Sunday, September 3, 2017

Hester Street (1975)

Hester Street (1975): This wonderful film, which stars Carol Kane (Gitl), Steven Keats (Jake) and Mel Howard (Bernstein), directed by Joan Micklin Silver, is a beautiful period piece set in the Lower East Side of New York City in 1896. This film is based on Abraham Cahan’s 1896 novella Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto, a telling of what Jews from Europe faced coming to America at the turn of the century. In short, the tension between the Old World and the New World. America, after all, was the land of invention and re-invention and new beginnings. It is as much about assimilation into di goyisher velt as about preservation of di yidisher velt, about how far Jews would go to adopt the ways of the non-Jewish world, chiefly as a way to fit in to the broader culture and not be viewed as griners (“greenhorns,” or old-fashioned and out of step with modern life). America offered so much to the Jews, so much that was denied them in Europe. As much as America was good for the Jews, and as much as this is true, not everything old should be forgotten. Such is the importance of tradition, which is why the film was made, its director says (She also made Crossing Delancey (1988), another NYC-based Jewish-themed film): “Interviewed by American Film magazine in 1989, Silver spoke about her choice of subject for Hester Street. ‘I thought, I’m going to make one that will count for my family. My parents were Russian Jewish, and my father was no longer living, but I cared a lot about the ties I had to that world. So that was how Hester Street started.’ ”
Via: Youtube

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