2002-08-01 / Arts & Entertainment

Documentary Examines Vanished World Of Eastern European Jews

Two unidentified children stand in front of their 19th century Eastern European shetl. 				 Courtesy of Two Cats ProductionsTwo unidentified children stand in front of their 19th century Eastern European shetl. Courtesy of Two Cats Productions

Actor Elliott Gould, a Brooklyn native, narrates "A Yiddish World Remembered," which will debut on WLIW21, a Long Island-based public television station, on Saturday, August 10 at 9:00 p.m.

With some of the remaining eyewitnesses, as well as noted scholars on the Jewish experience, telling the story of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, this documentary special is accompanied by never-before-seen archival films, vintage photographs and traditional Klezmer and cantorial music.

Many may not know that contemporary Jewish life bears a direct connection to life in the shetls (small Jewish towns) and sophisticated, large, urban communities of Eastern Europe. From that world arose a variety of traditions and traits that are still embraced today. As the 20th century began, many of Eastern European Jews moved from the shetls to America or to large cities such as Warsaw, Cracow, Kiev and Odessa.

The 120-minute documentary profiles the defining elements of yesterday’s Jewish community, including the devotion to God, traditional foods, style of dress, dedication to education, humor and the instinct for survival, which was strongly tested during centuries of pogroms and later, the Holocaust.

A Yiddish World Remembered explores everything from the fascinating language of Yiddish to the Rabbis and Rebbes that often ran the communities, to the balebustes (good housewives). In addition, the show looks at everything from the Shuls and Kbeyders (Jewish schoolhouses) to the powerful Jewish movements of Hasidism, Bundism and Zionism.

Adding visual texture and depth is contemporary footage of what is left of these neighborhoods in Europe today, in Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and western Russia: a clutch of crumbling shuls, schools, and cemeteries -- whatever remains of this fascinating and extraordinary all-but-lost period in history.

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