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Hester Street

Hester Street

Hester Street is a 1975 romantic film based on Abraham Cahan's 1896 novella Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto, and was adapted and directed by Joan Micklin Silver. In 2011, Hester Street was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Plot

Hester Street tells the story of Jewish immigrants who come to the Lower East Side of New York City in 1896 from Eastern Europe, and who live on Hester Street in Manhattan. When Yankle first comes to the U.S., he quickly assimilates into American culture, and becomes Jake. He also begins to have an affair with Mamie, a dancer. His wife, Gitl, who arrives later with their son, Yossele, has difficulty assimilating. Tension arises in their marriage as Jake continually upbraids and abuses Gitl. Additionally, Jake continues to see Mamie, which Gitl later discovers through Mrs. Kavarsky, a neighbor. Jake and Gitl ultimately divorce, whereby Gitl takes all of Mamie's money and marries Bernstein, a faithful traditionalist. By the end of the film, she is sartorially and lingually assimilated — walking down the street with Bernstein and Yossele (now known as Joey), speaking English, and showing her hair. But she is now liberated from Jake, who in turn has married Mamie.

Awards