Editor’s Notes: Jews in America & Divine Destiny is currently available on DVD.
Jews in America & Divine Destiny
The Golden Age of Second Avenue, originally aired on PBS, explores the Golden Age of Yiddish theater in America. These shows, produced for a largely immigrant audience, consisted of revues, naturalist drama, operetta, comedies, melodramas, and musicals and were presented in Yiddish, the language of the Central European Ashkenazi Jewish community. The heyday of American Yiddish theater was the late 19th century until just before World War II. A DVD bonus features actor Theodore Bikel introducing the documentary.
Bubbe Meises, Bubbe Stories, written and performed by Ellen Gould, is a journey of discovery inspired by her grandmother’s stories. Ms. Gould shares the joys of Jewish life through these colorful tales, which serve as both amusing and nostalgic reminiscences of a bygone era and a look at history through the eyes of three individuals: herself and her two grandmothers. The grandmothers are very different, which allows Ms. Gould to show her range. Photos and music are incorporated into her one-woman show effectively and several familiar Yiddish phrases are sprinkled throughout. This show won two Emmy Awards. Bonus extras include a photo gallery and biographies.
Do You Believe in Miracles? is an uplifting selection of true stories of couples and families whose lives were saved or changed dramatically because of their faith. Filmmaker Hanoch Teller equates these happy occurrences with miracles, his thesis being that miracles are definitely real. The stories themselves are interesting, but the viewer can’t help but feel the overbearing hand of the director throughout. The film tends to be overly didactic; a lighter approach might have driven the theme home more effectively. Bonus features include an introduction by writer/film critic Michael Medved and an interview with Hanoch Teller.
For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.