Sholem Aleichem and the Challenges of Modernity

A Guide to the film "Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness"

Explore the life and works of well-known playwright Sholem Aleichem with this engaging resource collection. Featuring clips from the film Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness, along with lesson plans and historical background readings, this collection invites students to connect Aleichem’s life to the larger transformation of traditional Jewish identity in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Eastern Europe.

This website presents three lesson plans that are centered on excerpts from the documentary film “Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness” by Joseph Dorman. The film looks at Sholem Aleichem’s life and the culture of the shtetl  through several of his short stories, among them "On Account of a Hat" and "The Town of Little People" – to help uncover  some of the issues confronting eastern European Jews during the period of profound change at the end of the 19th century. In his inimitable voice, Sholem Aleichem used humor to appeal to his readers and shed light on the transformation of Jewish Identity.

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness


Sholem Aleichem, an iconic Yiddish writer, portrayed Jewish life in czarist Russia through his stories, which were the bases for the Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

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