“Yiddish: A Tale of Survival” is a documentary that intricately chronicles the narrative of Yiddish’s endurance post-Holocaust. The film follows the personal journeys and performances of three generations of Yiddish performers, including Shmuel Atzmon of Tel Aviv, who led Israel’s first Yiddish Repertory Theatre; Bryna Wasserman, the custodian of the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre legacy and founder of the inaugural International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal; and Milena Kartowsky, a passionate advocate and performer of Yiddish culture in Paris. Through their stories, the documentary showcases the resilience of Yiddish in the face of near destruction.
Yiddish, once the primary spoken and literary language of Northern European Jews from France to Russia for centuries, suffered immensely during the Holocaust, with the majority of its speakers being killed. The devastation left many doubting whether Yiddish had a future. However, the documentary includes excerpts from Yiddish musical theatre, offering a glimpse into this vibrant tradition’s cultural resilience and artistic heritage. It also documents grassroots efforts and the resurgence of Yiddish despite significant obstacles in Israel and worldwide.
Before World War II, Yiddish thrived as the language of over 11 million Jews globally, but today, its speakers number fewer than 2 million. The Holocaust catalyzed a shift toward Hebrew as the primary language for shaping a new Jewish identity. Yet, the survival of Yiddish, which encapsulated centuries of Jewish history and culture in Europe, often went unnoticed.
“Yiddish: A Tale of Survival” presents a compelling memoir highlighting the stories of three dedicated individuals who contributed significantly to Yiddish theatre.
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The documentary was completed in January 2013 and has been presented at several prestigious events and venues.
- Press Preview Screening at McGill University, December 2012
- IAYC conference in Pittsburgh, March 2013
- Airing on Mountain Lake PBS (New York), starting on May 22, 2013
- New York City International Film Festival, June 2013
- Aleph Kallah conference in Rindge, New Hampshire, July 2013
- Montreal World Film Festival, September 2013
- Haverford Yiddish Culture Festival, October 2013
- Abigail Hirsch featured in a 10-minute radio interview on CBC’s “All in a Weekend” on August 31, 2013.
- Radio Shalom Montreal 1650 AM Interview
- Abigail Hirsch featured in an in-depth interview on Mountain Lake PBS on May 9, 2014.