Seen a Yiddish language film recently? Probably not. But here’s your chance: a new film performed entirely in Yiddish is set to hit New Zealand cinemas on December 14.

While there was once a thriving Yiddish language film industry [in the pre-World War II years], that is long gone and such films are few and far between. Menashe is the first in some years.

Set within Brooklyn’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community, the film is about a widower battling for custody of his son.

It follows a kind, hapless grocery store clerk, Menashe, as he struggles to make ends meet and responsibly parent his young son, Rieven.

In the wake of his wife’s death, tradition prohibits him from raising his son alone, so Rieven’s strict uncle adopts him, leaving Menashe heartbroken.

But, even though Menashe seems to bungle every challenge in his path, his rabbi grants him one special week with Rieven before his wife’s memorial and a chance to prove himself a suitable man of faith and fatherhood.

Described as a tender drama, the film sets out to explore the nature of faith and the price of parenthood. It does so in a manner which is reflective and poignant – yet, ultimately, offers some hope.

Modest but full of heart, Menashe has been a sleeper hit at film festivals around the world and is well-worth seeing.


For more information, read The Guardian’s review of Menashe here.

– By Miriam Bell