At the Crossroads: Jews in Eastern Europe Today

As massive transformation sweeps through Eastern Europe, each of the changing countries searches for identity. What does this search mean for Jews? AT THE CROSSROADS journeys into this landscape that is haunted by the past and illuminated by Jewish men and women who live with a complex and problematic identity. Filmed on location in cities and villages in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, this documentary follows New York Klezmer musician Yale Strom as he meets local Klezmer artists, Jewish activists, and people on the street. While elderly Jews struggle to hold onto traditions from another era, the younger generation explores other paths in order to reinvent what it means to be a Jew. This surprising, warm, and wonderful film offers us our first glimpse into isolated communities that now seek a new future.
Oren Rudavsky, Producer/Director and Director of Photography, is a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio. He has been producing and directing films since 1980. His first documentaries were made in Ohio and were funded in part by the Ohio Humanities Council and the Ohio Arts Council. The subjects of Mr. Rudavsky's films have ranged from mental illness to race relations, the Amish, Jews in Eastern Europe today, to a portrait of the life of modern day nuns in two communities in the United States. His first documentary, DREAMS SO REAL, a film about three mentally ill men who created their own animated films won first prize at the New England Film Festival in 1981 and was broadcast on WNET’s Independent Focus the following year. Also completed that year was a short autobiographical film, A FILM ABOUT MY HOME, which was broadcast in Independent Focus as well, and was then broadcast as a Special called ARTISTS AND MOTHERS on CBS Cable along with films by the artist Joseph Cornell, and filmmakers Martin Scorcese, Jonas Mekas and Mark Rance. Shortly afterward, Mr. Rudavsky produced GLORIA, A CASE OF ALLEGED POLICE BRUTALITY. Several of Mr. Rudavsky’s films have been broadcast on PBS including SPARK AMONG THE ASHES: A BAR MITZVAH IN POLAND (1987), THEATER OF THE PALMS: THE WORLD OF PUPPET MASTER LEE TIEN LU (1990), and as Director of Photography, THE AMISH: NOT TO BE MODERN in every year from 1986 to the present. (The Amish has been one of the most popular independent documentaries ever broadcast on PBS). SPARK AMONG THE ASHES won many awards including second prize at the Chicago International Film Festival, a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival and inclusion in the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. AT THE CROSSROADS: JEWISH LIFE IN EASTERN EUROPE TODAY, was broadcast on the Discovery Network. Two other films about Jewish life in America have been nationally broadcast on ABC: RITUAL, a documentary about Jewish ritual incorporating scholarly commentary with portraits of individuals; and an original drama he wrote, SAYING KADDISH, which was nominated for an Emmy in Directing and was rebroadcast on PBS in May of 1993. Other work includes RIDING THE RAILS, a segment about a modern day hobo for ABC's PrimeTime Live, which won a Teddy Award; PICTURE PERFECT, a segment about a small Missouri town also for ABC’s PrimeTime Live; and A DIFFERENT PATH, a one hour documentary about modern day Catholic Sisters for broadcast on ABC in 1996. He was also Director of Photography on the popular MTV series The Real World; TWITCH AND SHOUT, a film about Tourette’s Syndrome which was broadcast on PBS’ POV series; and the award winning THE LAST KLEZMER., Yale Strom was born in Detroit and moved to San Diego, at the age of twelve, he is the oldest of nine children (eight surviving). Yale was always on the go; orchestra rehearsals, cross-country training, Hebrew school, baseball, basketball, marching in picket-lines and pushing his younger siblings in the stroller. He went to undergraduate school at San Diego State University where he ran collegiate cross-country and track. He finished his studies there earning two BA's; one in American Studies and the other in Furniture Design. Between painting, carpet cleaning, gardening and music gigs Yale enjoyed life as an early Eighties slacker. Then one evening he went to a klezmer dance in a downtown club in San Diego, and had the time of his life. He asked if he could join the band and the band leader basically said: "Don't call us we'll call you." He went home and decided that San Diego was big enough for two klezmer bands and he would make his unique. The next day he called the law schools he was to attend that coming September announcing in Yiddish he would not be showing up. He then proceeded and called to make reservations for a one way ticket to Eastern Europe. He decided that he was going to trek around the "Eastern Bloc" looking for unknown, unrecorded klezmer melodies among the remnant Jewish communities. During the last fifteen years Yale has been researching the Jewish and Rom (Gypsy) communities of Eastern Europe, the Mediterrenean and Balkan lands. His work has resulted in six photo-documentary books: THE LAST JEWS OF EASTERN EUROPE A TREE STILL STANDS: JEWISH YOUTH IN EASTERN EUROPE TODAY THE EXPULSION OF THE JEWS: 500 YEARS OF EXODUS THE HASIDIM OF BROOKLYN UNCERTAIN ROADS: SEARCHING FOR THE GYPSIES QUILTED LANDSCAPES: CONVERSATIONS WITH IMMIGRANT YOUTH Yale Strom has recorded six music CD's with his two klezmer bands, Zmiros (San Diego) and Hot Pstromi, (NYC) and three documentary film: AT THE CROSSROADS: JEWISH LIFE IN EASTERN EUROPE TODAY (1990) THE LAST KLEZMER (1994) - screened at the 14th Annual Jewish Film Festival and CARPATI: 50 MILES, 50 YEARS (1996). The documentary films are available on video through his distributor New Yorker Films Tel: (800) 447-0196. His music, including a soundtrack of CARPATI, is available through Global Village Music 245 W. 29th St. Rm. 402 New York City, NY 10001 Tel: 212-695-6024 Fax: 212-695-6025 Yale became a Mensch once again when he graduated from Columbia University with a graduate degree in Yiddish Studies. He has recently married and is currently working on an original play for The San Diego Repertory Theatre and a screenplay that will be shot in NYC next May. He is also working on a book on the social history of the klezmer musician in pre-WW II Eastern Europe based upon people's oral history recollections and family photographs. If you or anyone you know has any memories about a klezmer(s) please contact Yale Strom at 838 Hilldale Ave, W. Hollywood, CA 90069 Fax: 310-652-7707 In 1996 CARPATI will be screened at the following theatres: Sept. 9, Tampa, Fl (Movies on the Move), Sept. 12, St. Louis (Jewish Community Center), Sept. 22, Voorhies, NJ (Ritz 12), Oct. 17, Honolulu, HA (Academy of the Arts), Nov. 3, Cleveland, OH (Museum of Art), Nov. 4, Detroit, MI (Detroit Institute of the Arts), Nov. 12, NYC (Margaret Mead Film Festival-Natural History Museum), Nov. 14, LA (Music Box Theatre), Dec. 21, Norfolk, VA (Naro Theatre), Feb. 2, Columbus, OH (Wexner Center).
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