responses and analysis
These analysis make up my personal (non-peer reviewed) research and/or informed opinions.
Strong movements, beautiful singing, and heartfelt emotions bring history to life in the Yiddish musical AMERIKE THE GOLDEN LAND. The musical follows the journey of Europe’s and Russia’s Jews to the Lower East Side, depicting their hardships, pain, and the joys of immigrant life. Showing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on an extended run until August 20th, discount tickets are available here.
The musical revisits the archives of Yiddish theater to present a snapshot of immigrant life for early 20th century NYC Jews . The overall journey depicted in the show displays a culture of immigrants trying to “open doors” for their communities and their brethren in Europe. The story culminates with immigrants trying to keep the gates of Ellis Island open behind them, coming full circle to the show’s opening where immigrants push to open the gates before them.
Such a story is increasingly relevant in the US as immigration becomes a heated political issue. AMERIKE succeeds in relating its audience to the struggles of a class of immigrants who grew to become major contributors to US culture. It reminds New Yorkers of their humble beginnings, that at one point we were all immigrants. The show also encourages keeping our “gates open” for immigrants.
AMERIKE successfully portrays the difficulty of passing through Ellis Island as a family (sometimes a child or a spouse was withheld), the challenges of earning an income, and the fight for workers’ rights. This will resonate with audiences as these historical issues that were faced by the immigrants of the early 20th century still plague modern day immigrants and working class citizens.
The Yiddish component of this musical propels it, providing it with unparalleled authenticity. Furthermore, using the language of the immigrants reinforces the influence that Yiddish language has had on NY humor, entertainment, dialect, and culture. Furthermore, Yiddish is an emotive and witty language that when used in song can express sadness, happiness, anger, and humor in a simplistic and palatable combination. While most New Yorkers aren’t proficient in the language, many are familiar with some Yiddish words (oy vey!). The show displays subtitles in English and Russian so following along is easy.
To summarize, the Yiddish musical AMERIKE THE GOLDEN LAND immerses its audience in the struggles and joys of New York’s Jewish immigrants . AMERIKE is mindful of the past, yet empowering for modern audiences, making it relevant at a time when society needs both to move forward.
A taste of the music in the show Lebn zol kolumbus (Long Live Columbus!)