Isaiah Sheffer, 1935-2012

Isaiah ShefferIt is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of our Founding Artistic Director Isaiah Sheffer. Whether you knew Isaiah intimately, or simply as that warm resonating voice from the radio on Selected Shorts, everyone can agree that we lost a special soul who will be dearly missed by all. Please share your thoughts, memories, and funny stories (everyone has a funny Isaiah story!) below in comments.

We know that Isaiah touched your lives on a weekly basis, and we hope to provide a place of comfort and sharing as we all pay tribute to a man who truly made history by dreaming of and executing the seemingly impossible day after day.

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190 Responses to Isaiah Sheffer, 1935-2012

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  14. Beata Moon says:

    Isaiah was a warm, generous man who genuinely was supportive of so many people, myself included. The twinkle in his eyes, his witty sense of humor, his mellifluous, resonant voice will be missed. Thank you, Isaiah, for all that you’ve given us!

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  16. A. J. Papirio says:

    Selected Shorts was to me like an old trusted friend. Every Sunday I’d look forward to traveling, in my mind, to whatever places Isiah’s short story selections would take me. Isiah was the quintessential good friend to all of us, sharing the stories that he loved with everyone who listened. I’m thrilled that the show is being carried on in such a wonderful way. It’s a tribute to Isiah and the care and love that he invested in it.

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  18. It is just now that I have learned of Mr. Sheffer’s passing. I was an development intern once at Symphony Space (Summer 2009) and have met Mr. Sheffer once in passing and another time as he was reading a Selected Shorts piece by the Hudson. He was such a presence as unmistakable as his wonderful voice. His legacy is Symphony Space and that remains. I am proud to have worked in such a symphony of a space.
    Eric the Intern, University of San Agustin Little Theater, Iloilo City, Philippines

  19. James S Puskar says:

    Tonight, Sat., Dec. 15, I’m listening to Selected Shorts on KQED, San Francisco. I have been listening to the program and the stories for many years, but I had missed it since Mr. Sheffer died. i was shocked to hear of his passing when I tuned in tonight.
    Selected Shorts has been one of my favorite programs for many years. I was fortunate to hear Mr. Sheffer read a story at Berkeley Repertory Theater last year, and I always enjoyed his readings and his comments. Mr. Sheffer was a true treasure, and I will miss him greatly.

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  21. Valerie Smith says:

    I was stunned to hear the news of Isaiah Sheffer’s passing this morning, as I got set to hear Selected Shorts. I’m new to the scene, having only recently discovered this program after my move to CT, but I did very much appreciate that warm voice every Sunday. Heartfelt condolences to his family. I will offer a Baha’i prayer for the departed in his memory. I can only imagine how he will enrich others in the next world with his many talents and humor.

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  23. dave s says:

    I’m so sorry to learn that Mr. Sheffer died. Selected Shorts is one of my favorite shows. I just logged on to the website to download some stories which I listen to whenever I cook, and I saw that a show was titled “Remembering Isaiah Sheffer.” I will miss his introductions to the great stories (and readers). I like t think of myself as well-read, but I could always count on Mr. Sheffer and Selected Shorts to introduce me to new authors and stories. I will miss him.

  24. Joanne N says:

    I am shocked and saddened to have just heard of the death of Isaiah even though I had been somewhat preparing myself as I had been missing the regularly scheduled Sunday morning podcasts and registered the recent decline in his voice. Selected Shorts has been an important part of my life ever since I discovered it. I thank Isaiah for many comforting memories, which I can now keep as podcasts, and listen to any time the mood takes me.

  25. Jane Alexander says:

    Oh my, Isiah was so beloved, and will be so missed. When Isiah called we actors said yes; he was a master of casting. I loved reading Lady with the White Dog, one of many I read for SS over the years. Once though he asked me to read a story, which will remain nameless, that I didn’t like. I said “Isiah, please can’t you give me something different to read?” He gently replied “no, just try it.. maybe you’ll change your mind.” So I did and when reading it out loud the story fell into place and I came to love it.” Isiah had a special genius: a talent with literature and a talent with actors.

    • Jeff Eubank says:

      Oh, how I so enjoyed your reading that evening, as well as the others I was fortunate to hear. Proof of the insight that Isiah had not only into the work SS presented, but into all of the wonderful artists he asked to present them. Such matchmaking is a rare gem. Like a warm fireplace on a cold Winter’s eve, We became so accustomed to comfort of simply knowing we could attend a performance, or tune in when we couldn’t. Isiah and his influence shall be so sorely missed, and thank you to all who collaberated with him to provide us with such treadures.

  26. Trent says:

    We will miss Isaiah and his rich voice, his deft skill at bringing to life short stories (particulalry his own readings), his artistic direction in sharing new stories, authors and actors, and his obvious joy in doing so. Selected Shorts and Isaiah have made pleasurable amd insightful many long drives in my travels around Australia as I listened to Selected Shorts podcasts. He will be sadly missed.

  27. kathydeford says:

    So sorry to hear about Isaiah Sheffer’s death. I enjoy hearing him on Selected Shorts during my commutes around Omaha, Nebraska. It’s my favorite podcast and I will miss hearing Isaiah’s voice.

  28. Penelope Olson says:

    For one reason or another, I have missed the last several weeks of Selected Shorts here on Maine Public Broadcasting Network, so I was deeply saddened to learn that tonight’s airing was to be “Remembering Isaiah Sheffer.” I’ve been a faithful listener for many years, but my most treasured times have been on my trips home from September’s three-day Common Ground Country Fair (sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association). I am inevitably exhausted, often cold and wet, and yearning for home. Isaiah’s wonderful presence and the stellar readings by his guests have annually served to bring a sense of peace into my truck cab and I invariably arrived back at my rural Maine home calmed–and enriched by the experience. Blessings to his family and friends. He will be sorely missed.

  29. marcys says:

    I had no idea Mr. Sheffer had died. I just went to re-subscribe to Selected Shorts, as it had somehow fallen off my subscription list, and saw the remembrance. As a faithful listener to SS, I feel as if I lost a friend. He had the best laugh!

  30. Tandy Cronyn says:

    I met Isaiah even before he founded Symphony Space. He directed me in a lovely Off-Broadway play that was very well done, but only ran three weeks. But some years later he asked me to take part in a new play reading (by the same author) and we gathered at this somewhat down-at-heel old movie theater on Broadway at 95th Street to rehearse and then read for a very small audience huddled in the first three rows center. We were barely half way through the first act when strange noises and then sirens let us know that a fire had broken out in a small room off the balcony. We all ended up out on the sidewalk (Isaiah, playwright, actors and audience) and the reading was cancelled. I think it must have been one of the first, if not the first event at what was to become “The Symph”. But from this shaky beginning Isaiah and Allen Miller built one of New York’s most treasured cultural institutions. It has been my great joy to participate over the past thirty some years in Selected Shorts and Bloomsday and Wall to Wall concerts, as well as listening to Isaiah and the great programming he brought to the radio and attending readings and his Thalia Follies. What a stunning achievement. Dear Isaiah, with your wit and kindness, generosity and perseverance you have made the world a much richer place for all of us.

  31. Jim Story says:

    I first met Isaiah when I was a graduate student at Columbia and he and Eric Bentley decided to begin a political satire cabaret at Forlini’s Restaurant (Broadway at 111th Street, then) called the DMZ. I was tending bar at Forlini’s part time to pay my way at Columbia. From that day until the last day I spoke to him at Symphony Space Isaiah was one of the nicest, warmest, sharpest people I know. We’ll be indebted to him for many things, but to writers nothing compares to his development and nurturing of Selected Shorts. Learning of his death was a shock, and the aftershocks continue.

  32. Deb B says:

    It was a blow of surprising impact the day I heard Isaiah had passed away. I felt as though I had lost a friend, mentor, family member. Since I was a small child, I have always loved having people read stories to me. Blessings and thanks to Isaiah for keeping this lovely art alive.

    • Carol Douglass says:

      For years I have listened to Selected Shorts on our PBS station in San Francisco, KQED. Every Saturday night at 8 o’clock, there was first “Come to the Meadow,” that cheerful, lovely piece of music, and then Isaiah Sheffer’s voice; I could hear his smile in every word, the way he was devoted to the short story, to the actors, to the readings. I think I often listened to Selected Shorts as much to hear Mr Sheffer’s voice as to hear the stories; they were one and the same–intelligent, witty, warm, humorous. I realized lately that I hadn’t heard his voice for a few weeks, and I was hoping that he would be returned to us all. Only tonight did I hear that he had passed away, and it was a shock, a very sad shock. I knew him only from the radio, but feel deeply sad that he is gone. Hearing his voice was so very comforting, it was the last thing I listened to before picking up a book to read, every Saturday night. What a loss, and to so many people, as all the responses testify to. How his family and friends must miss his presence. Thank you, Mr Sheffer, for the contribution you made to this world.

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  34. Mac Barrett says:

    I’m just another one whose life is what it is because of Isaiah—that name, that voice, that song in the hallway, that fearless hitched walk, that instigator of momentous cultural occasions, the impresario of our lives, the center of a galaxy of stories, sonnets, ballads, spoofs, waltzes, duets, crescendos, operas, two-handers, harmonies, and laughter. Who’s going to say where to look now, what to hear? Who will give us the proper pronunciation? Who will wear the white suit? I sat beside him in the front row, house right, twelve hours of Stravinsky echoing in our ears, trying to hide my tears as Firebird ascended to its grand, beautiful, heart-wrenching end. A beautiful cellist moved her bow as if to stitch this moment into our memories. What I felt was love, affection, gratitude for the man who had made this possible, who made these things possible as a matter of his day-to-day life. He knew that this was exactly what we needed, that we couldn’t go on without it, even though we didn’t know it ourselves. A medicine man of the arts, our liaison to the secrets of Balanchine and Bach, Joyce and Beckett; devoted public advocate for the literary little guy, the short story, which he tirelessly took to the air as well as the road—to La La Land and Texas and storm-whipped Caribbean cruise ships. When I was still there sitting outside his door after three years as his assistant he began to make fun of me. “When’s Mac gonna gather his things in a handkerchief, tie it to a stick, and hit the road?” he asked, making me out to be a Norman Rockwell runaway. I was a short story writer too afraid to ever show him a story, worried what I might do if he liked one. I was the frazzled stage manager of his Follies. Suddenly I was in a dark booth looking at a puzzle of light board levers. Bloomsday was running three hours behind. Angry Joyceans paced in the green room. The videographer segment was not going over well. The poster was all wrong. The house was packed. The story was ending. The people were keeping their candy wrappers quiet. The doors were open. He was saying hello to all the loyal, admiring faces. He was demanding that an actor drop the accent. He was offering me my dream job. He was enjoying his paella made by Chinese people. He was showing me the art of Upper West Side alternate side parking. He was shaking the Gabler edition of Ulysses at us. He was asking again by what logic I had arranged his library. He was upset that I hadn’t yet copied the sheet music. He was asking me the historical significance of this date. He was rapping about our mayor in a gold chain. He was taking it again from the top. He was suggesting we all share a pint of ice cream. He was unable to get the Yankees on the TV. He was letting the laughter subside before continuing. He was insulted. He was singing in the face of a bad reviewer. He was in a hospital bed and we were there with a camera for the health-themed show. He was assigning me the part of Mr. O’Rourke (“Good day to you,” “’Tis all that.”) He was casting the part of the cat. He was taking the hands of people he cared about and bowing, and the audience was standing. He was walking down Broadway in his fedora, waving. He was dreaming of the next thing, our next dosage. He was telling me to go after the girl. He was walking out to stage left one more time after thirteen hours to say goodnight to the whole world. He was waking up the next day to say hello. I’ve got my things packed in my handkerchief tied to my stick hanging over my shoulder. I’m going to try, now, to run away. Thanks for the encouragement—I’m going to need it. And thanks for lunch. And thanks for the orchestra in my head. Thanks for every last thing. Bravo, Boss! Love to Ethel, a galaxy unto herself. – Mac Barrett

    • vanwindmill says:

      Wonderful, thank you. So comforting to know that others saw all that. Marjorie

    • Sadhana Seelam says:

      Mac, what a tremendous post! I only know Isaiah through the radio, had the pleasure of watching him read live on April 2 2012 in Berkeley, CA and literally brushing past him after the story reading as I was hurrying to drop off my daughter and will regret always not having stopped to say hello to him. But Isaiah being Isaiah was surrounded by moon-eyed people like me waiting to exchange a word with him. He read a Roald Dahl story that afternoon magnificently, I am aching to hear that again, SS hasn’t yet played it. I hope they will. I heard of his death so suddenly when Hannah Tinti announcing his death on SS that I am still under the weather, several weeks later. I don’t even want to get over it.

  35. D Garner says:

    his voice and the show were ‘one’
    … miss ROGER KELLAWAY’s ‘Come to the Meadow’ theme as well . . .

    • Carol Douglass says:

      Yes–I think eliminating the Kellaway theme was, is, a mistake. That piece of music so perfectly expressed the beauty, whimsy, thoughtfulness of Selected Shorts. The new theme music doesn’t compare.

  36. tammy hammat says:

    I have lived in Australia for 7 years, for all that time Mr. Sheffer’s voice (via podcast) gave me a warm, wise and whimsical voice from home. It made my heart glad.
    Thank you Isaiah
    Gods speed

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  38. I am honored to have worked with Isaiah at Symphony Space. This was my first job out of college and it was amazing to work in such a creative, warm and welcoming environment. This tone was set by Isaiah’s loving, positive, imaginative, funny, fun-loving, and intelligent energy. I will miss him but also believe he has left an amazing legacy!

  39. Stefan Jacobs says:

    Isaiah was a kind hearted and dependable friend who gathered wonderfully talented and creative artists to share their work. He was always so extremely supportive of me and my career for which I am grateful.

    -Stefan Jacobs

  40. Brad says:

    I first became acquainted with Isaiah Sheffer while living in MD in 2000, and grew to love the readings. After moving back to my home state of FL, I was delighted to find podcasts, and have followed his program ever since. Listening to the remembrance podcast last night was a bitter/sweet experience. He will be missed, and I offer my condolences to his family.

  41. Steve says:

    Mr. Sheffer made a positive impact on my childhood in rural Florida, showing that snotty, barefoot kid how beautiful theater and literature can be. He will be sorely missed. Peace and blessings to those who love him.

  42. Tim Crowley says:

    On November 25th I realized that the Selected Shorts broadcast was a memorial for Isaiah Sheffer. I cried. Beauty, truth and love are eternal concepts and Isaiah gave me an intense aural dose of these realities every Sunday. Beauty, truth and love will survive, but god dammit, I’m gonna miss the messenger.

  43. Henry says:

    I sadly will miss Isiah’s voice. My heart goes out with prayers to his family. The radio is forever changed.

  44. Andrea says:

    Isaiah Sheffer has marked, with his voice and his enthusiasm in Selected Shorts, my trips overseas, a lot of my nights and some of best moments I had. Will be missed. Deeply.

  45. Isaiah- these globs of oily tears are for you! I hope you create a Symphony Space in Paradise. Here’s to a wonderful supporter of the arts. Thanks for putting short stories center stage. Sincerely, An adoring fan

  46. ellen diamond says:

    Mr. Sheffer and “Selected Shorts” has always represented a bridge between childhood years and those that came long after. My father shared with us his love of the radio program “The Eternal Light,” poignant, humorous, wise short stories about Jewish life. It too was on Sunday afternoons, and the host had a warm deep voice. On other Sunday programs I heard other short stories by wonderful writers like Millard Lampell and Norman Corwin that shaped my beliefs about war. From the first note of the theme, “Come to the Garden,” I was transported back to that time when stories could make a believer of you. Just as then, the stories I’ve heard on Mr. Sheffer’s wonderful program have provided laughter, tears and lessons. When you heard him read, you knew that no one understood and appreciated what the short story could give to us than Isaiah Sheffer.

  47. Laurin Raiken says:

    I cannot believe that Isaiah is gone. His voice, love of the short story, connection to their writers and the wonderful actors he chose to read the constantly challenging and entertaining stories were always charged with the energies and enthusiasm of youth. In a day when digital forces are convulsing the publishing world, Isaiah created and sustained one of the most effective living links between stories and the audiences who need narrative as an element of our deepest human nature

  48. My wife, Gail Wofford, and I first met Isaiah when he and Alan Miller had just begun organizing what would become Symphony Space. With my New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) looking for a new home in 1978, and when passing under the marquee one day, I offered my services as a tech person for the new operation in our neighborhood. When asked how I had become involved, Isaiah was quoted as saying “He was sent to us by God!” Things were not always that divine, but I did become the first tech director and Gail the first house manager. Isaiah was always a fan of the material NYGASP presented and of our Company. We occasionally seek rewrites of topical lyrics to replace unintelligible ones in Gilbert’s librettos and Isaiah, as we all know, was masterful at coming up with such things. A particular favorite of mine was a verse of the Fairy Queen’s song in Act 2 of Iolanthe, which he wrote for us shortly after the nuclear incident at Three Mile Island, where the heat of her attraction to a sentry standing guard is described in then topical terms: “Plutonium pile, what megaton attraction. With such hot fuel, how can I cool this nuclear reaction.” I will miss running into Isaiah in the neighborhood and at the theater where NYGASP still performs on occasion, but I am thankful that his enduring wit was captured in so many recordings for posterity.

  49. megan says:

    i woke up every sunday here in ohio, with isaiah’s rich tone, pulling me from sleep. i will miss him.

  50. Gwen Countryman says:

    Selected Shorts and Mr Sheffers voice were a life line for me in a time of great insomnia. What wonderful things he accomplished in his life. He will be missed

  51. Diane Reiner says:

    I’m listening to Isaiah’s voice right now on the West Coast broadcast of Selected Shorts. It’s a tribute program to Isaiah so they’re playing only stories that Isaiah read. I think I’m in denial – it’s hard to believe that such a life-loving, vibrant, funny, philosophical, insightful human being could be gone. I think I’ll go back in the archives and find all sorts of stories that Isaiah read – even ones I haven’t heard yet – and listen to them. :-)
    RIP Isaiah Sheffer.

  52. Jennifer Kroon says:

    Isiah’s voice, thanks to KQED-FM in San Francisco, has been part of ‘the weekend’ for many years. I was so saddened to learn of his death. I had never seen a picture of Symphony Space nor seen a picture of him . . . I just knew the voice and the warmth and good humor it imparted to the listener. Rest in peace, Isiah. We will truly miss you.

  53. Michael Ingram-Stahl says:

    Great voice . . . Great loss

  54. larry zicklin says:

    I have lost a dear friend even though I never met Isaiah Sheffer. I made a habit of saving Selected Shorts podcasts for my walks through Central Park and wouldn’t “waste” them anywhere else. There seemed to be a perfect marriage among Isaiah, the short story, and Central Park.
    My life is truly changed.

  55. Kent McKamy says:

    When I moved to New York in the early 80′s, Symphony Space was a Mecca for me. Run down, more than dowdy, somewhat disorganized, but it had a shining light and visionary: Isaiah Scheffer. Not only did he preside over the complete rebuilding and glamorization of Symphony Space, but he pioneered Selected Shorts, one of my -must-listen-to’s every week, after having attended the live readings for 20 years. He gave voice to that most unrecognized of American art forms: the short story. And he never quit. He still hasn’t. It’s too bad he couldn’t see these glorious tributes to him while he was alive, but I’m certain he knows them and receives them now.

  56. Lisa Henderson, RN says:

    I am so deeply saddened to hear of Isaiah Sheffer’s passing. I never met him, but I knew the sound of his voice as it resonated through my car speakers on the way to and from work. His voice and stories were comforting, made me laugh and gave me something to think about all day. I would share his stories with co-workers and friends. I love listening to Podcasts. What a huge loss to so many.

  57. Jim Higgins says:

    Truly a great loss. I discovered Selected Shorts in 1989 and began recording them on cassette tape so I could listen to them again and again. Isaiah and company introduced me to some of my favorite writers, including Raymond Carver and Grace Paley, plus numerous other great short story writers. I hope Symphony Space carries on the tradition in the way that Isaiah did, with integrity, a steadfast devotion to quality, and a touch of whimsy lest we start taking ourselves too seriously.

  58. Mahlet T says:

    What a voice, what a loss.

  59. Saban, Ricardo says:

    I go to sleep every night listening Isaiah voice
    He calms me down and warms my heart
    I will miss him dearly

  60. Diane Matyas says:

    I never saw him-
    never a picture- or an inkling of his age, size, shape or color.
    But hear him I did…
    clear, strong, & ironic tones
    next to me – in my house
    voicing stories
    I was never alone.

    Thanks Isaiah

  61. Adrienne Cannon says:

    I never met him but I listened to him on the Selected Shorts podcasts. I am one of the many whom he touched but never knew. And I will miss him. May he rest in peace.

  62. What a huge empty space Isaiah’s passing leaves. Of course it’s not really empty, as all these heartfelt expressions show. Isaiah served the gods of story impeccably well. Now he becomes a story himself. I was honored to meet him a couple of times, but like so many of us, it was through his pioneering, loving, brilliant work on Selected Shorts that I really came to know him. May his memory be a blessing!

  63. Rob A says:

    I’m a 59 year old man but Isiah was the father that put me to bed with a story. I listened to selected shorts as I lay in bed and he brought me many stories from many places. He comforted me, intrigued me, and in his genteel way he brought me up from the everyday humdrum into a better place for that short hour. I slept better on those nights and I will miss him

  64. I’m just learning about this news today and I’m in shock! I will never forget Isaiah’s distinctive voice. Baruch dayan haemet. :(

  65. Max Chorowski says:

    I remember Mr. Sheffer as an announcer on WEVD radio in NYC (1330 AM & 97.9 FM) in the 1960′s. EVD stood for Eugene V. Debs, a famous Socialist and was mostly Yiddish during the day. In those years there were a lot of Yiddish speakers in the NYC metro area, like my immigrant parents. Reading that Sheffer’s uncle was Yiddish actor Zvi Schooler who could be heard on the station, it makes sense how Sheffer might have known about the job opening. The funiest line on their broadcasts would unintentionally come at about 4:30pm when they would say “this concludes our Yiddish programming. Stay tuned for for our Chinese language programs.” Don’t think many of my parents’ cohorts stayed tuned but maybe a Chinese waiter at Shmulkah Bernstein’s did. Rest in piece, my talented friend. We never met in person but I have enjoyed you for over 50 years.
    Max Chorowski, MD
    Longmeadow, MA

  66. Pingback: Fuse Remembrance: A Grateful Farewell to this Generation’s Best Champion of the Short Story » The Arts Fuse

  67. Shelie Drage says:

    I have listened to Selected Shorts for years and in fact attribute my love of short stories to the wonderful performances I hear on this program. I have so much enjoyed Mr. Sheffer’s amazing voice and interpretations. I live in Utah, have never been to NY and have only dreamed of going there some day just for the purpose of attending a Selected Shorts performance. I will miss this man whose voice I have grown so fond of over the years.

  68. Wayne Hankin says:

    My first memories of Isiah were at Symphony Space in the mid 80s. It was a wonderful dump and although it was not the most comfortable place to work, it was nevertheless cozy. Isiah always had a smile on his face, an open door to his office and allowed anything good to happen. Throughout the years I would tune in to Selected Shorts and it would bring back all the fun times I performed there. It was your neighborhood arts hub. Today the place is wonderful, but in a much different way. The success of that institution belongs to him and the people he loved having around.

  69. Mary says:

    Two of my aunts and I took the train to attend a Selected Shorts performance. It was magic being on the other side of the radio. We are fortunate, also, to live in the Albany, NY area which is very close to THe Mount where Selected Shorts would come for a summer visit in the carriage house of Edith Wharton’s home. My most favorite memory, however, is when The Big Read chose The Age of Innocence and Mr. Sheffer and two actors came to our local library to read a few chapters. It spoke volumes that the large performance room quickly filled up and they had to arrange an overflow room with video connection so more people could attend this wonderful event. Miss you already, Mr. Sheffer.

  70. Madeline Flannery says:

    I attended Columbia Teachers College in the ’80s and recall walking by Symphony Space in those days, checking out the next cultural offering and wishing my work and class schedule would permit me to attend one of them. Since my return to Eastern Kentucky 25 years ago to teach at a community college, I’ve cherished the weekly “Selected Shorts” podcast. Isaiah and the fiction he introduced have accompanied me on my daily walk, transporting me back to the upper Westside and the cultural expanse of Symphony Space and Selected Shorts. I honor his memory and can only hope the work he began will continue.

  71. Karolyn says:

    Was introduced to Selected Shorts by my once big crush. The introduction of this, and subsequently, Isiah Sheffer’s comforting voice, saved me from many stressful and lonely nights of graduate school’s black hole. I am sorry to hear of this loss but there is no doubt he will be remembered and live on in future stories presented by this wonderful podcast.

  72. Chris says:

    This is very saddening to my heart- though I never personally knew him, he was a big part of my life. I owe him a lot and he will be missed greatly.

  73. Moshe Bloxenheim says:

    Though I never met him, Mr. Sheffer had been a part of my life for over 23 years, by radio and then online. I owe him so much for all the wonderful stories, authors and performers that he brought into my world. His memory is truly blessed.

  74. Amie Mizzi says:

    Sundays are the best day of the week because of selected shorts. I am so saddened by Mr. Sheffer’s death. Rest in peace.

  75. EH says:

    This is very sad! Isaiah’s voice was a constant in my ears, on my ipod and therefore in my life. Seeing him host Selected Shorts with Mike Birbiglia, Ira Glass and Rita Wolf was an unforgettable experience. Isaiah, you will be missed!

  76. Pingback: Last thoughts, and a tribute | Notes from New York

  77. Roseann Fitzgerald says:

    I am so grateful that I knew Isaiah Sheffer who was my Arts Administration professor at Columbia in the mid-1980s and gave me my first job in the arts. I was his Publicity Assistant the play named “Cauldron” that he was directing at The Irish Arts Center, a two person play about the love letters between Maud Gonne and William Butler Yeats. I learned through Isaiah, that we needed the review to run anywhere but in the Saturday newspapers where many arts stories were relegated before this online world. If you could get a review in the Sunday paper (and in The New York Times, well, then you were golden! My deepest condolences to his family and I feel honored to have been a friend and former student of Isaiah Sheffer.

  78. Cary Gersh says:

    Never having lived in NYC, I became acquainted with Mr. Sheffer through his podcasts over the last couple of years. His humanity was evident in every introduction of the stories he shared with his audience. When I read his obit in the Times, it was like losing a dear friend. He will be missed.

  79. Darren Critz says:

    One of my favorite memories of Isaiah was discovering, during what may have been my first season at Symphony Space, that I was scheduled to read at Bloomsday, despite the fact that I’d never asked to read, didn’t feel up to snuff reading in the presence of so many great people, and quite honestly, just didn’t want to! I was simply informed in an e-mail that I was reading, and told when I was expected to rehearse – no questions asked. At the time I didn’t understand it, but now I do now. Isaiah saw the creative side in EVERYONE, and refused to let creative energy lie fallow. It was his way of lighting a fire under me to not lose sight of that side of myself. In hindsight, it’s an amazing gift from an even more amazing person.

  80. Gina Leonetti Boonshoft says:

    I’m at a loss for words. Isaiah was by my side for so many years as a teacher, a mentor, a boss and a friend. He was one of my professors at Rockland Community College and I was one of his students brought into NYC to help clean up the Symphony Theatre for a 12 hour show he was producing there. Who knew what the future held for that space? I believe somehow Isaiah always knew. I worked with him as his assistant when he directed a play for summer stock written by and starring Steve Allen. I was hired to work at Symphony Space in its second season in 1981 and remained there for five years. My segue into film production was in fact, due to the enormous experience I enjoyed at the Symph. For the past 25+ years I would run into Isaiah in the neighborhood, something I hoped for each time I was in his neck of the Upper West Side. Just to hear his booming voice call my name, or get a heartfelt hug was enough to make my day. What a bonus to have spent years watching him work, as a director, actor, emcee, singer. I don’t believe I have ever met someone so filled with the joy of living. Isaiah, you’ve left us all too soon. My love and condolences to Ethel and Susannah. You will live on through the amazing legacy of the Symph, your work, but mostly through your humanity.

    Gina Leonetti Boonshoft

  81. How much joy he has brought into my life. My wife and I listen to Selected Shorts on our frequent trips to see our grandkids. His voice, so gentle, engaged and filled with kindness provided us with real inspiration and delight. Selected Shorts is such an extraordinary pleasure. God bless him and all who love him.

  82. Marilyn Davie says:

    Almost every night, I fall asleep to the stories of Symphony Space on CD or podcast. Mr. Sheffer was so gifted at introducing stories, but how about his reading! “At the Anarchist’s Convention”, or “Notes to my Biographer” and so many more – I can hear his playful voice in my head right now. I will miss him.

    • Marilyn Davie says:

      My apologies. Jerry Stiller read “At the Anarchist’s Convention”, but you know, the mischievousness in their voices can sound kind of similar…

  83. Ellen R Goldman says:

    As a Selected Shorts subscriber, I have to say that I enjoyed Isiah Sheffer’s post-intermission remarks almost as much as the stories. One time, when the Soviet Union had come apart, he said, who could believe that a series of short story readings would out-last the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Or the time, around the Purim holiday, when funding for the arts was threatened by Newt Gingrich, Isiah asked audience members to roll up their programs and hoot into them every time Isiah mentioned Newt Gingrich’s name.

  84. Marian Lewis says:

    I met Isaiah Sheffer many years ago as a member of SS. I knew of him. I had heard him on Selected Shorts. I saw him on stage performing and introducing others. Then I met him at a members’ party. He treated me as though I was an old friend. I was astonished. My heart opened to him and to myself. It was a mutuality. We did not meet up again. And then on this Sunday morning 11/11, I was sitting in Thalia Cafe with others and the buzz went around that Isaiah had passed on. And we knew that to be true. He passed on. And he will always be with us. I cried. Again astonished that my heart could be so affected and filled with love for someone I met briefly. He changed my life for the better.

    • Judith Rivkin says:

      I met him many times, but he did no know me. Maybe he recognized me a bit just from from Symphony Space events and living in the neighborhood. But he still was important to me. He personified why I love to support Symphony Space– the love of all things creative, the celebration of so many people with such diverse backgrounds and passions, who all have something important to add to the mix. And all with humor! And even love. He made the world a smaller, more humane place. I always leave Symphony Space feeling more optimistic about life than I did going in. That’s Isaiah’s spirit.

    • Avi Nachmany says:

      One night, following another wonderful evening at Isaiah’s Space, I woke up in the middle of a horrific nightmare. I dreamt that Isaiah stood at his stage and announced that he is retiring. In my dream, hearing the news my entire body was filled up with consuming sadness. And I woke up totally shaken.
      I shared with him this short story afterwards. Puzzled, he said that, even when he retires, he’ll be around…

  85. I can see him at the podium on the main stage at Symphony Space, I can hear his voice and I can see that wonderful smile that makes me smile too — he will always be there for me with just the right words, just the right touch for the moment.

  86. Kate in Brooklyn says:

    Long ago (the year the movie “Shakespeare in Love” came out) I went to a poetry reading. Isaiah Sheffer read a Shakespeare sonnet. He introduced it as follows: “This is is a poem Shakespeare wrote for Gwyneth Paltrow.” it still makes me smile.

  87. Myra Lucretia Taylor says:

    Oh Isaiah, I miss you so much. Sonia Manzano is right–not stuffy. Isaiah was so casually erudite and elegant, and with such a twinkle in his eye. I’m grateful to have known him, and learned from him-how to be a smart and responsible artist, and have fun at the same time.
    May you have peace in your rest, dear Isaiah.

  88. Kay Cummings says:

    Isaiah was an original. He loved life and art and people and new adventures and always looked forward to what was next. He was a friend to me as well as to the arts and I will sorely miss him and who he was. He cannot be replaced.

  89. Ed says:

    How grateful I am to Isiah Sheffer z”l and Selected Shorts for introducing me to so many wonderful authors – from TC Boyle, Sherman Alexie, Amy Bloom, Nathan Englander – this list goes on and on. And the actors who made these stories come alive – their performances have changed the way I read, slowed me down and really made me listen to the author. Many days, Isiah would transform my commute from something I dread into the best part of my day. And what a treat to hear Isiah perform a story himself, with his warm, rich, sonorous, emotive voice. That little z”l after Isiah’s name means “of blessed memory” – and how appropriate a term for so beloved a man. I truly cherish Selected Shorts, and I’m looking forward to a bright future – but I’ll always miss Isiah Sheffer – a voice only heard coming through my radio one-way – as a dear friend. Thank you for all you did.

  90. Sonia Manzano says:

    For a man who knew everything he sure wasn’t stuffy. Once, on a warm afternoon I found him sitting on the wall outside Symphony Space. Joining him, we commenced to make believe we were chatty neighbors sitting on a porch somewhere in the mid-west gossiping about passers-by — which in Symphony Space’s neighborhood includes maniacs, intellectuals, and a few movie stars. Isaiah related to all of them. We have lost an integral person to our neighborhood. Thank goodness his sensibility will live on through Symphony Space.

  91. Marcia Lane says:

    I am so very sad to hear of Isaiah’s passing! I first came to know him at one of the “New York Is Book Country” extravaganza’s, when my storytelling slot came right before a Selected Shorts slot at the performance area. Isaiah came to me when I was done (and when he had finished introducing a reader) to tell me that he had truly enjoyed the story (and he thought it was really nifty that I wasn’t reading it!). I told him how much I loved Selected Shorts, and there! We were friends! I saw him frequently during the time when I produced the Christmas Revels, and in my meanderings on our beloved Upper Westside — where we both lived. When I had the honor of officiating at a wedding that Isaiah attended (yes, Rachel’s and Steve’s!), Isaiah said, “Marcia, you are a woman of many talents. You give good wedding!” I was touched. I love his voice, his smile, his sense of humor. I loved listening to him read about the election of a president of 10025!
    May his memory be a blessing.

  92. I loved his wit and sense of humor. The sheer delight he had in getting the live audiences to be laughing or on the edge of the seat. I remember him getting all of our audiences singing. Isaiah was an amazing champion of the arts. I hosted for Montana Public Radio three trips to Montana and know the show and those live visits were highlights for many of our listeners in Montana. I am so saddened to hear of his passing. I will read a short story aloud to my children tonight in his honor,
    Michael Marsolek – Program Director – Montana Public Radio – Missoula, MT

  93. Ellie S says:

    The perfect host…now gone.

  94. Isaiah was an extraordinary man, full of compassion, humor and life. We met in 1996 when I suggested we create literary based projects for the internet as a way to extend ideas he already had invented for Selected Shorts. I remember that first meeting with Isaiah and Kathy and how truly open they both were to explore this new way of working. Isaiah was the real thing. Maybe it was the Yiddish theater in him, but more likely, it was that rare quality Isaiah had that let him be relaxed with the world every day of the week, that is, relaxed enough to poke holes in the world, to let out a little pressure, and, well, to take life just a little less seriously when the world called for a bit of laughter. I will miss his beautiful voice that could, with the greatest of ease, climb to the cliff, hover a bit, and then come back down the mountain. With great respect always, Cheryl Kaplan

  95. Susan Beckerman says:

    I still recall the program of my first visit to Selected SHorts – notably “Gorilla, My Love”. I have been a member of Symph and a regular attendee at Shorts ever since….about 29 years ago.

    Certainly there were many memorable individual readings and evenings. But often the “commercial” was as entertaining as the program. Isiaiah brought his unique wit and impeccable delivery to “the pitch” for support for Symph. Regulars promplty returned to our seats to hear every word of Isaiah’s post-intermission shtick!

    I add my sincere condolences to Ethel and her family. Like many others who have experienced hundreds of hours of pleasure thanks to Isaiah’s and Allan’s vision and to those who have labored to realize it, I am grateful for what they achieved. It won’t be the same to enter that theater at 95th & Broadway without Isaiah’s warm greeting. But the best tribute will be for all involved to continue to celebrate shorts and music and dance and polititcal cabaret and film and kids programs.

    As i am finishing this, at 10 p.m. on Sunday, the WNYC broadcast has just begun, with a tribute to Isaiah followed by his voice.

    Without question, Isaiah Sheffer’s memory and his life are for a blessing.

  96. Joe B says:

    I was so deeply saddened to hear this news but, like so many others, I am also so fortunate to have known Isaiah. And also like many others, I was one of those lucky enough to have worked with (for) him for some years. Fortunate, lucky and blessed. This Italian kid from Pittsburgh learned enough yiddish from Isaiah to know what a mitzvah he was in my life. I’m sure I’m not alone.

    • Andrea Israel says:

      I, too, am enormously sad to learn the news. I’ve known Isaiah for three decades. Working at Symphony Space was my first job out of college. Through the years Isaiah has been a teacher and a supportive friend. He was very important to me, and I know the impact he had on many people’s lives. He will be greatly missed.

  97. Hannah Tinti says:

    I first met Isaiah about two years ago, but even before I walked into the studios at WNYC I felt like I already knew him–I’d been listening to his voice on Selected Shorts since I was a teenager. Later, after college—when I was holding down three jobs, working seven days a week, saving money and dreaming of moving to New York and becoming a writer—the program, and Isaiah, became even more important to me. Selected Shorts played on Saturdays, during the hour it took me to drive from one job, in a bookstore, to another job, waiting tables all night. My arms would be tired from lugging boxes of books, my hands covered with paper-cuts, and the last thing I wanted to do was work for another eight hours. Then Isaiah’s voice would come over the car radio, and it felt like a dear friend was keeping me company, and giving me what I needed to carry on: reminding me of the magic and the joy of sharing great short stories. I learned about so many writers for the first time by hearing them on Selected Shorts, and the next day I’d find their collections and novels in the bookstore and start reading the rest of their work. I looked forward to hearing Selected Shorts all week, and even though I lived far away and was only a listener, I felt like I was a part of a community.

    Years later, when Isaiah and Kathy Minton took me out to lunch and asked me to join the team at Selected Shorts, I couldn’t believe my luck. To be a part of this program, which had been so formative and such an inspiration to me, felt like an incredible honor. I was very nervous, and unsure of myself the first time I walked into the studio, but Isaiah, like the great director and performer he was on stage, took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He made it look easy—and was patient, even as I flubbed my lines. I was quickly dubbed his “sidekick,” the Assistant to Isaiah’s Magician. Every few weeks we’d meet at WNYC and talk about stories—but most of all—we had fun. Isaiah was full of life, and would launch into songs, or quips from old movies, or tell a joke and have everyone laughing. Over the past few days, I’ve heard many heart-warming tales from Isaiah’s friends and family and fans, reminding me of all the things about him that were so special: the way he could bring a room to life just by walking into it, the way he put people at ease, and how he always made everyone feel included and a part of things. Isaiah was a true artist and performer, a hero of the short story and the upper west side—devoted to his wife and daughter as well as his “other family” at Symphony Space. I’m so grateful for the twists of fate that led me from that rusty old car in Massachusetts to being across the desk from Isaiah at WNYC. He was a teacher, a mentor, and most of all: a friend. I am going to miss him terribly. Last spring, we performed a duet together on stage at Symphony Space. George & Ira Gershwin’s “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” I’m never going to hear that song again without thinking of Isaiah singing.

  98. att1 says:

    Wow, he’ll really be missed. I started listening to Selected Shorts in the late ’90s, probably when it started. Helped me get through grad school, to be honest. Thanks, Isaiah!!

  99. Arlene Marin says:

    I was a very lucky member of the audiences when BCCLS brought Selected Shorts to New Jersey libraries, I have listened to radio broadcasts for many years, To be in the same room with Isaiah Sheffer and the cast of readers was an amazing experience. Today’s broadcast was one with Isaiah, I closed my eyes and made believe he was still with us. My condolences to his family and friends.

  100. Will Kelley says:

    WBEZ in Chicago began to run “Selected Shorts” not long after the program premiered in the mid-1980s. Mr. Sheffer could select readers so appropriate for each piece that, with only their voices, they could bring listeners to laughter, tears, contemplation, or some combination, as each piece required, and make the outcome appear to be artless. This was the art of radio at its finest, and has been nearly impossible for others to copy. Anyone who could produce and host a program such as this has performed a great good service for people everywhere, and we in turn will salute his memory as long as we are able.

  101. Michael Webber says:

    I don’t have an Isaiah story – never met the man. I had started listening to Selected shorts a number of years ago while living in Central Wisconsin. I frankly never learned to appreciate Isaiah as much as I would beginning about 2 years ago. That’s when I returned to Maine from Wisconsin and began an hour long drive (each way) between my home in the woods in Western Maine to my job at a paper mill. Listening to podcasts of the show during the quiet, and often dark, drives I learned to appreciate what Isaiah was doing as well as how he was doing it. I loved listening to his dialogues/monologues at the beginning of the show and between stories. His love of the stories, and of the artists who were reading them was obvious. And I loved his quintessential New Yorkitude. When I was listening to him I felt like I was sitting with him right there in the city listening to great stories told by great artists.
    He accomplished much and he will be missed, I know at least by one old guy in the woods of Western Maine. God bless you Isaiah…

  102. What a great story teller. I loved listening to him and to Selected Shorts. So many good stories. I will miss listening to his voice on my radio and I’m so sad at the loss of him in our community. Very grateful to hear all the contributions he made to the literary and arts community. Much love to his family and friends, I’m so sorry for their loss and thank you for sharing him with us listeners for so many years.

  103. Sonja Noring says:

    Isaiah’s death is such a profound and distressing loss. That he conceived of, fought heroically for, and directed an extraordinary cultural institution that has enriched the city and, through radio broadcasts and live productions in many cities, the entire nation is a wonderful legacy.

    But I hope there is also some way to memorialize the fact that every event was informed by Isaiah’s active imagination, remarkable wit, expansive curiosity, and broad knowledge. He was as charming and funny a host during exhortations for funds as he was during sing-a-longs. He personified the creative drive that sustains New York City and nourishes us all.

    Thank you so much, Isaiah. We will dearly miss you.


  105. Suzanne Gilchrest says:

    I have had the honor and pleasure of working with Isaiah a few times over the last 20 years or so, as did my husband, Winslow Browning. I will always remember his gentle kindness and his wit. Thank you Isaiah for bringing us all so much joy.

  106. Isaiah told us (the Thalia Follies cast) of
    his pre date jitters on a high school date.
    “…I wrote the questions for her on the cuff of my shirt…”
    Thanks for allowing me to be the clown
    I always wanted to be. See you later.
    Marion Cowings

  107. Rosaline says:

    May his memory be for a blessing. He will truly be missed. Sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.

  108. Ken H. says:

    I have been listening to Selected Shorts for decades now and have depend on this programme to hep me through any difficult times, with Mr. Sheffer’s voice always a calm and warm introduction. While I have many recordings, somehow it will never be the same. While I hope his brainchild will continue, I will miss his presence. I am deeply saddened.

  109. Sarah Siegel says:

    Zichrono l’vrachah (z”l)/may his memory be for a blessing. The Sheffers were kind to me during the Summer of ’82 by hosting me in their home for three days a week, so that I could serve as an intern at the Museum of Philosophy at Hunter College with their daughter Susannah and other teens.

    My father (z”l) who was a toy and game designer, was dying at Columbia-Presbyterian that summer and I needed a distraction. We lived in Stamford and drove in to see him daily. My mom told the museum’s director that I could serve as an intern if he found me a place to stay 3 nights a week. The Sheffers kindly took me in.

    Once while at the Sheffers’, I turned Susannah’s radio to WBLS-FM and bobbed my head to “Rapper’s Delight” — R&B, Rap and Funk were also distractions from my dad’s imminent death (Groups like The Clash were more Susannah’s speed). Mrs. Sheffer walked past Susannah’s room and stood there listening, apparently amused and bemused in parallel.

    I remain grateful for the Sheffer family’s kindness when I was 17, and am sorry for the loss of Mr. Sheffer; my mom and I know what it’s like to lose a dear, funny, creative husband and father.

  110. I will miss Isaiah and I send condolences to his family on his passing. Having first met him in the West Side Art Coalition’s space some 27 years ago, it only took me another 25 years to meet with him at Symphony Space, along with David Amram as we planned David’s 80th Birthday Bash there. In fact I was with David at Symphony Space, as he received Clearwater’s “Power Of Song” Award from Pete Seeger on Friday, the day Isaiah passed on. He was a gentle, funny, inspirational, encouraging and guiding spirit to so many of us and will be sorely missed.

    • vanwindmill says:

      Oh my! I forgot to say: he was hiliarous, too. Sharp, hip, old-fashioned, modern…

    • How true, Mark. I was there on Friday as well and though I knew of his passing I was glad as he would have been that the news was not shared with the audience on that special night.He was the first person to offer his advice and name for the West Side Cultural center when we started in 1989, and I will never forget his generous support.
      Nanci Callahan

  111. Lanny Meyers says:

    Can it be that we will never again hear that magnificent, resonant voice directing, encouraging, crusading, informing, inspiring, making us laugh, so warm, so grand. Yes, we have Isaiah recordings. Far stronger are the unnumbered memories of sound and sight, anecdotes, scenes of happiness and silliness, and always, always his boundless generosity, that live strong in our hearts and bodies…Wall-to-Wall. 

    Farewell dearest friend.

    Lanny Meyers 

    • Lisa Monheit says:

      Thank you, Lanny, for your beautiful comments. I echo them all. Isaish was a rare and precious gift to the world. Neither time nor distance ever dimmed the fond memories of our work together. I cherish them all.

  112. ciaomarian says:

    Can it be that we will never again hear that magnificent, resonant voice directing, encouraging, crusading, informing, inspiring, making us laugh, so warm, so grand. Yes, we have Isaiah recordings. Far stronger are the unnumbered memories of sound and sight, anecdotes, scenes of happiness and silliness, and always, always his boundless generosity, that live strong in our hearts and bodies…Wall-to-Wall. 

    Farewell dearest friend.

    Lanny Meyers 

  113. Marian says:

    Clouds of sorrow hang on the horizon of our hearts and NYC at the loss of Isaiah Sheffer.

    With sharp wit, humor, and impeccable timing, Isaiah cajolingly wrangled the most impossible feats of artistic collaboration. Performers would gladly slip away from their higher paying gigs to contribute to his annual twelve hour Wall to Wall events. His audience was diverse and inclusive, and always felt welcome to experience the magic that lived and breathed within Symphony Space.

    His voice was precise and eloquent, as you tuned in to his spoken world which opened your eyes to the joy of a larger life—with all its quirks and complexities.

    I had the pleasure of taking a slow boat to China with Isaiah, his brilliant wife Ethel, and my husband, Lanny. I’ll never forget watching the profile of Lanny at the piano, rotating 40 degrees up, then down again—accompanying a group of seasick opera singers, on a storm struck Tasmin sea.

    The shows went on, as they alway did with Isaiah, but it is so difficult now to imagine another show, and the world that revolves around it, going on without him.

    I’ll miss watching him with admiration, from the poster plastered green room.

    Marian Schiavo

  114. Layne says:

    I will miss Mr. Sheffer’s voice and passion for beautiful words, and I know I’m not the only one. He brought joy and insight to people he will never know. What an inspired and inspiring life. Those he leaves behind can be more than proud, and I wish them peace.

  115. Susanne Tinkl says:

    We came to appreciate Mr. Sheffer due to our love of the Thalia Follies. We have been regulars of the show for many years. What most amused us was his vocal and stylistic impersonation of H. Kissinger – in one way or another. At each show, we awaited this – our – highlight. Until we heard at the pre-election Follies that Mr. Sheffer had a stroke and was not able to participate in this phenomenal political cabaret show.

    Please let us know what the plans are regarding the funeral and memorial services, as we need to join. Relocating from Germany to the UWS, Mr. Sheffer has been one of our closest and most reliable interpreter of current American politics. The Thalia Follies taught us so much, and we were laughing a lot with Mr. Sheffer on stage.

    We cannot believe that we lost him for ever, so prematurely.

    Our condolences are meant for his family.
    Best, Susanne with Wolfgang

  116. Why the greatest have to leave us so soon?! Isiah Sheffer was most kind and generous with advice and his support of my ambitious multimedia show “Prague Spring 1990″ at Symphony Space celebrating the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. I smile lovingly when I think of him.

  117. Page Simon says:

    Isaiah changed my life in so many ways, including hiring me to team teach a course with him at Rockland Community College, which lead to my full-time job there. (Thank you, Isaiah.) The first semester, we taught Hamlet to students who, Isaiah said, only divided history into two parts: modern dress and costume. He was a brilliant teacher. He was an amazing friend. Here’s a story: I don’t remember where we were going or why, but one evening we walked by a restaurant near Lincoln Center. Isaiah spotted George Balanchine in the window. We had to walk back and forth several times so Isaiah could gaze upon the great man. How I wish I could walk back and forth past a restaurant and gaze on Isaiah once again! My thoughts and love to Ethel and Susannah and all my friends from the early days at Symphony Space and all who followed and will miss him terribly.

    • John Lenihan says:

      Page, you may not remember me but I was a student during that premiere semester of the RCC Performing Arts Center. It was a great time full of promise and potential, and Isaiah was one of my first true mentors. Thanks for sharing.

  118. Joanne Hubbard Cossa says:

    Dear, dear Isaiah—such a long time we were together at the Symph almost every day. I can’t believe you’re gone. You made me laugh continually (often when things were at their most unfunny), you made me nuts occasionally, but never til now did you make me cry. What a gift to have spent those fifteen years with you. How much you were loved, and how much you’ll be missed. My heart goes out to Ethel, Susannah and your hundreds of dearest friends. Love from your former partner, Jo-Jo. (And no worries: I’ll never “mention the incident”.)

  119. Andi Stryker-Rodda says:

    So many years of being involved with NYGASP shows and concerts at Symphony Space, and chatting with Isaiah….For years, we also used his office off stage right as a “principal dressing room” for guest celebrities, including John Reed. Such a lovely man; I thought of him as the resident “genius” of SS, in the sense of guiding spirit. He’ll be missed by so many. Sincere condolences to all.

  120. Terry says:

    Oh no! He was such a welcome voice on my radio. A gifted and wonderful force.

  121. Deeply touched by the passing of a great man whose focus never failed him. Isaiah’s greatest gift was to love. He loved his work, and he loved his students. I was one of the fortunate ones to have received his gifts, and I will miss him forever.

  122. Anne Meara says:

    In 1982 I read ‘Molly Bloom’s’ speech in “Ulysses. I made Isaiah work with me on it. Even though I was Irish on both sides, I was ignorant of Joyce’s great work. We broke it down and I started to ‘get it’.
    It was one of the greatest experiences of my acting life. Thank you so much Isaiah, for your love of Joyce and your patience with Meara.

  123. Stiller and Meara says:

    One of the many performances Isaiah directed me in was John Sayles, “At the Anarchist’s Convention” It still remains, to this day, my best work as an actor. Thank you Isaiah, for this gift. Jerry Stiller

    • Laura Friedman says:

      I always wanted to tell Mr. Stiller this: I was walking by Symphony Space and I saw the ad for your reading. This story, The Anarchists Convention, was (and is) my favorite short story of all time. When I saw that it was you who was going to be reading it, I bought my first ever ticket for Selected Shorts. What a night that was, and you gave it the reading it deserved. A pleasure I still remember!

      • Jerry Stiller says:

        Thank you for those beautiful words Laura. It was because of Isaiah, who directed me in that story, that it came out so well. Jerry Stiller

    • vanwindmill says:

      I remember both Anne’s Molly Bloom monologue and Jerry’s “At the Anarchist’s Convention” – two of the best things I ever heard. Marjorie Van Halteren

    • Joyce Bullock says:

      And it still remains, to this day, as the best story reading I ever heard.

    • I was at that reading and have never before or since seen an audience react in waves of joy. I’m so glad you remember it as a great career highlight.

    • “Placecards at an anarchists’ convention?!!” That was a classic, Jerry.

  124. Jane Troy says:

    While I knew Molly Bloom’s soliloquy practically by heart (it was perhaps the only thing I could find about sex in my parents’ library) and never managed to read the rest of the book, though I tried (I’m basically a Virginia Woolf lover), Isaiah Sheffer made me realize what an amazing book Ulysses is, in countless ways, through the profound knowledge and love he imparted on Bloomsday every year.

  125. marjorie says:

    My prayer of consolation to Mr. Isaiah Sheffer family and everyone who knew him. Your amazing voice and unparallel success will be missed.

  126. Lee Bartell says:

    Lucky me! Isaiah walked into my store on Cape Cod and into my life. We’d go for a walk, have a snack together, talking and laughing. Moved back to NYC, schmoozed with Isaiah again. And there, sitting in the front row last month on David Mitchell’s evening, was Isaiah, and I got to give, and get, a gentle hug. Lucky us, as we’re all richer for having known him, and have Symphony Space forever. Well done, Isaiah. Farewell dear one.

  127. Seyna Bruskin says:

    I can’t even remember when I first met Isaiah, it must have been in the very early days of Symphony Space, but it turned out that he had worked with my father, Perry Bruskin, in the theater many years ago. Connections continued to evolve, but imagine my surprise when I saw Isaiah (for the first of may times) on the Promenade of the Theater formerly known as the New York State Theater, where I volunteered for the New York City Ballet: he was a very devoted fan of Susanne Farrell, the epitome of Balanchine’s Ballerinas. That’s actually a gross understatement: he totally melted at the thought of her.

    He had more facets than a crystal chandelier, was at ease with anyone and everyone, and had an unfathomable depth of knowledge about everything, which he willingly shared with the world.

    Everyone will miss you, Isaiah.

  128. Bonnie stein says:

    Fortunate to have known you and worked a few times with you. Isaiah. Genius. Voice. Mensch. Teacher. Visionary. RIP

  129. vanwindmill says:

    One of my first producing jobs at WNYC Radio in the 1980′s was packaging Selected Shorts for the airwaves. We weren’t sure who would want it first. One of the two networks at the time (I won’t say which one) said, “We’re not sure. The reading takes a little bit of time to get going.” (The person also said “you should listen to us if you want to be in the big time,” to which I replied by reminding her where 95th and Broadway was but never mind.) .The other network said “why not” and so then we had Isaiah and all that lovely literary light on radios all over the country – and it lives on. What a joy it was to work with this man. When you spent time with Isaiah, you felt like you had held the beating heart of New York in your hand. I will always be grateful to have known him.

  130. Ray Gallon says:

    I am sure I had some funny Isaiah Sheffer stories, but they seem to be hidden in the dark recesses of the zone of lost thoughts at the moment. I certainly remember his energy, his humour, his enthusiasm, and his dedication, way back when we started the Selected Shorts radio broadcasts on WNYC-FM, and also in many other collaborations over the years with Symphony Space, especially the wall-to-walls.

    My sympathies and condolences to his family, and to the Symphony Space family, he will be missed. The best memorial we can give him him is to carry on programming original, vital, contemporary performing arts, at Symphony Space and everywhere else that we may find ourselves.

    -St. Etienne Estrechoux, France

  131. Paul Arents says:

    Very, very sad news.

  132. Reblogged this on Thoreau's Sukkah at Walden Pond and commented:
    Adults need stories. I miss Isaiah Sheffer already.

  133. Sam Gregg says:

    I will miss Isaiah’s voice – he introduced the hour of my saturday afternoon that I wil always miss. Though I have never met him, and have only first seen his picture today, I have lost a friend that I have never seen. God Bless, Isaiah.

  134. Lin Shaye says:

    ….Isaiah is still a life force to all of us who knew him…Without him, I would not have the life I have. He made it possible for me to come back to the Theater Arts program at Columbia after a personal tradgedy…He encouraged me to have the courage. To keep going…to not sink… I am so sad. and I feel him and my loss of his life….Isaiah was mine…was ours…. and has always remained a force in who I am right now. Is there an address to send something…? Like my heart? and memories, and thanks and gratitude and love?……sure would love to hear that voice saying it’s all ok…that leaving isn’t so bad…that comfort of knowing it was all ok….this…….sadness, and recognition of our own mortality. and Isaiah not on this planet…that humor and voice…how can we go on without it and without him??? ..

  135. Michelle D. says:

    Today, I was riding the subway uptown when I had a sudden thought of Isaiah. I could hear his voice in my head, his usual telephone greeting, “Meshell, it’s Isaiah!” When I came above ground, there was a message on my phone from “Isaiah”; seemingly he had been thinking of me, as well. Sadly, it was a call informing me of his passing. Still, I believe as I travelled below the streets of his beloved city, he stopped by to say a final hello. Isaiah was my friend, my teacher, and, for a wonderful year, my boss. I will never forget sitting together in his tiny office, reading plays out loud. I will never forget our daily lunch outings or working together on the Follies. Isaiah was a brilliant man and made a tremendous impact on my life. Thank you, Boss. I will never forget you. To Isaiah’s family and friends, my thoughts are with you.

  136. Karen says:

    So sad… I hope you will plan a “Best of Isaiah” program. I always loved his readings and his friendly greeting on the podcast “Hello Shorts fans, Isaiah here!”; he seemed to have such love for his work. I will miss him!

  137. Jeanne Fortin says:

    Selected Shorts has defined my adult years! There were so many evenings or afternoons when plans were cast away because the story was too wonderful to leave… Mr. Sheffer understood that grownups love stories because we are still the children we once were who also loved stories. His appreciation for the writers and actors who “spoke” to us through the page and the interpretation of the page shone through in his selections and his introductions. He graced us with his presence here in New Jersey a few times in recent years. I was so looking forward to his return. I think his vision gave rise to many of the wonderful public radio programs we now enjoy as antidotes to “scream tv and scream radio”. He will live long in our hearts.

  138. Pingback: Sundown | Mazeltov Favors Blog

  139. Karen Kohler says:

    I met Isaiah after a Selected Shorts engagement in Austin in 1999. He was gracious and asked me how I spent my time. I told him I was juggling duties as manager of the headquarters of Whole Foods Market with building a cabaret career around the European Chansons of my native Germany and France, and he immediately invited me to take part in “Wall to Wall Weill” at Symphony Space during the Weill centenary the following spring. This formative experience influenced my decision to move back to New York City from Texas. My career here has flourished and Isaiah continued to be a generous, open-hearted supporter of my craft.

  140. deeply saddened to hear this news…i loved working with Isaiah…and was blessed to have his great enthusiasm and support….Years of incredibly rewarding Bloomsday and Selected Shorts performances in which he directed…”Rehearsal is the best part,” he’d always say. Isaiah loved to share his passion and knowledge of James Joyce and languages: Irish, Latin, Yiddish, French or nearly anything one had an question about….but the huge gift he personally gave me (artistically) besides the juicy segments of ULYSSES or rich stories he asked me to read….was encouraging me to fly with my instincts….Once in a while, he would not shy away from his disappointment in any aspect of a performance I gave, however….Even one word of a performance. After a magical evening at Symphony Space one night reading an excerpt of Lorrie Moore’s beautiful novel: “Gate At the Stairs”, Isaiah came up to me horrified that I mispronounced a Yiddish word, “latke”…! I was so upset at the time but am now smiling at the thought of his face aghast and his voice so stern….He cared. And was so attentive. To every word. I won’t ever forget Isaiah…. My heart goes out to his family and his family at Symphony as well. sending much love and sympathy….

  141. David Frutkoff says:

    It was my great pleasure to have met Mr. Sheffer a couple of times. Really, it was elating: he was tremendously charming and goodnatured, and he made a near party-crasher feel warmly welcome. Like so many others, I have cherished his voice and remarkable story-telling abilities for years and have keenly appreciated the wonderful, vital, and touching performances he directed at Symphony Space. I hope he knew how much he meant to so many people. We will all miss him keenly.

  142. Lori Doyon says:

    I’m so sad to hear this news. Heard it on NPR earlier and made a big GASP and threw off my headphones, Yet, I’m glad and fortunate to have met the man and learned from him, and I was so tremendously honored that he asked me to be in this year’s Bloomsday. It’s odd timing that I thought of him just this morning, and wished him good health and hoped to soon hear his voice on my radio again. The man is an inspiration and his shared insights will live on in me and so many others. His voice is still in the air.
    On a lighter note – on first meeting Isaiah (for a workshop on reading literature he gave at HB Studio) we were to bring one of Shakepeare’s Sonnets to read. I chose Sonnet 23. Because I love it and I’m nothing if not self-effacing. It’s the one that starts: “As an unperfect actor on the stage….” Turns out this one was a favorite sonnet of his too.

  143. Off to listen to Jamaica by David Schickler read by Isaiah from 18 Nov 2011 show as a tribute. A favourite of mine! I’ve been an avid listener for a relatively short time – about 18 months – but this has been a time when I’ve been writing full time, including many shorts, so very influential for me.

  144. Karla Keffer says:

    I had the great fortune to take a reading/performance workshop with Mr. Sheffer this past spring at HB Studio. He was an incisive teacher and a warm human being. Blessings, and may he rest in peace.

  145. Karla Keffer says:

    I had the great fortune to take a reading/performance workshop with Mr. Sheffer earlier this year at HB Studios. He was at once an incisive, perceptive teacher and a warm human being. Blessings and rest in peace.

  146. Julie B. says:

    I feel like I lost a friend…

  147. Mary Beth Hurt says:

    How will I ever know when to stop, when to go on,when to be louder or softer without looking at Isaiah’s gentle face? He was a lovely man, a lovely part of my life. I will miss him so.

  148. michaelspain says:

    Oh, this makes me so sad to read. I always loved listening to Isaiah’s voice on Selected Shorts on my quiet Sunday evenings. I have a ritual on Sunday evenings of cooking and doing busywork around the house all accompanied by the sounds of Isaiah and his stories. Often I would just burst out laughing (which always scares my cat) and even sitting down on the corner of my bed to cry, prompted by the poignancy of the stories he told. Although he was only a voice on the radio, I have fond memories of both the warmth and companionship he always conveyed. I am thankful to have benefited from his beautiful gifts and wish his loved ones sweet condolences during their grief.

  149. Eamon says:

    I’m deeply saddened. Isaiah made long Sunday afternoons bearable.

  150. Sandi P. says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the death of Mr. Sheffer. Selected Shorts and Isaiah Sheffer’s voice has been a wonderful part of my life for several years now. He will be missed.

  151. Adrienne says:

    I feel like I lost a friend. A very talented, well read, engaging friend. So very sorry for the loss.

  152. Arati says:

    I am so saddened to hear of Mr.Sheffer’s death. While I only knew Mr.Sheffer through the radio, he was a huge part of my life. He inspired me to read (re-read) and discover authors and stories I would never had access to otherwise. My literary education was undoubtedly influenced by his work. His warm, melodic voice accompanied me on many many years of experiments in lab, runs, and road trips. A signficant part of the soundtrack of my life has been silenced.

  153. Judy says:

    Just heard of Isaiah Sheffer’s passing while listening to WNYC. he was such a vital force,I associate him not only with Selected Shorts, but also with the wonderful Wall to Wall series and all the effort and enthusiasm he put into everything he did!

  154. Nancy Ingersoll says:

    I have been a fan of the “Follies” for years, and most recently saw Isaiah Sheffer, who was not able to be at the the show in person due to his health concerns, via video during the October presentation. My final memory will be that of Mr. Sheffer being interviewed as Henry Kissinger. He was so believable and funny in that skit. He will be missed.

  155. I routinely download Selected Shorts podcasts, and I listen to them on my iphone. It was Isiah Sheffer’s voice that comforted me when I was far from home and in need of a familiar voice; his love of the stories drew me in even when the stories were not necessarily those I’d have chosen to read. When he was the reader, I couldn’t help smiling. He understood the depth of a story, the integral place it had in a reader’s life, and he knew that it was how we pass our cultures on to one another. I admired him from a distance, but I adored having his voice resonate from inside my head.

  156. Eric Salzman says:

    I was privileged to know Isaiah personally as well as professionally and it was because of Isaiah that I had the opportunity of working several times at Symphony Space (my “True Last Words of Dutch Schultz” — with Valeria Vasilevski — had its American stage premiere at Wall-to-Wall Opera because Isaiah championed the work). Of course, he was best-known to a lot of people because of Selected Shorts but I can’t resist pointing out that Isaiah, in personality, intellect and artistic vision, was most definitely a ‘Selected Long’ — head and shoulders above us all in his vision, imagination, charm and humor as well as artistic leadership.

    Eric Salzman

  157. kathleen chalfant says:

    Oh my – I can’t really imagine the world without Isaiah in it – his voice his joy in all the things he made and the astonishing opportunities he gave to those of us who were lucky enough to work with him and travel with him from time to time – and then that he knew the power of storytelling and like visionaries everywhere he made that knowledge manifest – oh my oh my we will miss him very very much -

  158. Helen says:

    I’ve been a longtime listener to Selected Shorts, and I always love when Isaiah Sheffer reads. His voice is so full of warmth and humor. He’ll be missed.

  159. Helen says:

    I’ve been a longtime listener of Selected Shorts, and I always love when Isaiah Sheffer reads. His voice is so full of warmth and humor. He’ll be missed.

  160. Fiona Walsh says:

    I feel very honored to have known Isaiah as a friend and through his artistic endeavors for Bloomsday. A lovely man, a gentlemen and a scholar. Deeply missed.

  161. Julie Allen says:

    My disability prohibits me from reading recreationally. Isaiah’s voice was a magical discovery. Selected shorts my best medicine. Isaiah, I will miss you my “virtual” friend. Blessings to his loved ones.

  162. patricia kalember says:

    I felt as if I was a member of a very special group, lovers of the spoken word, lovers of good literature, performers who would travel anywhere (and we did) to read a story. You haven’t lived until you’ve been driven through Texas by Isaiah, playing word games to pass the time, stopping at one of his favorite restaurants just for the macaroni and cheese, then arriving at another town where we’d read once again. Isaiah would always sing the opening theme song of “Selected Shorts”, just so the audience could have the full experience. He will be so greatly missed….

  163. Dina says:

    I was saddened to hear of Mr. Sheffer’s passing. I am an avid listeners of the Selected Shorts podcast. While I have never seen or met Mr. Sheffer I always felt like he was sitting beside me in my living room on in the passenger seat of our car as I listened to an episode. The stories were so well chosen, his voice was warm and inviting and the stories he told were so engaging.
    I will miss him.

  164. Brian J. Heck says:

    It was an honor to work for Isaiah on the administrative staff of Symphony Space for almost a decade, but it was even better to have worked artistically with Isaiah in Bloomsday, The Thalia Follies, and and evening of Short Scores. I’ll never forget his story about auditioning for Jim Henson to be a Muppeteer back in the 60s. Apparently, he didn’t have it in the wrist. :) But at least that meant he got to go on and share his artistry with the rest of the world through Symphony Space. Truly a treasure who will be greatly missed.

    • Brodie Hefner says:

      This reminds me of a brief encounter I had with Isaiah following a Thalia Follies event that featured Isaiah as a rap stylist. His performance had included the full range of appropriate swagger…head-bobbing, gang signs, the gritty rhymes, and what I thought was a somwhat hesitant squeeze of his own upper thigh. Bumping into him I said, “I loved the performance, but you need to work on your crotch-grab.” Without hesitation he dead-panned, “I’ve been working on that all my life.”

  165. Suzanne Du Charme says:

    Isiah was my drama professor in college. I remember his vast knowledge of all things theatrical. I also remember his sense of humor. And he was the fastest two-fingered typist I’ve ever seen!

  166. Cindy M says:

    I looked forward to hearing Mr. Sheffer’s voice every week on the podcast. His voice and insights will be missed. Blessings to his loved ones.

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