Alter Esselin: Craftsman of Wood and Words

A short film from the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project

Alter Esselin: Craftsman of Wood and Words

Alter Esselin, a carpenter and Yiddish poet, was born Orkeh Serebrenik in the small town of Tchernigov, Russia. Esselin, who published his poetry in three books and many Yiddish journals around the world, spent years travelling around the United States as a journeyman before settling in Milwaukee. Alter Esselin: Craftsman of Wood and Words, an eighteen-minute short, features recordings of Esselin reciting some of his work as well as reflections from the late Joe (“Yosl”) Esselin, z”l, a Chicago-based playwright and Alter Esselin’s son and translator.

This short film draws from a longer oral history interview.

The Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project is a growing collection of in-depth interviews with people of all ages and backgrounds, whose stories provide a deeper understanding of the Jewish experience. Since 2010, the project has recorded more than 500 video oral history interviews about the legacy and changing nature of Yiddish language and culture.