Motel the Operator
Motl der Operator

USA, 1939, 88 minutes, B&W
Yiddish with new English Subtitles
Directed by Joseph Seiden

with complete new English Subtitles by
The National Center for Jewish Film

Buy Now

Public Exhibition Format: 35mm, Beta

"A sorrowful and tragic melodrama in the best Yiddish tradition..."
- The Film Daily, 1940


This classic melodrama captures the sentimental, emotional characters and the convoluted plots and fantastic coincidences which dominated the Second Avenue Yiddish theaters. Focusing on a labor dispute in the garment district of New York City, the film survives as an important historical document highlighting the hardships of the Jewish immigrant experience in America.

Motel, a poor laborer, loving husband and new father, leads cloakmakers in a strike for better working conditions. When he is severely injured by strikebreakers, his wife, Esther, and infant son are left destitute. Desperate to save her starving child, Esther gives him up for adoption to a wealthy couple, and then commits suicide. The richly-rendered beautiful Yiddish songs by Sholem Secunda featuring Cantor Leibele Waldman and Joel Feig's famous choir are a good example of the bittersweet melodrama in the finest tradition of the Yiddish theater.

Selected Screenings

Doc Films, University of Chicago (2014)
Goethe Institut - Porto Alegre, Brazil (2014)
Vienna Jewish Film Festival, Vienna Film Archive (2008)
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (2004)

NCJF Film Restoration

Restoration was completed with funding from Rose Alon, Dorys Bernbaum, Helen Zukerman and their families in memory of Jessie Haberfeld Freedman, Louis Freedman and Morris Haberfeld with additional funding from National Endowment for the Arts, Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Kodak, Brandeis University and The Massachusetts Cultural Council


Director Joseph Seiden
Based on the play by Chaim Tauber
Photography Don Malkames, Charles Levine
Music Sholem Secunda
Sound Murray Dichter, Paul Jacobs
Art Director F. Allstadt
Assistant Director Herman Rosen

2001 Restoration © The National Center for Jewish Film
Executive Director Sharon Pucker Rivo
Associate Director Miriam Saul Krant
Technical Director Rich Pontius
Translator Daniella HarPaz
Title Animation Frame Shop
Laboratory Cinema Arts, Inc.

Chaim Tauber (Motel Friedman)
Malvina Rappel (Esther Friedman)
Maurice Kroner (Benjamin Rosenwald)
Bertha Hart (Rebecca Rosenwald)
Seymour Rechtzeit (Jack Rosenwald)
Jacob Zanger (Joseph Frumkin)
Yetta Zwerling (Chane Beile Frumkin)
Gertrude Krause (Ruth Frumkin)
Herman Rosen (Doctor)
Izidor Frankel (Boss)

Home Use DVD: $29.95

Does not include Classroom or Library Use Rights or Public Performance Rights. More Information


Classroom/Library Use DVD: $250

Does not include Public Performance Rights. More Information

Digital Site Licensing (DSL) available - Contact us

Step down pricing for K-12 & public libraries may be available - Contact us

Arrange a screening - Contact us

Also directed by Joseph Seiden

God, Man and Devil

Great Cantors 2-Disc Set (Performances from The Voice of Israel)

I Want to Be a Boarder

Kol Nidre

The Living Orphan

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