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Major new discovery of long lost film!

Broken Barriers (Khavah)

1919 Silent Feature

First American Film Adaptation of Sholem Aleichem

Based on same stories as Tevye and Fiddler on the Roof

New York Jewish Film Festival, Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater, NYC
Live piano and original score by Donald Sosin

Broken Barriers (Khavah)


Long-thought lost and newly restored by The National Center for Jewish Film, Broken Barriers (Khavah) is back on the screen after 100 years!

Broken Barriers (Khavah) focuses not on Tevye the milkman, but on his daughter Khavah, who falls in love with the gentile boy Fedka, sending reverberations through her family and community.

The film's substantive depiction of Jewish life is a rarity even amongst the precious few surviving early American films with Jewish content.

Originally released as Khavah and later renamed Broken Barriers, this 1919 silent film is the first American screen adaptation of the work of Sholem Aleichem. Born in Russia in 1859, Yiddish author Sholem Rabinovich, who wrote under the pen name of Sholem Aleichem, was the most read and revered Jewish writer of his time.

Broken Barriers (Khavah) was the first, but not the last, adaptation of his Tevye stories. In 1939, Maurice Schwartz directed and starred in the Yiddish-language feature Tevye (restored by NCJF). Twenty-five years later, Tevye entered mainstream American culture with the stage musical Fiddler on the Roof and the subsequent movie.


USA, 1919, silent with English intertitles, b&w, 78 min
Based on Sholem Aleichem’s “Tevye the Dairyman”
Directed by Charles E. Davenport
Exhibition formats: DCP, Pro-res, Blu-ray, DVD

The Players

Alice Hastings (Khavah)
Giacomo Masuroff (Tobias, Khavah's father)
Billie Wilson (Golde, Khavah's mother)
Hannah Belle Kehlmann (credited as Hannah Kay) (Celia, Khavah's sister)
Alexander Tenenholtz (Fedka, her lover)
Phil Sanford (Ivan, Fedka's father)
Sonia Radina (Parasha, Fedka's mother)
Ray Friedgen (Nikolka, Fedka's chum)


Adapted from Sholem Aleichem’s “Tevye the Dairyman” stories
Directed by: Charles E. Davenport
Produced by: Zion Films, Inc, Leopold Kehlmann, Meyer Kehlmann
Scenario: Charles E. Davenport, Nat Dorfman
Photography: Irving B. Ruby
Assistant Director:Ray Friedgen

2020 Restoration

Restoration with funding from:

The Everett Foundation

With additional support from: Furman Family Trust, Dava A. Berkman, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Brandeis University, and The National Center for Jewish Film’s Reel Funder Donors

Restoration © The National Center for Jewish Film
Executive Director: Sharon Pucker Rivo
Co-Director: Lisa E. Rivo
Technical Director: Rich Pontius
Academic Consultant: Sylvia Fuks Fried
Research: J. Hoberman, Thomas Doherty
Legal: Jay Theise
Laboratory Services: Cinema Arts Inc, Gamma Ray Digital, Modulus Studios

Thanks to Sharon Josepho who donated the only surviving film materials of Broken Barriers. The film was produced by her great-grandfather Leopold Kehlmann and features her grandmother Hannah Kehlmann as Khavah’s sister.

See also

Other NCJF restored silent films
A-Z list

Film adaptations of Sholem Aleichem restored by NCJF
Jewish Luck
Laughter Through Tears

NCJF films related to Sholem Aleichem
Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem
Our Children

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