American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs (2017) (documentary film narrated by Amy Madigan)

First Run Features

Bernie Sanders inspired a generation - but who inspired him? “American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs” is the culmination of five years of research and production. Its inspiration was the use of the word “socialist” as a political epithet, and director Yale Strom wanted to define and contextualize the term. Most people in America do not know that the contemporary political movement to address income inequality began over 100 years ago with Eugene Victor Debs. This film traces the history of American populism, with the man who inspired progressive ideas - from FDR's New Deal to Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. This is an objective but passionate history of the movement as championed and founded by Eugene Victor Debs, a movement that continues to have an impact on our daily lives today.



Film is being distributed by Yale Strom and BlackStream Films.

Gabriella Hartstein was born in 1914 in Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia, a city shaped by its thriving and cosmopolitan Jewish community: Secular Hungarian Jews co-existed with Khasidim (led by the renowned, charismatic Rabbi Eliezer Shipra) and ardent Zionists. Mukacevo was such a center of Zionism that British Colonel Josiah Wedgwood came in 1922 to give a speech on why he and other Christian Zionists from England were supporting the plan to create the State of Israel. For this momentous occasion, the Jewish community selected a little girl to present their esteemed visitor with flowers and a speech in English, one who had the beauty, charm and intellect to represent them. But Gabriella was so nervous, she burst into tears.

Years later, the adult Gabriella had become an ardent Zionist and teacher at the prestigious Hebrew gymnasium and the Jewish community continued to prosper... until 1938, when the Hungarian fascists invaded this part of Czechoslovakia (with encouragement from Germany) and suddenly, the noose tightened around all of Mukacevo's Jews. It was then that Gabriella had the audacious thought to write to the man (now Lord Wedgwood) who might be able to save her and her family. Did he remember that shy, little girl from all those years ago?

Astonishingly, Lord Wedgwood personally interceded, ultimately bringing Gabriella and her brother to England. Gabriella's relationship with her unlikely rescuer is depicted through interviews, archival photos, rare archival footage and letters, and a moving soundtrack, and tells a rare story of survival and hope in the face of the Holocaust. In black and white, 55 minutes long.


The celebration of klezmer music, October 2007

On October 12, 2007, over one hundred klezmer musicians and Yiddish singers gathered on the steps of New York City’s Eldridge Street synagogue for a once-in-a-lifetime photo shoot. Brought from around the world, these musicians represent the most influential klezmer artists of the revival and in the world today. This significant event was noted for its participants (ranging from Theo Bikel to John Zorn) and was followed by the world’s longest klezmer march, when these musicians took to the streets of the Lower East Side for a parade and impromptu outdoor concert. As they marched, onlookers began to follow along curious to see what this celebration was all about. It was Yiddish street theatre at its best!

Over the next two evenings, the participants performed formally at City University’s Martin E. Segal Theatre and Symphony Space. A GREAT DAY ON ELDRIDGE STREET portrays all of these events. This film not only chronicles this extraordinary weekend, but celebrates the revival of klezmer music and Yiddish song that has now become one of the main soundtracks for Jewish culture throughout the world today with humor, pathos… and of course, great music.

The photo from this shoot is now a poster and can be sold at all screenings.The film is 30 minutes long and this includes the credits.The film can be screened on DVD or Digi-Beta.The filmmaker can come to the screening and provide give a klezmer concert afterwards. This is Yale Strom's first short documentary film.


A MAN FROM MUNKÁCS Gypsy Klezmer A Film by Yale Strom

A Man From Munkács: Gypsy Klezmer explores the symbiotic relationship between the Rom and Jews who lived together before and after World War Two in the Carpathian region. Before the Holocaust there, whenever there was a Jewish celebration (e.g., a wedding, Purim festivities, dance etc.), most of the time the klezmer musicians were not Jews but Rom. In fact, the Rom had played with and for Jews for so many years that some of them spoke a fluent Yiddish. The film examines how this persecuted group (the Rom) saved Jewish folk music until it could be returned to the Jews. We learn about Gyula Galombosi, a Rom virtuoso violinist who traveled throughout the Soviet Union playing classical, Rom, Russian and klezmer music until his death in1986. His hometown was Munkács and in this hometown lived the Jakubowicz family. Ferenc (Feri) Jakubowicz was the first Jewish child born after the Holocaust in Munkács, which was cause for great celebration - Jewish life was being renewed.

During Feri’s birth, Galombosi and his fellow musicians played klezmer music on the street below the apartment. Feri was told this story by his father years later, which caused him to be more curious about klezmer. Feri and Gyula became good friends. Feri, a pianist, learned many great klezmer tunes from Gyula. When Feri and his family immigrated to Budapest in 1979, Feri played music with a local opera company. In the film, Feri shares his initial ambivalence about publicly announcing his Jewishness and his love of klezmer to the gentile world. But in 1990, he formed the first klezmer band in Hungary since the 1920’s, “The Budapest Klezmer Band” and taught the tunes he had learned from Galombosi to the rest of his band, who were not Jewish. On camera, Feri gradually remembers a Munkatsher tune his uncle use to sing to him when he was a young boy. This tune, “The Munkatsher Nign” provides a musical motif throughout the film, as it is interpreted by various Rom and Jewish musicians. Through Feri and Galombosi’s stories, we will trace the rebirth of Jewish music in Hungary today.

The film is 58 min. long and was produced by Duna TV (Hungary) and Starcrest Films (Frankfurt, Germany).

Klezmer on Fish Street(2003)

WINNER, Special Jury Selection, 2003 Palm Beach Int’l Film Fest

If you’ve seen “The Pianist”, you have a sense of Jewish life in Poland during WWII… now see what Jewish life is like in Poland today.

When you travel to Krakow, Poland, you can stay in the former Jewish Quarter of Kazimiercz, at a Jewish inn. You will wake up to a kosher-style breakfast. You will take the “Schindler’s List” tour. You will return for a kosher-style lunch, and then take the bus to Auschwitz-Birkenau. You will end your day with a kosher-style dinner, followed by a klezmer concert, will you have met a Polish Jew? Is the revival of Jewish culture in Poland today only the culture or is Jewish life being revived as well? These and other questions will be examined in this film through the through the eyes of “The Klezmaniacs” - a group of young, Jewish-American klezmer musicians - traveling to Poland on a self-initiated "musical goodwill tour". Translating for them is singer Shira Shazeer's grandmother, who lost her family and was deported 60 years earlier. As this "next generation" of proponents of Yiddish culture explores their roots, the grandmother searches her childhood neighborhood for any remaining vestiges of Jewish life. These vignettes of Poland are intercut with an unfolding confrontation between Jewish tourists, non-Jewish Poles and Jewish Poles while the local police stand by uneasily. Together, these scenes create a true sense of Jewish life in Poland today.

L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin (2002)

Official Selection – 2002 Berlin Film Festival

In March of 2000, director Yale Strom flew to Moscow to begin his trek to the fabled Jewish Autonomous Region of Siberia. Upon arrival, he discovered that some of his luggage and camera equipment had been misrouted. The Russian authorities weren’t overly concerned. Rather, Strom was informed that he had brought his violin with him “illegally” – and unless he could provide proper documentation, including photos of his violin, he would not be permitted to return to America with it. He offered to shoot off a roll of film on the spot, but he was told that he had to follow bureaucratic procedure.yale stromThus, the stage is set for Strom’s journey to Birobidzhan, capitol of the J.A.R., on Siberia’s Far Eastern border. Accompanying him on the 7-day train trip via Trans-Siberian Railroad is interpreter-bodyguard (and former KGB agent) Slava Andreovich. As Strom travels east, he makes the serendipitous discovery that Slava is in fact the grandson of Mikhail Kalinin, first president of the U.S.S.R. and the architect of the J.A.R. Slava is also a dedicated anti-Semite… although he likes Yale: “If I hated all Jews, would I be here with you?

The endless train trip, and the casual anti-Semitism of his Russian fellow passengers, immerse Strom in the experiences of the first Jewish pioneers to settle the region in 1928. Strom’s interviews and encounters are intercut with archival footage and scenes from the rare Soviet propaganda film about Birobidzhan, entitled “Seekers of Happiness” (1936). Strom’s encounters with Russians en route to Birobidzhan, and his interviews with early Jewish pioneers to the J.A.R. (and young proponents of the rekindled interest in Yiddish culture) both in the U.S. and Russia, paint a vivid portrait of the circumstances surrounding this unique chapter in Soviet, and world, history.
*Official Selection – 2002 Berlin Film Festival*-----

“Bittersweet and poignant….” Stephen Holden – NY Times “One of 1996’s top ten films…” David Moss – San Diego Union – Tribune

CARPATI: 50 MILES, 50 YEARS (1996)

Zev Godinger is the caretaker of the Jewish community of Beregovo, Ukraine. When Zev meets Yale and his partner David Notowitz, he decides to return to his hometown of Vinogradov for the first time in 50 years. While on the train trip Zev carries a Torah (brought by Yale & David from the US) for his boyhood synagogue which hasn't had one for years. During the course of the trip we meet many of Zev's friends, particularly the Gypsies who are the ones who maintain what little Jewish music remains in the Carpathian mountains.


"One of 1994's top ten films..." Michael Medved - NY Post

Meet the last klezmer to have grown up in the tradition and who is still performing and teaching his art to mostly gentiles in Poland today. Leopold takes a trip back to his hometown of Prezmyslany, Ukraine for the first time since 1945 and shows Yale what life was like for a klezmer before WWII. Along the way we meet a friend of Leopold's and learn how they both survived the war.

buy now Now Available Here!

The DVD comes with an additional 18 minutes of never before seen footage.

" The Last Klezmer is a beautifully heartfelt personal exploration of one man's survival, and his attempt to make his cherished music survive as well. " - DVD Talk arrowRead More


"Celebrates enduring culture..." LA Times

How was perestroika effecting Jewish communities in Poland, Hungary and former Czechoslovakia, just as the Berlin Wall was tumbling down? With his violin in hand, Yale travels and speaks with Jews and non-Jews about what it means to be a Jew in a "new" Eastern Europe. (available on 16mm & video from Yale Strom)