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The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema [5 Blu-rays]


The Dybbuk (1937)    Mir Kumen on (1938)    American Matchmaker (1940)    Overtures to Glory (1940)    Tevya (1939)


The Yiddish King Lear (1935)    Her Second Mother (1940)    Motel the Operator (1940)    Eli Eli (1940)    Three Daughters (1949)



During its heyday in the late 1930s, Yiddish movies covered a broad range of genres: comedies, soap operas, the supernatural, literary adaptations, musicals, and Lubitsch-style romances. Unified through language, gesture, and a common cultural sensibility, they captured the essence of the Jewish soul. Comprised of both the essential films (The Dybbuk, Tevya) and the lesser-known programmers (The Yiddish King Lear, Motel the Operator), this five-disc set captures the diversity of Yiddish film, and encourages a better appreciation of this most fascinating, but rarely-viewed genre. The ten features in this collection were restored by Lobster Films, the result of an unprecedented collaboration between the Museum of Modern Art, the Deutsche Kinemathek and the Filmoteka Narodowa in Warsaw. Each film has been newly translated by noted Yiddish actor (the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man), playwright and translator Allen Lewis Rickman.


Theatrical Release: 1935 - 1949

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Review: Kino - Region 'A' - 5 Blu-ray BOXSET

Box Cover

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Distribution Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime The Dybbuk: 2:03:08.375        
Video (The Dybbuk)

1.33:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc One Size: 49,383,502,592 bytes

The Dybbuk: 20,660,905,536 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.27 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Blu-ray:


LPCM Audio Yiddish 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:


Edition Details:

THE DYBBUK: Audio commentary by J. Hoberman. Alternate 99-minute version
AMERICAN MATCHMAKER: Audio commentary by Eve Sicular. Alternate version with 1940 subtitles. | OVERTURE TO GLORY: Audio commentary by Allen Lewis Rickman
TEVYA: Audio commentary by Allen Lewis Rickman
HER SECOND MOTHER: Audio commentary by Allen Lewis Rickman. Alternate version with 1940 subtitles
ELI ELI: Alternate version with 1940 subtitles
Printed booklet including essays by journalist and historian Samuel Blumenfeld, film preservationist Serge Bromberg and Yiddish cultural historian Allen Lewis Rickman
Theatrical trailer

Blu-ray Release Date:
November 23rd, 2020
Standard Blu-ray Case inside slipcase

Chapters 15




NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Kino Blu-ray (November 2020): Kino have transferred ten 'classics of Yiddish cinema' to a five Blu-ray boxset entitled The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema. The films are The Dybbuk (1937), Mir Kumen on (1938), American Matchmaker (1940), Overtures to Glory (1940), Tevya (1939), The Yiddish King Lear (1935), Her Second Mother (1940), Motel the Operator (1940), Eli Eli (1940) and Three Daughters (1949) - two per dual-layered Blu-ray. Many of the films offer alternate versions, frequently masking the burned-in subtitles or the option of seeing them - still with the choice of English subtitles for both versions. We have made some comparisons captures below (ex. see Edgar Ulmer's American Matchmaker) The image quality is not great through the majority of these 'lost' films - almost solely due to the sources available. Tevya is quite pleasing in appearance and many start with a description/history of the source or restoration. Example, for The Dybbuk:

"The Dybbuk was filmed in 1937 by Michal Waszynski for the Phoenix Society in Warsaw. The original running time was 125 minutes, but only an abridged version of 95 minutes was released in France, on May 18, 1938. The present restoration is the result of the nitrate negative of this shortened version, preserved in the collections of the Cinematheque Francaise; and a complete print from the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, subtitled in Hebrew, preserved by the Jerusalem Cinematheque. This project would not have been possible without the help of three institutions: the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, the Association of Friends of the Central Commission for Childhood, whom we warmly thank, as well as the generous encouragement of Elisabeth Lenchener. The restoration work was performed by Lobster Films Laboratories (2016).The sound, which was particularly damaged, was restored at L.E. Diapason Laboratories."

The Yiddish King Lear:

"The original 35mm nitrate print of Yiddish King Lear was preserved by the Centre National de la Cinematographie - Ministere de la Culture (Paris), based on a nitrate print owned by the U.J.R.E. (Union des Juifs pour la resistance et l'entraide) with French subtitling. The original soundtrack was restored by Lobster Films in 2018.
Restored version © U.J.R.E. / Lobster Films / CNC 2018


"Some defects in this master are due to the condition of the original film elements, and could not be effectively removed. We have compensated for missing audio and visual material by the best available means.
Restored by the CNC (Centre National du Cinema et de ('Image Animee). Additional digital restoration by Lobster Films. English translation by Allen Lewis Rickman

While others can give a historical background as well - example; Mir Kumen On:

"MIR KUMEN ON (Children Must Laugh) was shot in 1935 by Aleksander Ford, age 27, and was completed in 1936.
The film was commissioned to solicit funding from Jewish communities around the world to support the Medem Sanatorium in Miedzeszyn near Warsaw. A prologue calling for international solidarity was added in the national language of each country. Founded in 1926 by the Jewish Labor Bund of Poland, the sanatorium bears the name of one of the leaders of the movement,Vladimir Medem (1879-1923). Under the direction of Szloma Gilinsky (1887- 1961), teams of doctors, nurses, and teachers each day provided care, education, and a future for Jewish children and young adults who were suffering from tuberculosis. The sanatorium was long regarded as one of the most exemplary and innovative achievements in children's education. Between 1936 and 1939, approximately 10,000 children were accommodated for stays of two to six months. On August 22, 1942, the Nazis invaded the sanatorium and arrested children and staff members, all of whom were sent to death at the Treblinka camp.
Some of the children filmed in the documentary became active members of the Bund a few years later, and took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprisings. Considered communist propaganda, the film was censored and banned in Poland. But Szloma Gilinski managed to discreetly smuggle the negative into France, where it was presented for the first time in March of 1936, at the Salle Pleyel. Mir Kumen On has been restored by Lobster Films, in collaboration with Deutsche Kinemathek (Berlin), Filmoteka Narodowa (Warsaw) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, New York), from a nitrate print co-owned by Deutsche Kinemathek; an incomplete acetate print, subtitled in Danish, preserved in the Filmoteka Narodowa; and a third-generation dupe, dubbed and subtitled in English, preserved in the collections of MoMA. The prologue has been restored from the American element. Image scanning: Filmoteka Narodowa (Warsaw) Image restoration: Lobster Films (Paris), 2016 Sound restoration: L.E. Diapason (Paris), 2016 Additional soundtrack restoration by Josh Waletzky and John Bowen. The reconstruction of Mir Kumen On was initiated in 2014 thanks to the generosity and encouragement of Mme. Lea Minczeles. It has only been possible thanks to the archives that have preserved the films, the Medem Arbeter Ring Center and the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, which we warmly thank.

On their Blu-ray, Kino use a linear PCM dual-mono track (16-bit) in the original Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, German and English languages (depending on the film.) It is about the same level as the video - perhaps slightly improved. Scores vary with innovative Henoch Kon being the composer for both The Dybbuk (1937) and the heart-breaking documentary Mir Kumen on (1938). The sound is, understandably, imperfect but without superior sources being found, this is likely the best we will get. Kino offer optional English subtitles for all 10 films, and their alternate versions, on their Region 'A' Blu-rays.

The Kino Blu-rays offer four audio commentaries. On the 99-minute version of The Dybbuk we get iconic critic J. Hoberman! (author of Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds). He doesn't have a lot to say and appears to be mostly watching the film with us, but when he does talk he provides historical references, observations like how the 'Marriage broker' is often a comic character in Yiddish cinema and identifying some foreshadowing in The Dybbuk. A pleasure to hear his thoughts, if sparse, for the most celebrated Yiddish film ever made. On Overtures to Glory, Her Second Mother and Tevya we get an audio commentaries by Yiddish cultural scholar Allen Lewis Rickman, the translator involved in many of these films. Some may remember his as the 'Shtetl Husband' in the Coen's A Serious Man. For Edgar Ulmer's American Matchmaker we a commentary by Eve Sicular. She describes that it was the fourth of Ulmer's 4 Yiddish film and the first with an original concept. She knows her stuff, and has made fascinating explorations of lesbian and gay subtext in Yiddish cinema. Very interesting indeed. Aside from the alternate versions, there is also a printed booklet including essays by journalist and historian Samuel Blumenfeld, film preservationist Serge Bromberg and Rickman.

Kino's The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema Blu-ray boxset is fascinating from a cultural perspective. I felt I was learning from each viewing and I thoroughly enjoyed the information exported in the commentaries. I wish the video quality of a few of the films was better, but the cloaking of the burned-in subtitles (or just watching with them) soon gets forgotten and you get into the meat of the films - be it humor, drama, music, fantasy, sadness or celebration. I can honestly say I have not seen films like this before and the exposure was totally refreshing and uniquely educational. Certainly recommended!  

Gary Tooze


Menus / Extras




The Dybbuk



Mir Kumen on



American Matchmaker
('Removed subtitles LEFT - Burned-in subtitles RIGHT)

Subtitle transations:


 Overtures to Glory





The Yiddish King Lear



Her Second Mother


(Alternate versions from LEFT and RIGHT)



Motel the Operator



Eli Eli

(Alternate versions from LEFT and RIGHT)



Three Daughters



Box Cover

CLICK to order from:


Distribution Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



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