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Hebrew and Jewish Studies blog


Library news and subject support for Hebrew and Jewish Studies


Expanded Jewish film collection

By Vanessa Freedman, on 23 June 2014


We have greatly expanded our Jewish film collection with the acquisition of 60 DVDs from the National Center for Jewish Film. A few of these are replacements for obsolete videocassettes but most are new titles.

There are films going right back to the silent era (the earliest was released in 1910) and many are from the golden age of Yiddish cinema in the 1930s. The most recent is a documentary about Holocaust survivors released in 2002.

Most of the films were made in the USA, but there are also films from Poland, the USSR, Palestine/Israel, Austria, Germany and Spain. As well as Yiddish, there are films in English, Russian, Polish, German and Hebrew (all have English subtitles).

Many are based on classic Yiddish works by Sholem Aleichem, S. An-ski, Peretz Hirschbein, Jacob Gordin, Sholem Asch, Mendele Mokher Sefarim and others. The actors include well-known names such as Celia Adler, Molly Picon, Maurice Schwartz, Boris Thomashefsky, Ester-Rahel Kaminski, Zygmunt Turkow and Moishe Oysher. Directors include Sidney M. Goldin, Joseph Seiden, Edgar G. Ulmer, Henry Lynn and Joseph Green.

There are also a number of documentaries about Palestine (and later the state of Israel), Jewish life in Eastern Europe, the history of the Jews in Spain and Yiddish cinema.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • A brivele der mamen (A letter to mother), one of the last Yiddish films made in Poland before the Nazi invasion, and the highest grossing Yiddish film of its time.
  • Lang ist der veg (Long is the road): released in 1949, this was the first feature film to represent the Holocaust from a Jewish point of view. It was made by and about Jewish displaced persons and shot on location in a displaced persons camp.
  • A child of the ghetto: a silent film released in 1910, this was one of the earliest films to treat an interfaith romance unproblematically.

All these films can be found via Explore. To limit your search to films, use the advanced search option and then choose ‘Audio Visual’ from the Material Type list.

Further reading:

Goldman, Eric A., Visions, images, and dreams: Yiddish film, past and present. Teaneck: Holmes & Meier,  2011. YIDDISH F 300 GOL

Goldberg, Judith N., Laughter through tears: the Yiddish cinema. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1983. YIDDISH F 300 GOL

Hoberman, J., Bridge of light : Yiddish film between two worlds. Hanover: Dartmouth College Press, 2010. YIDDISH F 300 HOB

Teicholz, Tom, et al. “Motion Pictures.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 14. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007, p. 570-578. HEBREW REF A 2 ENC and online.


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