Yiddish: a tale of survival

Yiddish: A Tale of Survival, is a documentary about Yiddish after the Holocaust. It focuses on three generations of Yiddish performers: Shmuel Atzmon, Bryna Wasserman and Milena Kartowski, and examines the state of Yiddish in the 21st century. Here is the trailer:

Yiddish was the main spoken and literary language of Northern European Jews from France to Russia for several hundred years. During the Holocaust a majority of the world’s Yiddish speakers were annihilated. As a result, the Yiddish culture – language, literature, and theatre was nearly destroyed, leaving many wondering whether Yiddish had any future at all.

Twenty-five years ago, Shmuel Atzmon, a holocaust survivor, started a Yiddish Repertory theatre in Israel. He took young Hebrew speaking actors and taught them the Yiddish language, its music and culture. There is now a first rate Yiddish Repertory Theatre in Tel Aviv called Yiddishspiel.

Arriving in Canada in 1950 with two young daughters, Dora Wasserman, succeeded in creating a Yiddish theatre troupe made up of students and their parents, many Holocaust survivors. Her work has been carried on by her daughter Bryna Wasserman, who recently presided over the fiftieth anniversary of the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Troupe by initiating the first ever International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal. Milena Kartowski, a twenty-three year old student of dance, jazz, and opera, from Paris, and a grand daughter of Holocaust survivors, has recently discovered the Yiddish language and its attendant culture. She has fallen in love with Yiddish theatre and song. Milena not only understands the essence of Yiddish culture but also the importance of preserving a culture that is on the verge of extinction.

Yiddish Poster

About me:
 
My name is Abigail Hirsch. I was born into a Jewish family that survived the Holocaust in Europe. I rediscovered the beauty and depth of the Yiddish theatre through the International Yiddish Theatre Festival that was held in Montreal in 2009, and was inspired to initiate this documentary. Everywhere I went in Israel, the US and Canada and shared this project, people of all languages, Jews and non-Jews were excited about it.
 
Update 1/10/2013:
 

We have completed the film and have been submitting the film to Festivals and distributors and potential sponsors.  We held a press screening at McGill University in Montreal on December 10, 2012, Human Rights Day and got some very favorable press coverage. Pierre Landry interviewed me on the CBC Home Run radio show on Dec. 10:  Janice Arnold published a review in the Canadian Jewish News.

http://www.cjnews.com/arts/doc-looks-challenge-preserving-yiddish-theatre

A hartzigen dank (a heartfelt thank-you) to everyone who has donated to help fund this film!  Will keep you all posted on future screenings and how to access the film.

The film has been self-funded and any donations are gratefully appreciated.


Sincerely,

Abigail Hirsch

Why Yiddish?

As many of you know I am working on a documentary on the transmission of Yiddish since the Holocaust. Many people say to me, Yiddish? Why? Of what use is it? Yiddish was the day-to-day language of 11 million Jews living in Northern Europe, from France to Russia, for over a thousand years. The Holocaust caused the deaths of millions of European-born Jews many of whom spoke Yiddish. Yiddish in our time could easily be lost to us since the primary  language of the Jewish people has now become Hebrew, the national language of Israel. Hebrew, the language of our holy texts, the Torah, has been revived as a spoken language during the last century and is the official language of Israel, spoken by Israelis. Most of the Jewish world now lives and breaths in Hebrew.

Yiddish a tale of Survival

Yiddish a tale of Survival

So of what use is Yiddish? Israel Bercovicci wrote … it is through Yiddish theatre that “Jewish culture entered in dialogue with the outside world,”both by putting itself on display and by importing theatrical pieces from other cultures. So “Is Yiddish important”? Is culture important? Is being Jewish important? Only you can answer that question.

In my documentary I focus on the lives of three characters who have devoted their lives to ensuring the survival of Yiddish: Shmuel Atzmon, a Holocaust survivor; Bryna Wasserman, a second generation Yiddish artist, and Milena Kartovsky, a third generation Yiddish performer from Paris.

So, is Jewish history and literature important? If your answer is yes! that Yiddish is part of the Jewish legacy! and you feel it is important to appreciate the story of Yiddish in our time with future generations, I invite you to watch this important documentary about Yiddish which talks about the transmission of Yiddish from generation to generation in North America, in Israel, and in Europe.