[Marxism] “Yiddish Theater: A Love Story”

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 23 11:30:41 MST 2007

Playing at the Pioneer Theater in New York until the 28th, “Yiddish 
Theater: A Love Story” documents the efforts of Zypora Spaisman to keep 
Yiddish theater alive. As impresario and performer, the 85 year old 
holocaust survivor was determined to inspire a new generation to 
appreciate what was once a vibrant part of New York’s cultural 
landscape. Directed by Israeli Dan Katzir, the film is much more of a 
tribute to her dedication and perseverance than a study of a genre. That 
being said, there is enough historical context to at least help us 
understand why Spaisman’s struggle was an uphill one. Put succinctly, 
Yiddish theater died because Yiddish died.

In addition to Spaisman, there are interviews with David Romeo, the 
general manager of the Yiddish Folksbiene Theater. Throughout the film, 
we see him knocking on doors of wealthy Jews trying to get donations to 
keep the theater going–mostly unsuccessfully. It becomes clear midway 
through the film that no matter how rich a cultural legacy Yiddish 
theater is, contemporary Jews have become so assimilated that they see 
no value in keeping it alive. Jewish identity for them mostly means the 
Hebrew language and the modern state of Israel. Yiddish symbolizes 
weakness, victimhood and the ghetto while Hebrew represents virility, 
success and power. Zionism was so anxious to destroy the cultural legacy 
of Yiddish that an organized campaign to stamp out the language was 
mounted not long after the state of Israel was created. In so doing, the 
Zionists demonstrated a kinship with Joseph Stalin who also tried to 
suppress the Yiddish language as well as the Russian-Yiddish theater.


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