BEYLE: The Artist and Her Legacy (A Film)

A new documentary film explores the life and legacy of Yiddish activist and artist Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

The Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project is excited to present BEYLE: The Artist and Her Legacy, a forty-minute documentary film about beloved Yiddish poet, artist, and activist Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, z"l. Screenings of BEYLE are taking place around the country and abroad. 

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Official Trailer

Film Synopsis

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman was a woman whose life and work bridged the old world with the new. Following in the footsteps of her activist father and folk singer mother, she dedicated her life to preserving and transmitting Yiddish language and culture. Her influence reached across continents until her death in 2013, and lives on in a new generation.

Born to a Yiddish-speaking family in Vienna, Holocaust survivor Beyle (pronounced "bay-luh") Schaechter-Gottesman was raised in Czernowitz. After the Second World War, she settled in the United States, where she became a central figure of a vibrant Yiddish community based in the Bronx, New York. Along with several other neighboring families, she raised her children in Yiddish. Her home on Bainbridge Avenue became a gathering place for people who wanted to be near Beyle and her remarkable songs, experiences, and ideology. She prioritized living fully in Yiddish by anyone who wanted to do so, whether or not it was their mame-loshn (mother-tongue). One can find Beyle’s influence throughout the contemporary Yiddish world. A poet and artist, Beyle was named a National Heritage Fellow in recognition for her invaluable contributions to traditional Jewish folk art. Her creative output and devotion to the continuation of Yiddish language and culture spanned seven decades.

BEYLE: The Artist and Her Legacy tells the story of Beyle’s rich life through archival recordings along with newly recorded oral history interviews with family, friends, and colleagues – in both English and in Yiddish. In keeping with Beyle’s multimedia artistic practice, we have translated her paintings and sketches into whimsical animations, and weaved her story through the tradition of oral history and into a film. 

Screenings

Are you interested in hosting or helping to organize a screening of BEYLE? Email [email protected] to bring this special Yiddish film to your community!

Upcoming screenings

August 23, 2022 at 6 PM EEST (in-person with Lithuanian subtitles) — Emma Collective Social Center in Kaunas, Lithuania
     + talkback with Christa Whitney
     more information
August 22-28 — KlezKanada (in-person) — join the waitlist

Past screenings

August 7, 2022 at 7 PM EDT — Yiddishkayt Initiative of Coral Springs, FL (virtual)
June 26, 2022 — Temple Emeth of Teaneck, NJ (hybrid)
June 26, 2022 · 12:00pm — Congregation Beth Shalom, Kol Ami, and Temple Beth Am of Seattle, WA (virtual) — register
May 11, 2022 — Jewish Center of Princeton, NJ (virtual)
     + talkback with Christa Whitney and Esther Gottesman
March 31, 2022 — Falmouth Jewish Congregation (virtual)
March 16 - 20, 2022 — Temple Israel of Portsmouth, NH (virtual)
March 10, 2022 — Central Massachusetts Jewish Theatre Company (virtual)
March 9, 2022 — Riverdale Y, New Beginnings Center for Adults 60+
March 3, 2022 — Temple Adas Israel (Sag Harbor, NY)
February 25, 2022 — Kehila Chadasha oneg group (virtual/Bethesda, MD)
+ talkback with Christa Whitney
March 12, 2021 — I.L.Peretz Jewish Community Adult Group/Workmen’s Circle (virtual/Highland Park, NJ)
+ talkback with Christa Whitney
June 17, 2020 — Temple Beth El (virtual/Madison, WI)
May 17, 2020 — Yiddish poetry group (virtual/New Hope, PA)
May 8, 2020 — Yiddish Arts and Academics Association of North America (YAAANA) (virtual/San Diego, CA)
+ talkback with Christa Whitney and Esther Gottesman
March 19, 2020 — Temple Sinai (Saratoga Springs, NY)
February 28, 2020 — Jewish Club at Beverwyck Independent Living (Slingerlands, NY)
February 16, 2020 — Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center (Bronx, New York) *New York Premiere*
+ talkback with Christa Whitney and Esther Gottesman
February 13, 2020 — Smith College Poetry Center (Northampton, Massachusetts)
February 11, 2020 — Bet Am Shalom Synagogue shmueskrayz (White Plains, NY)
January 28, 2020 — Jüdische Filmtage im Jüdischen Gemeindezentrum am Jakobsplatz in München (Munich, Germany)
November 17, 2019 — Boston Workers Circle: Center for Jewish Culture & Social Justice (Brookline, MA)
November 13, 2019 — Haverford College (Haverford, PA)
November 7, 2020 — Sisterhood of Ahavath Torah Congregation (Stoughton, MA)
November 5, 2019 — DC/Maryland Yiddish leyenkrayz 
November 2019 — Yiddish Retreat in Scotland
October 23, 2019 — University of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois) *Chicago Premiere*
+ talkback with Christa Whitney
October 10, 2019 — The Umpqua Valley Havurah Yiddish club (Roseburg, Oregon)
August 31, 2019 — Yiddish.Berlin (Berlin, Germany) *European Premiere*
August 28, 2019 — Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel (Boise, Idaho)
August 23, 2019 — KlezKanada (Lantier, Quebec) *Canadian Premiere*
August 21, 2019 — Ocean Side Yiddish Club (Ocean Side, CA)
August 19-25, 2019 — YiddishLand (New York)
August 15, 2019 — Jewish Family and Children’s Service Senior Center (Phoenix, AZ)
August 13, 2019 — Berliner Grassroot Yiddish-festival at Galerie Zeitzone (Berlin, Germany)
August 11, 2019 — Reform Temple Men's Club Meeting (Laguna Woods, CA)
July 30, 2019 — Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library (Monticello, NY)
July 26, 2019 — Independent Living Community at the Los Angeles Jewish Home (Los Angeles, CA)
July 14, 2019 — Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music at the Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA) *World premiere*

Film Team

Liz Walber, director and editor
Liz is the media coordinator at Northampton Community Television and the former video editor for the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project. She has a BA in Gender Studies and Film Studies from Smith College. She's directed and edited several shorts for the Wexler Oral History Project about a variety of topics, including Klezmer musician Pete Sokolow, and left-wing Yiddish summer camps.

Christa P. Whitney, director and producer
Christa is the director of the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History project. She has studied Yiddish language at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute as well as the Yiddish Book Center, where she participated in the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and was a graduate fellow.

Executive Producers: Robin and Danny Greenspun
Cinematography by Christa P. Whitney, Heather Daniels Pusey, Amanda Lundquist, Liz Walber, and ROSENPICTURES.
Color & Sound Mix by Rikk Desgres.

Key Cast

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman was born in Vienna in 1920, and raised in Czernowitz, Bukovina. Her parents were fervent Yiddishists, deeply committed to the transmission and longevity of Yiddish language and culture. Her mother was a singer with a uniquely vast repetoire of Yiddish songs. Beyle and her husband lived out the war in the Czernowitz ghetto. After the war she and her family lived in a DP camp. She studied art several times before moving to the United States. From the beginning of her life, she stoked a desire to create art across several mediums. In 1950, she moved to Bainbridge Avenue, in the Bronx. Here, a small group of families dedicated themselves to raising their children in Yiddish in the United States. She raised her three children—Taube, Itzik, and Haym—in Yiddish. She began writing plays, songs, and poems for her children to use in their native language. When her children grew up a bit, she began to write songs and poems for an adult audience. She published several poetry books, and wrote and recorded iconic Yiddish songs. She drew and painted, wrote and sang, and produced an expansive, diverse oeuvre. In 1988 she was inducted into the People’s Hall of Fame at City Lore in New York. In 2005 she was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Esther Gottesman is Beyle's granddaughter, and Itzik Gottesman's daughter. She is an educator and activist based in Brooklyn, NY. She was raised to speak Yiddish, and grew up singing Beyle's songs.

Itzik Gottesman is Beyle's son and only living child. He is a senior lecturer in Jewish Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His specialty is Jewish folklore. He is the former managing editor of the Forverts Yiddish Foward newspaper in New York.

Janina Wurbs is a researcher, Yiddish teacher, translator and photographer. She was a mentee of Beyle, and has written scholarship about Beyle's art and influence. Her M.A. thesis on Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman and the transmission of Yiddishism in her family through music has been published (in German) in 2018: Generationenübergreifender Jiddischismus.

Official Selections and Awards

  • Official selection, 2020 Jüdische Filmtage im Jüdischen Gemeindezentrum am Jakobsplatz in München (Munich, Germany)
  • Official selection, 2020 Sacramento Underground Film & Arts Festival (Sacramento, California)
  • Official selection and Best Short Documentary at the Blu-Hill Film Festival
  • Best Short Film Director, Best Short Film Editing from the V.i.Z. Film Fest (Ukraine)
  • Official selection in the Best Documentary category from the New Creators Film Awards
  • Best International Documentary from the BraDocs Film Festival (Brazil)
  • Outstanding Achievement Awards in the Documentary Film and Films on Women award categories, Tagore International Film Festival (Bolpur, India)
  • Winner in the Women's Film award category, Tagore International Film Festival (Bolpur, India)
  • Finalist, Berlin International Art Film Festival
  • Official selection, South Film and Arts Academy Festival (Chile)
  • Nominee, Film in Focus International Film Festival (Bucharest, Romania)
  • Official selection, Luis Bunuel Memorial Award organized by L’Age d’Or International Arthouse Film Festival (India)
  • Bronze Award for Documentary Short, Latitude Film Awards (London)
  • Best Biography Feature, Best Female Director In A Feature Film, and Best Sound Design In A Feature Film from the South Film and Arts Academy Festival (Chile)

Learn more

Press contact: Christa Whitney

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on BEYLE, and the Wexler Oral History Project.

The Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project is a growing collection of more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with people of all ages and backgrounds, whose stories about the legacy and changing nature of Yiddish language and culture offer a rich and complex chronicle of Jewish identity. Learn more about and explore the Wexler Oral History Project collection.

This film was made possible in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign. A groysn dank (a huge thank you) to our generous supporters:

Alexis Aaeng, Anaïs Acosta, Corbin Allardice, Steward Alter, Susan Arbuck, Carrie Baker, Judy Barlas, Inna Barmash, Robin Baron, Marsha Baron-Berg, Emily Bell, Terry Berger, Zackary Berger, Sarah Biskowitz, Bob Blacksberg, Brian Boisvert, Steven Bookshester, Susan Bronson, Alec Burko, Debra Caplan, Maya Wax Cavallaro, Fanny Chalfin, Jeffrey Cosiol, Lou Cove, Rachel Crosby, Lisa Dabek, Mark David, Jillian Davidson, Judy Dein, Sara DeWitt, Alan Divack, Joel Edelstein, Jamie Ehrenpreis, Howard Falberg, Maida Feingold, Emily Felder, Adrienne Figus, Rita Fogelman, Miriam Forman, Josh Fraidstern, Hazel Frankel, Susan Freeman, Don Fried, Emily Gelfman, Michel Gerecht, Rachel Gerstein, Amy Glaser, Barry Goldstein, Sonia Gollance, Esther Goodman, Rebecca Gorlin, Brad Gornstein, Paul Goubern, David Greenberg, Robin and Danny Greenspun, Daniel Gruen, Jayne K. Guberman, Michael Gurevitch, Beth Hakenewerth, Mac Hamilton, Mayrena Hansen, Kathi Heffernan, Susan J. Herzberg, Herman Huber, Lee Hutt, Roz Hyman, Aga Ilwicka-Karuna, Leslie Isaacs, Joan Israel, Tina Jaskoll, Mandy Jenkinson, Aaron Jacob Jones, Faith Jones, Sylvia Kagan, Lily Kahn, Sharon Karmazin, Pauline Katz, Eitan Kensky, Ulrike Kiefer, Elenna King, Jessica Kirzane, Michelle Kisliuk, Lawrence Klein, Sonia Kramer, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, Milly Guberman Kravetz, Ron Laby, Stephanie Lainoff, Agi Legutko, Susan Lerner, Stanley “Shimke” Levine, Job Levy, Myra Leysorek, Helena Lipstadt, Barbara BaLo Lorenz, Amanda Lundquist, Sara Maltzman, David Mandiberg, Kristine Navarro McElhaney, Michael Melnick, Isaiah Milbauer, David Mink, Isaac Daniel Moore, Jon Myerov, Jane Myers, Charles H. Nadler, Stephen Naron, Kayla Niles, Sharyn November, Paul Olson, Elliott Palevsky, Andrea Pancur, Larry Parker, Jessica Parker, Gerhard Paulesich, Sylvia Peterson, Sue Piantaggini, Lance Piantaggini, Howard Polonsky, Robert Pratte, Jonathan Prial, Rivke Lela Reid, Eleanor Reissa, Joan Rosenberg, Ben Rubinstein, M. Safadi, Nahma Sandrow, Rhea Schwartz, Franziska Seehausen, Fran Shectman, Elizabeth Shook, Neil Silins, Richard Simon, Andrea Simon, Renata Singer, Julie Slavet, Beth Slavet, Claudia Sobral, Yvonne Solomon, Enid Sperber, Liz Starin, Ruth Stark, Matthew Stein, Michael Steinlauf, Julie Stelton, Estela Stern, Amy Strauss, Laura Trachtenberg Strauss, Marianne Tatom, Evelyn Tauben, Irwin Tauben, Naomi Alazraki Taylor, Alan Telford, Barbara Tellerman, Frances Tracht, Jane Tuma, Kenneth Turan, Turner, Howard Ungar, Amelia VanderLaan, Rom and Jan Vargo, Ginger and Bill Wadsworth, Ira Wagner, Gabriel Weinreich, Elsa Weintraub, Rachel Weitz, Andrej Werner, David Whitney, Jim and Betty Whitney, Rebecca Whitney, Arnee R. Winshall, Dalia Wolfson, Judy Woll, Carol Huberman Yacowitz, Lesley Yalen, Michael Ari Yashinsky, Gail Yucht, the Ehrensteins, Steven Musher, and many others who would like to remain anonymous.­