Trailer from the documentary Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness

This trailer from "Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness" features writings and humorous reflections of Sholem Aleichem and his life.

Transcript (PDF)

Transcript (Text)

It's too bad you're in such a hurry, because the stories I can tell you, bushels and baskets of stories, whole crates full of stories. But if you can spare a moment, I'll tell you one story-- a true story.

The reading of a story of Sholem Aleichem on Friday night became a Jewish family ritual.

Sholem Aleichem is trying to paint a portrait of a society at the same time as that society is dissolving.

His genius was he saw where Jews were going, but he also knew where they came from.

Jews have undergone a tremendous transformation. And Sholem Aleichem, more than any writer, has captured its challenges. He's captured its humor.

As the saying go, if you have money, you're not only clever, but handsome, too, and can sing like a nightingale.

Sholem Aleichem never uses humor to escape from what's terrible. He uses humor to enable you to understand that there is a perspective from which the most terrible thing is funny, too.

He wrote in his autobiography, "To make people laugh was almost a sickness with me."

May the worms eat you. May a toothache make you yell.

In short, I am now in real estate. Why real estate? Because--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

I pronounce you a certified lunatic.

I'm so happy I could sing.

We're off to America!

And Sholem Aleichem began to write a series of essays about Tevye the Milkman and his seven daughters.

When you have daughters, they say, [YIDDISH] You forget to laugh because daughters is a serious business.

Hodel, my second daughter, pretty as a picture. And if looks aren't bad enough, she has the brains to go with it.

Fiddler was created from the perspective of the promised land and how good it is to reconnect with tradition.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Sholem Aleichem was exploring one question-- how to be Jews in a modern world?

He gave us the literature, which could bridge a gap when we're shifting not from one generation to the next. This is going from one epoch to the next.

There is no question that he becomes a true culture hero.

He's the ultimate modern, or to put it more accurately, he's the precursor for us.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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