the politics and this friction between the antisemites and the internationalists within the Soviet government and the space program.

It’s also ironic that he flew his first mission to space in 1969. That was after the Soviet Jewry movement really got underway in the mid-1960s. Also, Elie Wiesel’s book, The Jews of Silence, came out in ‘66, and then in ’67, the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Israel. 1967 had also been a big year for the Soviet Jewish community because it was the end of post-Stalinist liberalization. So it was quite ironic that a Soviet Jewish cosmonaut, who was not Jewish on paper, flew into space in 1969 soon after the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Israel, as the Soviet Jewish movement was in full swing and people were applying to leave. Volynov’s second mission was in ‘77, but by then, there was already a huge wave of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.

So, yeah, it’s about contradiction. Staying or going, and by which means of transportation. A spaceship or a plane or a train—because people used to take a train from Moscow to Vienna, right? And then they would stay in Vienna. Or from Vienna, they would—I think—be taken to Italy. And then from Italy, they would either go to Israel or to the United States. But the train is not part of my project, while the plane and the spaceship are.


Amazing. So beautiful. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel like we covered a lot of stuff.


I think we did well, Jenny, I think we did.

Return to Part I

Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has lived and worked in New York since 1994. As a “post-Soviet artist,” his works build on research into Cold War narratives to explore the dialectic between Communism and “the West,” addressing the Red and Lavender Scares during the McCarthy era, Communism in Modern Art, as well as African, African-American, and Jewish diasporas in the Soviet Union. His art books include Lenin for Your Library? (ANTEPROJECTS), Communist Guide to New York City (Common Books), Moscow (UDP), Soviet Moscow’s Yiddish-Gay Dictionary (Cicada Press), and Monument to Cold War Victory (The Cooper Union). His work has been shown at the Biennale of Sydney, the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, and the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, and has received reviews in the New York Times, Artforum, and other periodicals.

Jenny Romaine is a director, designer, and puppeteer, as well as co-artistic director of the OBIE Award–winning Great Small Works visual-theater collective. She is the music director of Jennifer Miller’s Circus Amok and artist-in-residence at Milk Not Jails and Inside Change. With Great Small Works, Romaine performs, teaches, and directs in theaters, schools, parks, libraries, museums, prisons, street corners, and other public spaces—producing work on many scales, from gigantic outdoor spectacles with scores of participants, to miniature shows in living rooms. She has directed and designed community-based spectacles for projects in New York City and around the world. Romaine was a sound archivist at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research for thirteen years, and for several decades, she has drawn on Yiddish and pan-Jewish primary source materials to create art that has contemporary meaning. 

Her projects include Muntergang and Other Cheerful Downfalls, a Great Small Works production; The Sukkes Mob (featured in the film Punk Jews); community Purim shpiels with the Aftselakhis Spectacle Committee in cahoots with JFREJ; The Revival of the Uzda Gravediggers with Geoff Berner, Sadie Gold-Shapiro, and Belarusian poets Siarhej Chareuski and Maryia Martysevich; Vu Bistu Geven? / Where Have You Been?, a Quebec-based adventure parable that asks questions about diasporic Jewish relationships to land; and “Bobe Mayses”—Yiddish Knights and Other Impossibilities with the Other Music Academy (Weimar/Berlin).

Romaine’s work is made possible by and conducted in partnership with Building Stories Studio, Simone Lucas, Mary Feaster, Yiddish New York, KlezKanada, the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene, Rosza Daniel Lang/Levitsky, Ira Khonen Temple, Jessica Lurie, Daniel Majesty Sanchez (z”l), Boxcutter Collective, Tine Kindermann, Frank London, Eleonor Weil, Jewlia Eisenberg, Hadar Ahuvia, Elana June Margolis, the Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship, Rachel Schragis, JVP, Fihi Ma Fihi Productions, and more!

Romaine was the first recipient of the Adrienne Cooper Dreaming in Yiddish Award (2014), received a Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (2015), and is featured in Dazzle Camouflage: Spectacular Theatrical Strategies for Resistance and Resilience, a monograph by Ezra Berkley Nepon. In pandemic times, Romaine has co-anchored the Naming The Lost Memorials Project.