The Golden Land
Total Rating: 
July 4, 2017
July 10, 2017
August 6, 2017
New York
New York
National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene
Theater Type: 
Museum of Jewish Heritage
Theater Address: 
36 Battery Place
Running Time: 
90 min
Book/Lyrics/Music: Moishe Rosenfeld & Zalmen Mlotek
Bryna Wasserman

Amerike is the saga of Jewish immigrants to America, told by a skilled company of actors, all of whom have strong singing voices. The musical, performed in Yiddish with subtitles in both English and Russian, shows that the opportunity to leave Mother Russia was met with both delight and a reluctance to desert that which was familiar. The voyage was long and uncomfortable, and being processed through Ellis Island must have been exhausting, confusing, and for those who equated uniforms with brutality in the old country, terrifying.

New York City was frenetic and disorienting. Everyone was in a hurry, and there were many who were all too happy to take advantage of a “greenhorn.” Life was hard, and far from finding streets paved with gold, individuals, like the peddler in the story, worked tirelessly, hoping to earn just enough to feed his family. Women were no less put upon, and a section of the play focuses on the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 garment workers perished. Fortunately, there was much joy to be had, especially at Shabbos with the family gathered together to pray and share a lovingly cooked meal.

Citizenship was considered a badge of honor, and it was a proud day when former foreigners became naturalized Americans. Businesses began to pick up, and moving uptown from Hester Street to the Bronx warranted bragging rights. A common delight for all was the Yiddish theater, performed in the mamaloshen, and featuring corny jokes, baggy pants comedians, skits, and the occasional Shakespearean scene. Also popular was WEVD, the Yiddish radio station.

When the depression occurred, the Jewish community was hit hard, and while it took time and sweat to climb back to solvency, financial security was achieved. While it was often a tightrope walk, the Jewish culture has been kept alive as the promise of America, including assimilation, has been achieved.

The final song of the show is “Give Me Your Tired Your Poor,” especially fitting since it’s a short walk to be able to see both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the Hudson. But a nagging question remains. What is the obligation for us, the children of immigrants, toward those refugees in the world now? Should we, as is pleaded in Amerike, “Let Them In,” or should we be on high alert? Does the light still shine from the Lady in The Harbor? Or have we done our best to narrow the opening of the Golden Door?

Glenn Seven Allen, Alexandra Frohlinger, Daniel Kahn, Dani Marcus, Stephanie Lynne Mason, David Perlman, Maya Jacobson, Alexander Kosmowski, Raquel Nobile, Isabel Nesti, Grant Richards, Bobby Underwood, Maya Jacobson, Alexander Kosmowski, Raquel Nobile, Isabel Nesti, Grant Richards, Bobby Underwood
Lighting: Yael Lubetzky; Costumes: Izzy Fields; Set/Projections: Jason Lee Courson
Michall Jeffers
Date Reviewed: 
July 2017