The Vow

Poland, 1937, 82 minutes B&W
Yiddish with English subtitles
Directed by Henryk Szaro

with new English subtitles by
The National Center for Jewish Film

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Public Exhibition Formats: 35mm

"What resonated most lastingly is the unforced authenticity with which the film renders the yeshiva and the domestic flavor of Eastern European Jewish life that was being buffeted by the winds of modernism." -The Boston Globe


Two friends make a sacred pact pledging their newborn children, Rachel and Mendel, in marriage. Years pass, Rachel's father dies, and the two children, knowing nothing of their fathers' pledge, meet for the first time and fall in love. But Mendel's father insists his son study at the Vilna Yeshiva, and Rachel's rich old landlord insists on marrying her.

Based on the same legend as S. Ansky's classic play The Dybbuk this spirited film offers the divine intervention of Elijah and a happy ending. Made in 1937 on the eve of the Holocaust, The Vow captures authentic scenes of Jewish shtetl life, Yiddish love songs, and the clash between tradition and modernity.

"The Vilna Legend"

The Vow is one of several films inspired by a seminal Yiddish folktale known as the Vilna Legend. The classic story of love, fate and mysticism was first filmed a silent movie in 1924 under the aegis of the prominent Warsaw studio owner Leo Forbert. (In 1933, the silent movie was re-released as the sound feature A Vilna Legend with added narration and a new scene). The success of that production led Forbert to remake The Vow as a sound feature in 1937, reuniting many of the actors from the original film and updating the story to modern Poland. During the same year, The Dybbuk, another interpretaion of the Vilna Legend was also adapted for the screen. The Vow is a fascinating, long-overlooked companion piece to The Dybbuk and ranks with that film as a vitally important work of Yiddish cinema.

Selected Screenings

Polish Film Festival KINOTEKA (2011)
Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival (2009)
Festival of Jewish Cinema, Australia (2007)
Sacramento Jewish Film Festival (2004)

NCJF Film Restoration

Preservation and restoration was made possible by Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from Brandeis University, Sheldon Feinberg and The Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Director Henryk Szaro
Screenplay Henryk Bonja
Based on the play by S. Ansky
Music Iso Sajewicz
Photography St. Lipinsky
Editor George Roland
English titles Leonora Fleischer
Translations Abraham Armband

Zygmunt Turkow (Elijah, the Prophet)
Kurt Katsch (Mendel)
Dina Halpern (Rachel)
Mojszez Lipman (Chaim)
Max Bozyk (The matchmaker)
Samuel Landau (Esmul)
Menasha Oppenheim (David)

2000 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.

Purchase the Film

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 with Zygmunt Turkow

The Jester

Jolly Paupers

A Vilna Legend

Also Directed by George Roland

Love and Sacrifice

The Wandering Jew

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