MOTHERS OF TODAY / Hayntike Mames

From the Archives of The National Center for Jewish Film

Q&A with NCJF Directors Sharon Pucker Rivo & Lisa Rivo

85th Anniversary Screening
This essentially unknown 1939 Yiddish film stars Esther Field, the 1930s radio personality known as the “Yiddishe Mama,” in one of her only appearances on film. Field plays an immigrant Jewish widow in New York who suffers the gradual deterioration of her family and Jewish tradition at the hands of neighborhood criminals and the realities of assimilation. This soapy, over-the-top drama — with cantors and gangsters, Yiddish songs, liturgical singing and comedy interludes — is surprisingly moving in its authentic emotional directness.

Mothers of Today is a surviving example of the era’s shund genre: proudly sentimental, low-budget and low-brow films, books, and theater. Shund films were particularly popular with working-class Jewish immigrant audiences, who recognized and enjoyed seeing their own daily lives reflected on the big screen, especially the central role women played in Jewish family life. Mothers of Today is a fun ride, a time capsule, and a rescued piece of Jewish and cinema history. Bring a hanky for the tsuris, and a few insults to yell at the no-goodniks.

“For those with a particular interest in the Yiddish language, there’s an added bonus: It’s a fascinating record of American Yiddish circa 1939. The English words absorbed into the vocabulary (even among the European-born characters) and the American accents in the speech of the younger actors reflect the Yiddish that many of our parents and grandparents spoke. It’s nice to hear it again…Leon Field’s wonderfully over-the-top score provides the eye-rolling and chest-clutching.” – A.L. Rickman, Forward

Director: Harry Lynn | USA | 1939 | 85 min | Yiddish with English subtitles

Sunday, May 12, 1:00 pm
Coolidge Corner Theatre


Opening Film &

Mother’s Day Celebration

Press highlight “Mothers of Today”

  • WBUR Boston
  • New York Jewish Week
  • The Forward