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Great Performances

From Shtetl to Swing (#3013)

Between 1880 and 1924, two and a half million Jews had reached the breaking point. Fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe, they kissed their small-town "shtetls" goodbye and emigrated to America. America would completely reshape Jewish identity, and Jewish popular entertainment would take 20th-century American music on a joy ride to beat the band. Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Lorenz Hart, Benny Goodman, Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, Molly Picon, Eddie Cantor, Gene Krupa, Harold Arlen, Artie Shaw a these Lower East Side New York City kids all became cultural pioneers, eager to shake off their past yet taking full advantage of their Yiddish musical heritage. What emerged was a cross-pollination of Jewish and African-American musical influences -two traditions born out of exile and longing, both charged with energy and humor, defying all the rules with exciting freedom. Written and directed by Fabienne Rousso-Lenoir, "From Shtetl to Swing" reveals how these musical heritages blossomed into a completely new, diverse musical lexicon that gave voice to the American melting pot. Harvey Fierstein hosts. [56 minutes] Closed Captioning

This episode has not aired in the past few months on Iowa Public Television.

PBS Video

Information For Teachers

Grade Levels
Curricular Areas
The Arts
Series Length
262 episodes
Average Episode Length
97 minutes
Record Rights
Sch/until 3/24/16; ncc; simul. ;7-day cached rights
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Series Description: GREAT PERFORMANCES, the longest-running performing arts anthology on television, continues to feature the best in the performing arts.

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