Funny, moving, and poignant, A Bintel Brief takes us back decades and reflects on immigrant Jewish life.
The Jewish Daily Forward, (or, the Forverts, in Yiddish), based in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, started in 1897 and by the late 1920’s, had a daily circulation of over 250,000. The newspaper’s progressive ideology focused on social justice, organized labor, and freedom of the press.
The newspaper, published in both English and Yiddish, also helped new immigrants adjust to daily American with an “advice column” written by Abraham Cahan, a Lithuanian-born Jewish immigrant.
“A Bintel Brief” (translated as ‘a bunch of letters’) is the stage adaptation and reading of these letters to the editor. Each letter asked for help to understand the complex work and social norms of living in a new land.
“Dear Worthy Editor,” a 1909 letter begins, “…I am one of [a] group that is in favor of giving women full rights, and most of the others are against it…. Must the woman … be considered a slave and the man the master?” Cohen replied, “Justice can reign among all kinds of people only when they all have equal rights. If one has more power than the others, it leads to injustice.”
Carol Rusoff, the production’s director, says “Years ago, new immigrants would keep their babushka on”. She meant this both literally and figuratively. “A young man might be embarrassed by his father who read a Yiddish newspaper in the subway.” Cahan’s practical and progressive advice helped struggling immigrants understand and accept the new ways. “Some of the letters were quite quirky and funny”, says Carol.
The stage show played in Hudson at Hudson Hall in 2016. Now, through grants and assistance from the Wasserman-Streit Y’DIYAH Memorial Fund, the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, Temple Israel of Catskill, and the Bridge Street Theatre, the show returns to the Hudson Valley in nearby Catskill at the Bridge Street Theatre, at 44 West Bridge Street in Catskill, NY 12414.
All of the actors (and a clarinet player, too!) are volunteers and there is no fee for the performance – however donations are encouraged.
The performances are Saturday, May 14th at 7pm and Sunday, May 15th at 2pm.
For more information, please visit the Bridge Street Theatre’s website, here.
Reservations may be made by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you there!