Isaac in America: A Journey with Isaac Bashevis Singer

Director: Amram Nowak

Institute History

  • 1987 Sundance Film Festival


When asked about the sad fate of Yiddish, I.B. Singer acknowledges that the language “has been dying for 200 years . . .since it was born.” But he adds: “There are four billion people on earth. In 100 years, there will be 100 billion. And they will all need subjects for Ph.C. theses.” The world’s foremost Yiddish author, and winner of the 1978 Novel Prize in Literature, is the subject of this wonderfully intimate portrait. Welcoming us to his overstuffed study, Singer assures us: “Chaos is not really ugly. Before God said, “let there be light,” there was chaos.”

Isaac In America recalls the author’s earliest memories of Warsaw and his early adulthood in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, where he sought refuge from the Nazis in 1935. Singer visits some of the last vestiges of Jewish immigrant culture in New York: the Garden Cafeterias (once frequented by Trotsky and soon to become a Chinese restaurant), and the offices of the Yiddish newspaper, The Forward. “It should have folded 50 years ago, but its bookkeepers are too old and half-blind, they don’t know they are bankrupt.” Here is a man in whom talent and originality are matched by warmth, humor and generosity. It is an unbeatable combination.

— Karen Cooper

Screening Details


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