Best known for the "Tevye the Milkman" stories, which became the source material for Fiddler on the Roof, Sholem Aleichem was hailed as "the Jewish Mark Twain" when he first visited New York City in 1906. The parallels are striking: both men had a talent for farce, established their literary credentials in the newspaper business, became superstars on the lecture circuit, drew on their mastery of a particular idiom (in Aleichem's case, Yiddish), and lovingly chronicled a regional culture even as it slipped away. This absorbing PBS-style documentary by Joseph Dorman follows Aleichem from his early years in the Russian shtetl of Voronko through the pogroms that would drive the Jewish diaspora of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ultimately he would become both a chronicler and a victim of that cultural turnover; his own children, unschooled in Yiddish, would never read his work in its original form.
Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness