A riveting portrait of the great writer whose stories became the basis of the Broadway and big screen musical Fiddler on the Roof.
Far from the folksy grandfather many people mistake him to be, Sholem Aleichem was a sophisticated modern writer and cosmopolitan intellectual, an artist the equal of Chekhov or Gogol or Isaac Babel. His work left lasting legacies in Israel and the Soviet Union, as well as in America to which Sholem Aleichem immigrated twice, and where he died in 1916. His funeral was attended by some 200,000 people. It was the largest public funeral the city had ever witnessed and announced the arrival of the American Jewish community as a force to be reckoned with. In the following decades, Sholem Aleichem’s work, especially his Teyve stories, would be interpreted time and again by an American Jewish community whose own identity was evolving over time. Using rarely seen photographs and archive footage, the voices of actors Peter Riegert and Rachel Dratch, and interviews with leading experts such as Columbia’s Dan Miron, Harvard’s Ruth Wisse, David Roskies of the Jewish Theological Seminary, author and Yiddish translator Hillel Halkin, Aaron Lansky, the founder of the National Yiddish Book Center, and Bel Kauffmann, Sholem Aleichem’s own granddaughter, the film brings to life as never before Sholem Aleichem’s world and his timeless stories.