Cape Town/Johannesburg Yiddish Film Festival (2008)
Vienna Jewish Film Festival, Vienna Film Archive (2008)
Phoenix Jewish Film Festival (2007)
Toronto Jewish Film Society (2007)
Tucson Jewish Film Festival (2007)
Phoenix Jewish Film Festival (2007)
Washington DC Jewish Film Festival (2006)
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (2006)
New York Jewish Film Festival (2006)
Ashkenaz Festival, Toronto (2006)
U.S. PREMIERE New York Jewish Film Festival (2006)
WORLD PREMIERE Jerusalem International Film Festival (2005)


The Living Orphan is a dramatic tale of immigrant hardship that highlights some of the traumatic problems of the immigrant experience, including alcoholism, separation and poverty. The child star, Jerry Rosenberg (Ross) gives a memorable performance as the son Benny and the film introduces two European stars Fanina Rubina and Gustav Berger.

The plot centers on the story of a stage couple that develops marital problems due to the demands of the theatre. The husband, whose career is failing, insists that the wife stay home to tend their young son. The subplot focuses on the plight of a woman who chooses her career over family obligations.

Set in New York in the 1930's, the film contains some interesting street shots of the Lower East Side and a marvelous scene in the Bialystoker Old Folks Home. One of the best Second Avenue Yiddish theatre domestic melodramas produced in New York City just prior to World War II, the film provides a wonderful example of the sentimental dramas created to entertain and educate the immigrant community.

According to the documentation of the film, the Ohio Censorship Board demanded that one scene be eliminated in which the character Lebka says, "I should go to work for whom? For Morgan? For Rockerfeller, for Henry Ford? If the capitalists will go to work, then I will work. They don't have to work, they have plenty of money."

The National Center for Jewish Film owns the original nitrate negative and all the rights and copyrights to the property. This film, together with pieces of 30 feature film titles was acquired in 1976 from the family of Joseph Seiden.


"...the 1939 Yiddish talkie known as The Living Orphan is both a recording of a vanished landscape—Lower East Side streets, Second Avenue marquees, Romanian-style wine cellars—and a particular sensibility, as well as a two-hankie backstage domestic saga.... Crudely made, and lovingly restored by the National Center for Jewish Film, The Living Orphan is a musical weepie in which the separated showbiz couple spends the next dozen years competing for their child's affections. The Yiddish term for The Living Orphan is shund (trash), and it's a generous example, offering something for everyone."
-The Village Voice January 10th, 2006


Complete Village Voice review following the film's screening at the New York Jewish Film Festival 2005.



$36.00 plus shipping
Home Use Only DVD (Not for Classroom/Institutional Use)

Does not include Public Performance Rights
Home Use Policy (pdf)


$72.00 plus shipping
Classroom/Institutional Use Only DVD

Does not include Public Performance Rights
Institutional Use Policy (pdf)

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The Living Orphan
Der Lebediker Yusem

aka My Sonny
USA, 1937, 97minutes, B&W
Yiddish with English subtitles
Directed by Joseph Seiden
Original Play by Sholom Secunda

with New English Subtitles by
The National Center for Jewish Film

$72 Institutional Use DVD
Buy Now

$36 Home Use DVD
Buy Now

Public Exhibition 35mm Rental also available




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