Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
As the ad says, before there was
“Fiddler on the Roof” there was Sholem Aleichem, the Yiddish storyteller whose
takes of Tevye the Dairyman were the inspiration for the beloved award-winning
musical and film. Sholem Aleichem was the
pen name for Solomon Naumovich Rabinovic who was born
in the Ukraine in 1859 and
died in New York
This new documentary by Joseph
Dorman is filled with photographs and images that tell Sholem’s story, but it
also recounts in vivid detail and image the story of Eastern European Jewry in
the late 19th century and their efforts to join the modern world.
The experts who comment are informed and enthusiastic about their subject, but
none more so than his granddaughter, Bel Kaufman, who was five years old and
still living in Russia,
when her grandfather died.
Sholem Aleichem’s legacy is that
he helped create the Yiddish press and preserve a culture often looked down
upon by some moderns who wish to speak only Hebrew. Although written in the Hebrew alphabet,
Yiddish is a fusion of high German, Russian,
Aramiac and the Romance languages.
It is spoken by Orthodox Jews and within Hasidic communities.
The documentary also traces
Jewish life and history in the Russian Pale, or Jewish settlements confined to
areas by the Czars and where pogroms were often carried out.
Sholem went through many
fortunes in his life and he created the character Tevye, the milkman, to have
someone to talk to. There is a deep irony to Sholem’s life and writings. And
many parts of the film made me laugh. For example, when Sholem’s mother died,
his father sought a new wife. However, he had twelve children, so he parceled
them out to neighbors and once he was firmly remarried, he brought them home
one or two at a time, so she had to take care of them.
If you are a student of
humanity, religion, history, literature or theater, I hope you will have the
opportunity to enjoy this film.
Click here for a list of screenings of this film.
Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.
blog comments powered by