Maurice Schwartz in "Shaul HaMelech" by Paul Heyse,circa 1925
I'm a lover of Yiddish. the Yiddish language that is. Not so much the Forverts version of Yiddish, and I don't really care for Yiddishe Lieder that sing the praises of Socialism and other such ills, but the rich Yiddish that was once spoken by many of our forefathers. Come to think of it my forefathers never spoke that Yiddish, save for maybe one who learned in Chassidishe Hungarian Yeshivos and was influenced by Chassidus despite his Oberlander parents. But my childhood - in Spinker Cheder was what started me with Yiddish and it's grown on me ever since, with a new appreciation over the last few years. An appreciation of those who speak it well, that is. As a matter of fact; until I was 14 or so I spoke very little English at all, neither at home nor in Yeshiva. You might say that I feel, like others do, that Yiddish is a major connection to our glorious past and to the people who lived at that time, and it helps us stay on track. It may not be all that's necessary but it sure helps. Not for nothing did the Yeshivishe velt come up with Yinglish, where as many Yiddish and Loshen Kodesh'dige words were put into the language. They saw that Yiddish may not work for all, but they sure would instill as much of it as possible in the generations to come! Somehow an old time Yiddish film was never on the verboten list like the secular ones of today. Before the age of YouTube I once saw "Tevye Der Milkhiger" from a video that was borrowed from the Brooklyn Public Library, as well as several other Yiddish films. What can I say? I'll be brutally honest with you guys: Somehow, when you watch it you convince yourself that nisht dos hut men gemeynt when they assered movies! The actors dress Jewish, they act Jewish, they even speak Jewish! What could possibly be wrong with watching this?! It's like watching one of the Groweis Israeli films, just with women as well.... And to top it all off there's a very important and positive message to the film, I think. The message that no matter how far you stray you can always come back home. That as long as you breath there's hope for a new beginning, no matter how much grief you've caused those that are close to you. I hope to do a review of "Tevye der Milkhiger" soon.
So some guy went and uploaded several Yiddish films to YouTube recently and Tevye was one of them. Boy, was I excited! (I cannot thank him enough) I wasted precious hours watching it again and again, as well as some of the other films uploaded there. I'm no film critic, but his performance is one-of-a-kind, mit alle pitchefkes. Rich, concise, and right on! The language, the idioms, the movements, it's all wonderful! The local non-Jewish populace is seen like they were seen by their Jewish brothers at the time... Most of the Jewish ceremonies are portrayed more or less correctly - albeit somewhat Ameratzish, but that may be deliberate, for all I know. Or maybe it was the fact that SCHWARTZ himself left his native Sudilkov at 12 years old and sailed to New York. We even have Schwartz serving as a walking, talking mussar sefer by him accepting his lot even when his daughter leaves the fold and his wife dies from sheer anguish. So after watching Schwartz in "Tevye," and then in "Uncle Moses" I did some searching about Maurice and found that his Yohrtzeit was that very day - Yud Gimmel Iyar, and 50 years to boot! At first I was gonna organize a minyan at his resting place, maybe get somebody to say kaddish for him, but that wasn't happening, so I tried to get a friend to come with me, but even he was too busy. So I doubt that he had any visitors, which is sad. Maybe I should've tried harder. But I will you ask this much: if you're ever at the MHC and get the urge to do a mitzvah there walk over to to his resting place and say a kapitel tehillim for Maurice. I'm sure that since he's ofen oylam ho'emes now he'll appreciate it very much.
Schwartz's kever in Mount Hebron Cemetery, Queens
Society: YIDDISH THEATRICAL ALL
Date of Death: 5/10/1960