Soul Exodus (2016) Movie Script

You know, Yiddishland doesn't exist
geographically anymore.
It's absolutely anywhere
that things like this happen.
And that's a really interesting model of
culture. That it's this thing that gets...
...projected into the world
and then taken away.
It's a very integrated world
and community.
And their Jewish identity,
which is part of their bigger identity,
in many ways is formed by being here
amongst the community of people,
who are studying and living
and breathing yiddishkeit.
We mess around, we have fun,
we create art and culture.
We study our past and create the future.
Klezmer means music
and Klezmer means musician,
and Klezmer means
the instrument of music, the tool.
So, the Hebrew meaning is metaphorical,
actually it means the musical instrument.
And Klezmer means culture,
which is very wide, very multi-polar,
and it doesn't have to be Jewish,
it doesn't have to be folk or music.
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
From today, 'till I die
You will always hear me cry
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
Good Sabbath! Good Sabbath! Good Sabbath!
I've known Bob Cohen
from before the time I ever heard one note
of Yiddish or Klezmer music.
Bob Cohen and I met in Boston
in the 1970s, and being that his family,
part of his family is Hungarian, he played
me Hungarian music and I'd never heard
anything like this in my life.
And I remember
when he first moved to Budapest
and seeing the entire evolution
of post-Soviet Hungary
through my visiting Bob, 'cause The
Klezmetics, I play with The Klezmetics,
we first performed in Budapest in 1991,
so right as the transition was happening.
And Bob's already over there.
Bob Cohen has become
more or less the official or unofficial
ambassador for all people
studying East European and East...
especially East European Jewish music.
He becomes their ambassador.
I think what the Nazaroffs know,
and what I know, and what many of us know,
is that in this culture of oppression,
in this culture that has been through
so much hard time, there is
a core of joy and love of ecstasy.
Yeah, so we'll do
"The Jew with his Fiddle"
A question...
How do you know you're related?
How has that been traced?
-You can feel it! We just sense...
-By a genealogist?
No, we just sort of sense it.
Everyone else in our family denies it,
but we know the truth.
-I had a DNA test.
-Ask my mother.
Mom... This is my mother.
He knows his genealogy.
He asked his mother.
Of course, we're related to the Nazaroffs.
My parents were born in the United States.
Their parents all came over from Europe.
We're having a hard time
tracking down precisely where.
Galicia was a big area
and that's what it says
on one of my grandparent's death
certificates. Place of birth Galicia.
Which means they were from
what is now either Southern Poland,
parts of, you know, Ukraine.
It was a big area.
Russian was spoken by my father's parents.
-Oh, really?
-The Russian?
-The Grossmans. Grandpa Grossman.
OK. They were probably from Ukraine.
Until the 1950s,
but mostly until World War II,
Jews in America spoke English,
but we all spoke our own Jewish languages.
We spoke Yiddish if you were from
East Europe, we spoke Ladino Judesmo
if you were from the Turkish Empire
or Northern Africa,
and every little minor Jewish dialect
in between.
We all spoke them at home.
After World War II, after 1950...
partially due to the Holocaust,
partially due to a lot
of factors in society here,
many Jews chose to stop speaking
their Jewish languages, such as Yiddish.
For many reasons. You hear lots of those
reasons, enough to keep awake,
but at that time, people who did
continue to sing in Yiddish
tended to prefer to sing
Yiddish art songs.
Theatre songs.
Things that they believed
would raise us up through classical music
into a higher class of citizen,
making art.
Nazaroff didn't do that.
Nazaroff, Weck says, sounded like
a room full of Jewish drunks,
because it was a room
full of Jewish drunks.
And sometimes,
you want a room full of Jewish drunks.
I am a, in Russia it's called filolog,
Actually, my theme...
my theme was a very interesting
Russian writer, Vladimir Korolenko.
He dealt a lot with minority issues,
territory, diaspora.
He was one of the first people
to write about Russians in America.
He wrote much about Jews.
So, and when I became a performer,
I called myself, in his honor, Korolenko.
I went to Budapest to study for a semester
and I was... That's when I met Bob.
-That's about the time...
-Hanging out a lot.
You know, I'd grown up my whole life
in New York, doing Yiddish music
and all of this stuff.
And I wanted to go back to Eastern Europe.
And I was curious what kind of
Jewish music was going on there.
A big round of applause
for the Brothers Nazaroff!
Who, in the honor of their great-uncle,
the "Prince", Nathan...
This man, Nathan "Prince" Nazaroff,
graced the world with this amazing...
Jewish cheerful songs.
He came to these shores
one hundred years ago.
We are all his nephews.
My name is Danik Nazaroff.
To my left here is Pasha Nazaroff
all the way from Moscow, to his left
Yankl Nazaroff
all the way from New York City,
The city of Botosani.
And this here is Zaelik Nazaroff,
all the way from Budapest.
Yid never gets no sympathy or pity
Misfortune comes wherever he may roam
They try to throw him out of every city
And nowhere in the world is Yid at home
In moments of great troubles
He sings a Yiddish chorus
And wrings his hands in sorrow and dismay
Ah, so no sorrow
But if he still is moping
His other way of coping
He takes his fiddle
and he starts to play
A little Jew with his fiddle
Is worth millions...
I travel, I travel, I run and fly
I have no time, I have no rest
I don't know where, I don't know how
I have no there, I have no here.
You learnt Hungarian.
-So, you speak it very well.
I speak Hungarian.
How well do you speak it?
I was fluent a couple of years ago,
but by now I'm forgetting words.
I rarely use it.
And you learnt some Romanian too, right?
-I speak Romanian too.
-How come?
The reason is...
Because Moldavian folk music
it is...
is closest to Klezmer music.
They gave me a Fulbright
scholarship to go there.
And you two met there?
Yes. We were both there.
She plays the flute.
So, we're going to play
a couple of Jewish-Romanian melodies.
This was Moldovanian rhythm instruments
and you just never hear about it.
If you go to synagogues
in Eastern Romania and Moldova,
they often have a painting,
a mural on the wall of the Heavenly Band
when we all go to Zion, what kind of music
it would be, and it would not be techno.
It would be this and that.
No techno on the beach in heaven.
None! Not for you, Mr. Hitler.
That's pretty tasty.
As I... Maybe I misremember it,
but as I remember it,
we came up with the idea
to do a Nazaroff project,
or we had maybe talked about it
a little bit, but like concretely.
We were on a plane
from Tel Aviv to Warsaw.
After spending like a kind of
unnerving ten days in Israel
having arguments with people
about politics.
And then we spent like two hours
being interrogated
by some like 17-year-old girl
with a machine gun at the airport...
It was very funny.
She asked me why I had two kippahs.
Then she said: "Why are you bringing
these kippahs back home to Moscow?
Do you have a kippah in Moscow?"
And I said: "Yes, I have one."
She actually asked me:
"Are you religious?" I said no.
And she said: "If you are not,
why do you need a kippah?
And if you need a kippah,
it means you're religious.
If you're not religious,
why do you need a kippah?
If you need it, you have one,
why do you need two more?"
Something like that.
And for me she was saying: "Do you have
family here in Israel?" And I said no.
And she said:
"And, so what were you doing here?"
I said I was here to play music. She said:
"And do you speak Hebrew?" I said no.
She said: "Well, what kind of music
do you play?" I said Jewish music.
She said: "But you don't speak Hebrew?"
I said yes.
And she said...
She said: "Well what kind of is it?"
We play Yiddish music.
She said: "Why Yiddish music?"
And I said:
"Well, because I think it's good music."
And she said: "Well, but then
why don't you speak Hebrew?"
We went around in a circle like this.
And she said: "Are you married?"
And I said: "No, I'm not."
She says:
"And you don't have any family here?"
She asked me this three times.
I said:
"No, I don't have any family here."
And she's like: "But you speak Yiddish."
And I said: "Yes, I learnt Yiddish."
And she said: "But you don't speak
Hebrew." And I said: "No, I don't."
And then she is like: "And you have
a relationship with a woman?"
And I said yes. And she's like:
"And is she... She's not Israeli?"
And I was like: "No."
And she said: "Is she Jewish?"
And I said no. And she said:
"But you speak Yiddish." And I said yes.
And then eventually I said:
"Are you trying to ask me if I'm a Jew?"
And she says: "No!"
Olaria Olara
Beat the black drum
And the children love
The pretty little horses
And the little soldiers
With their wooden guns
Little vampires
In my little verses
On the roof, I'm staying up
To see the sun
Olaria Olara
Beat the black drum
And the children love
The pretty little horses
And the little soldiers
With their wooden guns
Little vampires
In my little verses
On the roof, I'm staying up
To see the sun
Olaria Olara
In your arms, ah ooh la la
The Marquis the Sade
Is dancing with a hippie
And the murderer
And victim are in love
And the minister gets married
To the Gypsy
And the virgin
Loves Beelzebub
Olaria Olara
Violins and tra-la-la
And we'll all get together
At the banquet
I hope all my companeros
Make the trip
And we'll all share
A bottle and a blanket
And we'll drink
The last bitter sip
Everything is far away
And getting better
And the snow is falling from above
Everyone is going round
And round together
And my girl is full of happiness
And love
Compare yourself
What does all this have to do with you?
How does your experience ring true?
You're where yourself?
You aren't suffering anyone's regime
You're free to follow every little dream
This was Meyshke's house.
The greatest master of Klezmer
lived there.
The president of Yiddishland.
One of them.
A great master, a poet, a singer.
A poet and a singer and...
The last of the Nazaroff Brothers.
He is our brother
and we are looking for him.
We are speaking Yiddish
because this is the last time
we're going to be hanging out before
Michael is here to correct our Yiddish.
At which point
we can't really speak Yiddish anymore.
Among all the Brothers Nazaroff, he is
the only one who is a native speaker.
He is the only one who's...
How do you know when a language is dying?
All the speakers started
correcting each other.
Oh, am I a mighty lucky
Mighty lucky Jew!
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
From today, 'till I die
You will always hear me cry
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
From today, 'till I die
You will always hear me cry
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
Oh, the little Jew with his fiddle
Is worth millions
He's got the best bow in the whole world
His strings never snap
He can play without end
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
This is the Israel comma... It's Jewish
star comma, Israel comma, Klezmer...
The Jewish star section?
And look at this Jewish star right here.
That's a...
That's a group of Jewish stars.
Future and past. This is the past.
This is the... Yeah.
That there is a young Michael Alpert.
Back in 1976 or latest '77,
I was still... Actually I was living in LA
and I was going to UCLA and there was
a very good record store
that had a lot of
international recordings of ethnic music.
I wandered in one day
and I find this ten inch CD
and it said Jewish Freylekh Music,
Nathan "Prince" Nazaroff.
To me, it was the music
of what I called boardwalk music.
Music as played by older Jews of my
parents' generation and slightly older...
from the late Russian Empire.
Oh, the little Jew with his fiddle
is worth millions
He's got the best bow in the whole world
His strings never snap.
He can play without end.
I don't even remember this, but when I was
two and a half, my parents said,
we were watching Sesame Street,
which was a great old kids' TV show.
And Ithzak Perlman was playing violin
on Sesame Street, classical music,
and they said I was fixated on this
and I just pointed to the TV and said:
"I wanna do that."
And they sort of thought
that I would forget, you know.
They said, OK, he is two and a half,
right, whatever.
I did not forget it.
I was asking them every day,
I want a violin, I want a violin.
So, my dad cut out a little piece of
cardboard and drew a little violin on it
and I was walking around the apartment
all the time.
They would sing in Yiddish, they would
sing in Russian,
they would sing
in Ukrainian at times.
Often a mixture of all three.
And you know, it would be...
This was like social music.
It's music for hanging out.
This really, this was Jewish music.
I mean, this was Yiddish music.
It wasn't the so called,
what came to be called Klezmer music,
which was the more Romanian
clarinet-based styles
that was played at weddings for dancing.
It was our music.
The music of our culture.
Happily I wander
In rain and cold
Singing a joyous tune,
Whistling at the world
When the notion strikes me,
I start to speculate
My money's now on Wall Street,
I sit back and wait
Other stocks are rising
My friends have all the luck
Mine go down and under,
I lost every buck!
When the notion strikes me,
I start to speculate
My money's now on Wall Street
I sit back and wait
Other stocks are rising
My friends have all the luck
Mine go down and under,
I lost every buck!
Now I have no money
No mill, no cow, no wife,
My hard luck has left me
I'm enjoying life!
I love New York.
I have often wondered
if Pasha actually exists.
He's certainly more everywhere
than anywhere.
But I think he's also more everywhere
than anyone.
And it's like he's always somewhere else.
I travel, I travel. I run and fly,
I have no time, I have no rest
I don't know where, I don't know how
I have no there, have no here
I fly and travel from Novy Dvor
To Baltimore and to Shanghai
And from Sudeten to Manhattan
Through Brazil to Turkey
And from Parecany Maladzyechna
I travel to Madagascar
From Morocco, via Cracow
I even fly to Zanzibar
This land is your land,
this land is my land
From Manhattan to Pasadena
Did you write the whole thing?
No, we just had that,
we just had that for fun.
From California to Palestine
-Too soon?
-Too soon.
What did one New Yorker
say to the other New Yorker?
-Fuck you.
-How did we guess?
-Go fuck yourself.
When I was a kid, my only dream was
to live in New York.
For me it was like,
I grew up watching Woody Allen movies,
and reading Jack Kerouac
and all this stuff, and it was always,
it was always about New York.
And you know like reading
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's
A Coney Island of the Mind.
New York always had
this kind of mythic attraction to me,
and I would come here
and I would walk around
just absolutely speechless, you know.
I loved it.
I walked into a coffee shop and the first,
my first day I was...
The first time I came here
without my parents or anything,
I came here with some friends.
And I walked into a coffee shop
and I heard some guy get a coffee
and he says: "I said regular,
not black, you fucking muddlehead!"
And I was like, oh wow,
it's real, you know, and it's like...
But then I moved here and I couldn't find
the New York that I read about.
When you deeply hate Robert Moses
and Brent Rickey then you're a New Yorker.
If you don't know what I'm talking about
then you are not a New Yorker.
I know what you're talking about,
but if you want to look for some
old time Yiddish folk music
or Russian popular music,
those buildings right there were...
When those people died
they would take their junk
and sell it right down the street here
in these like garage antique stores,
where we would come and buy
all the 78 rpm gramophone records
that we learnt music from.
From Amur through Singapore
All the way straight to Montreal
From Poltave through Libave
I get stuck in Oryol
Danzig, Bremen, Iraq, Yemen
Nagasaki, Port Said
Cyrenaica, Lassi in Greece and balalaika
A Jew travels!
Where a border, where a harbour
Where a tavern, I am there!
Make way! Make way!
For I, Mr. Jew, I am travelling!
This is the best city in the world.
You ask why we leave it?
'Cause if you're born and raised here,
it's gonna be with you
for the rest of your life.
It's in your blood.
You can go anywhere else in the world,
you gonna be a New Yorker.
You left the city...
I never left the city!
But you lived in Budapest for...
-It's a suburb.
-25 years now.
-It's a village over there.
-Ah, OK.
But you never leave. As a New Yorker,
mentally you're always a New Yorker.
So much of the freedom of what there was
about New York,
has in part disappeared.
You know, now it's like,
it's become a playground for the rich.
I just moved away
after living there for 35 years.
You know, I didn't leave New York.
I left America.
Something's changed. I mean like
the cops are going up and down the beach,
blowing their whistle, giving tickets
to kids who swim too far out.
When the fuck did that start?
Like, it's just a fucking racket.
I got a fifty dollar ticket
for falling asleep on the subway,
at three o'clock in the morning.
I was woken up by a cop
and given a fifty dollar ticket.
And I said: "What the hell is this about?"
And he said: "Well, you know..."
I was like:
"Can't you just like let me go?"
And he said: "No, ever since 9/11,
we can't let anybody go on anything."
It's like, that's why I don't live
in your fucking town.
You know the joke, there's two old men
on a boardwalk in Tel Aviv
and one old man starts crying and weeping.
The other old man says:
"Friend, what are your tears for?"
He goes: "I want to die
in the Jewish homeland, in a Jewish land."
He goes: "But you're in Tel Aviv.
You're in the Jewish homeland."
And he goes: "No, I mean New York!"
The Russian joke...
-Which one was that?
-The one about the two worms.
The daddy worm and the little worm.
And they live all day
on this big pile of shit.
And all they do is
they eat the shit, all day long.
And the baby worm says
to the daddy worm:
"Dad, is it true that some worms
live on apples?
And all they do all day is eat apples?"
He says: "Yes, son. It's true.
Some worms do live on apples."
And he says: "Is it true that
some worms, they live on pears?
And all they do is eat pears all day?"
He says:
"Yes, some worms, they live on pears."
And he says: "Then, papa,
why is it that we live
on this pile of shit?
And eat shit all day?"
He says:
"Because son, it is our Motherland!"
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
From today, 'till I die
You will always hear me cry
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
Everyone here, except you, had
their people come through Ellis Island?
Yeah, except me.
Not your people. And then except him.
And you?
My family came through Ellis Island.
I tried to find them in the database.
I don't think it's...
The thing about Ellis Island is like,
one of the things that came out is like,
there is apparently not
a shred of evidence that anybody's name
was actually changed at Ellis Island.
-Of course, like you know,
when you come to the United States now,
do they change your name?
You have a travel document.
-Well, my great-grandfather...
My great-great-grandfather
was the one who came over.
And he was named Cohen.
And his son was named Khan.
But that was a...
I'm sure they meant to do that, you know.
I don't know why.
Maybe he thought Khan sounded less Jewish,
which I can testify doesn't.
And they came, they came even before...
That was my dad's dad's family,
came in before Ellis Island.
They came in like 1869.
This land is your land
This land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Red Wood Forest
To the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me
In the squares of a city
By the shadow of a steeple
Near the Relief Office
I saw my people
As they stood there hungry
I stood there wondering
If this land was made for you and me
This land is your land
This land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Red Wood Forest
To the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me
This land was made for you and me
Love, the rights of expected
Love, we have to respect it
Love, it comes for a long time
Comes forever and more
Love, a beautiful story
Love, it won't make you sorry
It comes in all of its glory
Like no one ever before
Love takes its course
Makes love everything
Love, every day
What sustains everything?
It is love
Love takes its course
Love takes its course
And once more the blood
Makes love everything
Love every day
What sustains everything?
It is love
Ah, New York.
Once again.
But they're facing each other.
What city is this?
The whole world is Vegas.
Yeah, I don't know. I get this feeling
from Paris like Paris doesn't care.
Paris is just doing fine. Paris...
Paris doesn't care.
It doesn't need to know me,
I don't need to know Paris.
Well, that's the fanciest synagogue
I've ever seen.
You choose Berlin. I choose Paris.
Yeah, well,
I have a deeper relationship with Berlin.
I don't know.
Berlin just spoke to me somehow.
You know, I come from a city
that needs a lot of love, you know.
Detroit needs love.
And I don't know, I think Berlin
needs some love too, somehow.
Paris doesn't need any more love.
Paris gets enough.
Paris is a satisfied city.
I'm not sure that I love Paris.
The thing is that all my life...
I've been in Moldova, Romania, Hungary.
All my life, I've been attracted
to the periphery, you know.
And France, and Paris is the centre.
French was a language that was like...
It was a language of high culture to me.
It was a language of snobbishness and kind
of not what I wanted to identify with.
So, a Jew once travelled to Paris
and a friend takes him
to the Jewish cemetery.
And there they see Rothchild's grave.
And there is a big, beautiful,
fancy monument on top of it.
And his friend looks at the grave and
says: "You see, Yankl? That's living!"
You see, Yankl? That is living!
Do you have any idea,
why in the Soviet Union,
of my parents' generation,
you know why Jews
were referred to as French.
He is a Frenchman.
Why did they call Jews Franzuse?
You know what? Especially
given where your family comes from,
I'm gonna take a guess.
There is a Yiddish word, a frenk,
which means a Sephardic Jew.
Meaning a Jew from,
not a Sephardic Jew from Turkey,
but originally Jews
from the Spanish lands.
Jews from Catholic Europe, right.
So, you know these names,
frenk, frenkl, frankl
so forth usually refers
to a Sephardic Jew.
It was like euphemism.
If you didn't want to say loudly
that someone was Jewish
you would say, a franzus.
I grew up with this guy
and he was my god-brother,
because his mother was my godmother.
Which isn't a very Jewish tradition,
but it was something that we did.
And he did. He changed his name
and he moved to Israel
and became
the media spokesperson for the IDF.
So when you watch the interviews from 2009
where they're like:
"Why did you bomb this hospital?"
He is like, "Well, it's not our fault."
You know.
He was the guy who had to go out...
He's a Zionist. A hardcore...
OK, he is the contrary of you.
Well, in many regards, yes.
But we come from the same place.
That whole issue, you know, like
about Israel and Zionism and Palestine
and what that means, and what the conflict
in the Middle East and...
You know, how the whole world is obsessed
with it and it's like literally,
in many ways physically
and geographically and...
I mean, I don't know, in every
possible way it's totally torn apart,
the Jewish community all around the world.
And it's doing it right now,
more than ever, I think.
That it's really like there's a line and
you're on this side or that side.
I don't like that line, but it's not up
to me whether or not there is that line.
And so I find myself
on one side of the line.
So, we're just different people.
You took your name
All the way to the desert
And you were changed
In the name of your Lord
You gave your word
Onto Zion
And your hand
To the sword
We were the sons
Of American plenty
Your mother held me as her own
We grew to cross many borders
Different roads, different homes
Oh God, brother
What have you done?
Gone to Judea
With a shovel and a gun
But this is amazing.
He is holding a baby and a sword
and he's standing on a smashed swastika.
I mean, that's pretty hardcore.
I don't know exactly the reason
why I don't like this kind of monument.
'Cause you grew up with it.
"Yet, again walls and
fences were being built
and you persecute these
poor souls seeking a home.
You drive them anew from your gates,
hunting them through
nights of broken glass.
What chutzpah you have to act like that?
Are we supposed to forgive you?
Again, you devour your own children,
turning them into murderers,
bloodthirsty dogs,
and turning a blind eye
to all their crimes,
until all of Europe has
been laid to waste."
This song is more appropriate now
then when you wrote it.
Yes. I mean, or just as appropriate now.
This whole like debate
and the way refugees are being used
as a political football right now.
People who are running away from
horrible, genocidal situations in Syria,
in Africa, and, and being kicked out
or relegated to these third,
third, you know, zikhere dritte lender.
That's what it means to be
a new European Union country.
A third class country.
Like Romania.
-Romania, Bulgaria...
-And Albania.
-Yeah like...
-And Albania which is not in the EU.
Yeah, but it's now an acceptable
"third country", which means
they're turning these countries that can
barely afford anything on their own,
into giant concentration camps.
You know, this is what's happening
right now,
and what's so fucking great
about this song is that
it's not about
It doesn't have to do with getting
over the past, or dealing with that.
It has to do with the fact
that the past didn't go anywhere.
That it's still the same fucking problems.
-The same politics.
What chutzpah
You must have to act like this?
Are we supposed to forgive you?
Again, you devour your own children
Turning them into murderers
Bloodthirsty dogs
Turning a blind eye to their crimes
Until all of Europe and the whole world
Has been laid to waste
So, sing my fiddle
Play, my fiddle
Like no one has played before
And play me a sweet diaspora song
Of pure longing
Yesterday is buried, yesterday is buried
Yesterday is buried
There is no tomorrow
There is but a little high
But it's filled with sorrow
Grab yourself a bottle
While you still can swallow
You won't cop a single drop
In the world to follow
Brothers wail and howl
Let your beard be wild
That's the way to dance away
Sorrow and exile
Brothers wail and howl
Let your beard be wild
That's the way to dance away
Sorrow and exile
Everybody, rightfully so,
is talking a lot about fascism now.
Because there is like
in every country in Europe,
there is a resurgent fascist party.
Whether they're... They're not all as big
as they are in your country.
-Or in France?
-Or in France, or...
Well, that's the thing, like, I would love
to single out Hungary but I can't.
'Cause it's like Hungary, Austria,
France, Greece, Bulgaria.
You know, in England.
We shouldn't have to fucking leave
because of the Nazis, you know.
They should fucking leave.
The return of Jews to Germany, you know,
after the reunification.
They're always talking about like,
as if it's like a new era.
But the fact is that the same articles
are being written now
about the Israelis who are moving here.
Journalistic bullshit, clich questions
over and over again.
Like how is it to be a Jew here?
Do you feel uncomfortable
because of the past, or are they all
anti-Semites and is it... In the
Tterland, the land of the perpetrators?
This is also the land of the victims,
if you wanna put it in those terms.
And it's also the land
of the non-perpetrators.
It's a space and it's always
been an international, cosmopolitan space.
And you know, it's not weird
that Jews are coming back here,
it's weird that there was a period
when Jews were supposedly not here.
-But they actually were.
Like, there was never, I mean...
What do you think about this Holocaust
Memorial that the German state made?
You know, there are still people
who go there every day,
from all over the world
who've never heard of the Holocaust.
And there is a little museum there
and they go down and it's very impressive.
And I think it's a good way for them
to learn about it.
But it's not for me.
It's not part of the conversation
that I'm part of, you know.
It's... It's like...
I don't know. It's...
What does it mean to have
a beautiful place
about an ugly piece of shit,
like the Holocaust?
You know like, there is no...
There is no appropriate...
You know, it's like, OK...
It's like a kidney, you know.
It's like a kidney for history.
And all of the bad history
flows through that one place.
But that's not how history works.
I like the Stolpersteine more.
You'll see... They're like everywhere.
These little brass, golden stones.
There is one in front of the house.
They're everywhere.
You never know when you run into them.
It just says, in this house lived
so and so and they were born then
and this year this happened to them.
They were deported to Minsk, they were
murdered in Auschwitz, whatever.
These kinds of constant, you know,
ubiquitous memorials
to the presence of Jews here,
to the Holocaust and so forth...
When I first started coming here,
very little of that was here.
I mean, the memorial was Berlin itself,
or the...
It wasn't exactly a memorial, but just
being in the city itself was exactly what,
you know, if you were aware of it,
every step, every stone
kind of made you think about that.
Yeah, the past didn't go anywhere here,
it's like...
Right. I was just about to say,
I was like, Germany, especially you know,
if you come from the US...
I mean it's true for Europe in many ways,
but especially for here in the late 80s
and especially after '89,
history was not something that happened
in the past, it was a living thing.
And then they get sent to Zuglo.
And they get sent
to a Budapest university.
The 14th district of Budapest,
where we go shopping.
And this is a little bit, different
than to what you find like in a FastMart.
Basically, you can buy everything,
and it's not a Walmart.
You can buy pickles.
-Pickles. We must buy pickles.
Are those sweet or dill pickles?
-Sweet, but we also have dill pickles.
-Can I have half a kilo of dill pickles?
-That's fine.
Have a pickle.
Try these pickles.
There's a soft drink...
It's good.
You know, what you miss in New York
is a fresh pickle.
-You get them in a jar...
You're getting jarred ones...
It used to be before we got in the EU,
you could buy palinka
and wine back here...
And you can, kind of, still.
But it's black market.
And wine, not so much.
Hey, maybe Hungary
will get kicked out of the EU
and then you can buy palinka again.
You can buy palinka now.
Yeah, right.
But I used to like to walk around
the Jewish district,
look at all the bullet holes.
Well, they're still there.
Who is cleaning them up, right?
L'chaim, brothers!
Drink with me
May the host have a long life!
May God give
all of you strength
And health from top to toe
May God send us the Messiah soon
That's when we will be kings
And wine will flow like a river
Those will be good times
We'll live happily together
Next year in Jerusalem!
I don't believe in religion.
Actually, religion...
I do believe there exist religions.
There didn't before 600 AD.
Then it was just cultures.
We Jews, we're a tribe.
We don't really care what you believe.
We kind of do, there are various beliefs
over different periods of history...
-Some of us do.
-But we write down what you have to do.
What the rules of our tribe
that you're born into do.
So, these people who are buried in here,
they were buried in there in 1944
when they could not get access
to the Jewish cemetery
outside of this ghetto area.
I don't know what they believed,
but I do have a good
idea about what they did.
-Because that's what makes us a Jew.
-And how they lived.
When they did things
and when they did not.
Those things we share in common,
whether we are in Morocco,
whether we are in Corazon,
whether we are in Poland
or whether we are in Budapest or New York.
Or they knew what it was
when they were not doing it.
That's what defines us amongst ourselves.
How others want to define us,
depending on the period of history,
that's up to them.
They can either let us continue
to be who we are, or they can choose,
as they did in 1944 here in the ghetto,
to find a final solution for us.
I think being a Jew is about
thinking about what it means to be a Jew.
If you spend a lot of your time thinking
about what that means,
then you're probably Jewish.
I don't know. I don't believe in God.
-I'm not sure he believes in you.
-He probably doesn't.
I mean, Jewish religion is about law,
it's about, you know,
you know, in a lot of ways, it's about
disputing and questioning logic.
That leap is what we call the finklen yid,
the spark of being Jewish.
The spark that we shared at Mount Sinai
when we got all these laws.
And a lot of it comes down to the rituals
and the holidays.
And the laws regarding eating or bathing
or dressing,
which are basically defining
space and time
Giving us a Jewish space
and time to exist in.
We don't need a land
if we have space and time.
And when did you learn Hungarian? At home?
When the 1956 refugees,
who fought the Russians came out,
they were generally taken to
various stateless person camps.
And when they got to the United States,
they were sent to Camp...
Fort Dix usually,
to learn English and to learn a trade.
And after that, to go out into the world.
And so many people had
my mother's address from Veszprem.
They would come and live
in our basement.
And I was five-six years old and I would
take them around and translate for them.
So, I thought that was great.
They would tell me stories about
throwing hand grenades at Russian tanks
and I would go
to the supermarket with them.
And then, one of them
turned into a major criminal.
So... Uncle Tibor, Tibor bcsi,
was a complete gangster.
For real?
Yeah, my father was a New York policeman,
so he kicked Tibor out of the house
and said: "I never want to
hear the Hungarian language
spoken in this house again."
So, it became a secret language.
And then, and then, you wanna be American.
That was the attitude, you know,
so you wanna speak English.
You've never been in Israel?
I've never been to Israel. It didn't...
Israel wasn't a part of my Jewishness.
It wasn't really a part of my Jewish life.
I'm not anti-Zionist. I'm not Zionist.
I just...
I've never been, and I don't need Israel
to relate to me being a Jew.
It's not a big question of identity to me.
I'm a Jew, you know.
It's interesting to come here to Hungary,
where people have all these
fabricated ideas about what that means.
So, even the Jews here
call themselves the...
The Mosaic faith,
Hungarians of Mosaic faith.
You know. Or Israelites. Or any number
of things in the Hungarian language.
You're a Yid! So, you're just a Yid.
Which is like, no, I'm better than that.
No, you ain't, you know.
Next time they, you know,
haul us off to Auschwitz,
we'll make sure they'll call you a Limo.
You know. You don't have to go
in those dirty cattle cars anymore.
With us. The Yids.
-And we're always being filmed.
-Oh, always?
Yes, 'cause in America,
you watch a film...
Ah, that's right.
But in Communist Budapest, Hungary...
The film watches you.
What a country.
In the 1800s, in the 19th century,
to be a Hungarian
was based kind of
as they were breaking away
from the identity of being one of many
peoples of the Austrian empire.
It was the way citizenship
was granted in France.
If you moved here and you spoke our
language, you could be one of us.
So you've got guys,
little short guys from Corsica,
becoming the emperor of France, you know.
You've got all these people from
all over the world
going and saying:"Oui, monsieur."
and they become French.
That was basically the ideal here.
So, everybody, like Petofi,
stopped speaking Slovak
and became Hungary's greatest poet.
And it was accepted, OK?
That was the creation
of a mythical new identity,
which lasted until the Horthy years.
And then after '45, there's a new
definition of what makes a Hungarian,
and then after 1990, a new one.
And now you have people
running around in Hun costumes,
going: "I'm ancient Hungarian."
and all of you are not, yeah?
And these are all created identities.
The Jewish identity in Hungary was forged
like from 1820 until 1900,
that you could become a Hungarian.
It was one of the very few places
besides France, in Europe,
where that was outright a given.
You were a full citizen,
a participant member of this nation,
regardless of your religion.
And there were very few places in Europe
that granted that. France and Hungary.
it settled well,
people felt really comfortable with it,
and they feel truly schizophrenic
when that is taken away from them.
I never felt comfortable with the
other identity. I'm an American, OK?
I have a choice.
I could be an American,
I could be a Hungarian, a Jew
I could be whatever.
Any number of things.
People here don't have choice, you know.
You grew up thinking you're a Hungarian,
you know, and then one day someone says:
"Ah, you came from Nagyvrad.
You're a Romanian."
Or: "Ah, your name is Steinberg.
You're a Jew. You're not Hungarian."
That's suddenly taken away from you,
and nothing is left in its place.
So, what do you run to,
if you don't have any of your own real...
you don't have a grasp
of what the Jewish culture is.
All you are told is: "Oh, that's Israel."
Then you run to Israel for an identity.
Well, that's what most people did, OK.
And you get another
created identity built out of mythology.
Very old books about a desert people
who don't eat pork, you know.
And pork is tasty.
Where a border, where a harbor
Where a tavern, I am there!
Make way! Make way!
For I, Mr. Jew, I am travelling!
I don't know, I don't care, I don't know
what kind of aesthetic standards you have,
from, I don't know Westchester
or wherever you're from.
But where I'm from,
there's nothing more beautiful than...
Farmington Hills, you mean?
-My part of the world, I mean.
-The famous Farmington Hills.
Even in Farmington Hills,
the most beautiful thing around
are like giant industrial cranes and...
It's too much.
I have to go up very small steps.
Let's toast to the...
Michael, you grew up in Venice Beach,
or in LA?
I was born in Hollywood,
you know the Hollywood sign,
the famous Hollywood sign?
I was born right underneath that.
-Underneath the second L.
-Yeah, yeah.
And that's where we lived
when I was a little kid.
Was it still Hollywood then?
What sign were you born under?
The Hollywood sign.
Which letter?
I would say, probably around the W.
-The W!
-The W or the first O.
-I lived in Yugoslavia for two years.
I wanted to go where my parents
were from and my family was from,
but they were border areas of the Soviet
Union, which was, you know, harder.
-The plan was to do
one month in Yugoslavia,
one month in Romania.
So, I might have met you,
but I never got beyond Yugoslavia.
-Yeah, if you were born then.
-I was born in the year of Eleonor Rigby.
And it's just miles and miles
and miles of nothing but factory.
One gigantic factory.
And they have their own steel mill
and oil refinery.
These, these are giant,
I mean these are like not for humans.
Oh, when I die, please bury me low
Where I can hear the petroleum flow
The sweetest sound I ever did know
The rolling mills of New Jersey
Oh, down in Trenton, there is a bar
Where the bums come from near
and from far
They come by truck, they come by car
The dirty bums of New Jersey
Oh, when I die, please bury me low
So I can hear the petroleum flow
The sweetest sound I've ever known
The rolling mills of New Jersey
I fell in love with the city of Detroit,
when I was raised
to fear and hate the city of Detroit.
And I fell in love with black culture,
when I was raised,
not by my parents,
but I was raised in an environment,
which feared and hated black culture.
And I was raised to be an unquestioning,
unwavering lover and spiritual
citizen of the nation of Israel.
And I never would have had any
opportunities to sit down with somebody
who grew up in a refugee camp
in the West Bank or in Southern Lebanon.
Or to speak with people
who lived their lives in exile,
because they can't stand
where they came from.
Because where they came from
is a hellhole.
You know, and what I was taught the
Holocaust means when I was a kid,
was largely a very specific meaning,
like, never again will this happen to us.
Never again will the Jews
be like the Jews were.
Which is so deeply self-hating,
and distorted and ideological,
but that's how I was raised,
you know, like, we will defend,
we will kill,
we will have our land, you know.
And I, you know, I probably
wouldn't have changed my mind about that,
had I not gone out, you know.
Oh, am I a mighty lucky, mighty lucky Jew!
From today, 'till I die
You will always hear me cry
Oh, am I a mighty lucky Jew
Lots of Armenians in the Central Valley.
You don't even know.
See how Western you are!
I was trying to thank you for playing.
My favorite song.
I don't know,
like an earthquake or something.
And I called my dad in.
So he came in,
and he is naked except for a towel.
So I have this picture of him
holding up the cabinet
and then holding the towel.
And I like, of course,
I go and get my camera.
I thought the towel fell off.
No, no, no!
Well, he is sort of holding it, and...
Yeah, fuck... My dad!
Yeah, take some of this.
David Khan. Cheers!
Botosani was, before the war,
it was more than 50 percent Jewish.
And there was also a very large
Armenian population.
A third, or fourth,
was Romanian Christians.
What about the...
When I was here,
I once took some,
some pants to get repaired to this tailor
and he wanted to write my name
on the inside of the pants.
So, I said Schulman.
"What kind of name is that?"
And I said, well, I'm American,
but I'm Jewish.
It's a Jewish name.
And he said, "Ah, Jews!
All of the best tailors in Botosani
were Jewish.
And I learned from them. I learned..."
He was very proud to have learned
from Jewish tailors.
So, the next day I came back.
Got my pants.
And I walked in there and he said:
"Mr Schulman, the Jew. Come in!"
I lived here in Botosani for a year.
I learned Moldovan music.
-Do you understand Yiddish?
Are you enjoying yourselves?
The guest are almost ready
For the dancing to begin
They've come to toast the wedding
Between Zion and Berlin
So raise a glass up
to the bride and groom
But don't confuse the Deutsch with Yiddish
Nor the night with day
And if a Kaddish sound like Kiddush
Bow your head and pray
We never step upon the glass too soon.
My grandfather was known as Morris Cohen.
Born Moishe Olitskansky,
about 30 kilometres east of here,
in a village called Kulieni,
which in Yiddish is Kuvelyan.
By the time he was twelve years old,
the family had moved here,
to this place, which we called Kishinev.
In April of 1903, a newspaper here,
called the Bessarabetz
wrote a series of inflammatory articles,
accusing Jews of having killed children,
Christian children for their blood,
for Passover matzos.
Crowds gathered two blocks down the road,
two streets away, on Ashya Street
and besieged the house of a wagon-man.
And it broke into violence
that went on for three days
against the Jews, with Jews killed, 49
people killed, hundreds badly wounded
and 2000 families made homeless.
This was known as the Kishinev pogrom.
In my family, when I was growing up
in New York,
those were issues
that could have happened just yesterday.
We spoke as much about the pogroms
as much as we did about any Holocaust.
Those were things that still had
a psychic echo in our family, and...
...widely noted and reported on
are the big pogroms.
And they poured huge amounts
of Bessarabia Jews out to France,
to the United States, Argentina.
What we brought was a lot of this culture.
I mean that became part
of what very deep New York,
Ashkenazy Yiddish culture.
Actually, the pogrom here
was the reason that my family,
my grandfather decided to leave Russia.
But the thing is, the climate here,
the richness of the soil,
the melding of the cultures,
made this sort of a paradise.
And everybody has good memories
of having come from here.
That's the other funny thing, which is...
Then basically, if you want Klezmer music,
it came from people
singing their memories of this place.
You know, Moldavia. Bessarabia.
Gib mir Bessarabien.
You know, I don't know, I just feel like
you don't wanna get caught
in the past, you know.
-Caught in the past?
I just found out that my father's
grandmother on his dad's side
was from Romania. Elisabeth.
Elisabeth. Yeah.
Elisabeth came from Romania.
I have no idea where.
The disconnect between my family
and Europe is so deep.
Like, my family's been
in America for four generations,
sometimes five, and like...
I have no idea where my people are from.
And I didn't meet most of them, you know.
So speak not of your righteousness
For though you may be true
The tree of evil might just have
Its seed inside of you
Waiting for the proper time to bloom
And we the chosen children
Of this martyrdom must learn
That martyrs turn to murderers
When tables have been turned
And history repeats its bloody tune
I think we're all ready to be a people
without a state.
And I think that, you know, personally,
these days, like many millions of people
find themselves in a position
of leaving where they're from
and flocking to, you know,
to the great megacities of the world.
You know it's like the world is becoming
more cosmopolitan
and unsustainably cosmopolitan
than it ever has been.
Which is interesting.
It's almost... It's like...
Everybody's become Jews.
You know, people flock
to the cosmopolitan centers.
-Bring out your Jew.
-Right, absolutely.
You may have a Jew inside of you.
It's like...
And but, and that this, in this sense,
and that's what I'm saying.
I don't wanna abstract it too much,
but there is a kind of inner Yid,
that can be a universal like this.
Yiddish, an in, you know, many aspects
of Jewishness, would be a, you know,
is a great model for the world.
Prepare yourself to swallow
All your diamonds and your rings
And all your ticky, shiny windy things
Don't scare yourself
The photos in the newspapers are blurred
The radio is broadcasting a whirr
Beware yourself, your neighbors
Aren't neighbors anymore
They're leaning with a glass
Against your door
Take care of yourself
And hoist into the air your disbelief
Just go ahead and give yourself relief
Get ready for your inner emigration
Get ready to be alien inside
Consider all your social obligations
The borders are your foreign order bride
You won't ever have to leave your nation
You won't ever have to even try
Just make a secret inner emigration
And you won't ever have to say goodbye
Well, Hannah was at home
In the Berlin cabarets of '32
But in '33 the weather turned
And the Brownshirts
All turned loose and rumors,
They were bad
Her Sozi lover Alex was getting scared
You see, his name was on a list
For having red friends with brown hair
He wanted to get out
And Hannah could've gone with him
To his family in Ukraine
But instead she took a walk
Out in the rain, through her Berlin
She thought about how this weather,
It would pass
Anyway, things had always
Worked out in the past
So she made a kind of inner emigration
She started to feel alien inside
With all the social marginalization
Her sense of place
Was starting to be tried
And she couldn't stand
Abandoning her nation
She didn't want it all to pass her by
So people make their inner emigrations
'til one by one they have to say goodbye
Now, compare yourself
What does all this have to do with you?
How does your experience ring true?
You're where, yourself?
You aren't suffering anyone's regime
You're free to follow every little dream
Be fair to yourself
You needn't be oppressed to be alone
You don't have to be driven from your home
To spare yourself from feeling
Like a part of the control
With an internal diplomatic role
Just make a kind of inner emigration
It's a kind of shift accomplished easily
We all have made our disassociations
Whether on the job or in our families
And what could be more irrelevant
Than nations
When everywhere you go is buy or sell
But if we all make only inner emigrations
Then everything will only go to hell