An overview of Hasidic entertainment #5: audio/visual

An overview of Hasidic entertainment #5: audio/visual

Audio / Visual

While the visual (images) are approached with deep apprehension, audio is embraced much more eagerly. This has given birth to a whole industry of: music, hotlines, storytelling.

This is Yomtov Ehrlich, a very important post-holocaust musician. I wrote about his song ‘Villiamsburg’ here.


This is Kol Mevaser, which is, according to Wikipedia, Yiddish broadcasting.

You can call the phone number and hear the news interspersed with ads. They are now a big business with lectures and speakers and new ways to keep people calling being devised all the time.

Here’s a page out of the phone book that lists numbers you can call for hotlines and lecture tapes (cassettes/prerecording). There’s also a section for reading material. Might list Yiddish libraries and Yiddish publications.


You can tell that there’s a whole growing industry of entertainment by the number of microphones sold in Hasidic stores.

Men and women never perform together. Men are allowed to record performances for a female audience, but it doesn’t go both ways.

The performance industry is clearly starry-eyed for secular entertainment and seeks to imitate it and to legitimize itself by looking “professional.” To me, a lot of the entertainment feels like it’s trying hard to prove itself and be taken seriously. I think the uncritical exposure to western pop culture, which no doubt these creators and even the audience has some exposure to, often makes them imagine themselves as successful when the Yiddish language work at best imitates pop culture.


A group of actors in a shoot that again, seems eager to look like a legitimate Hollywood production. I see in it a lot of ambition, creative energy, that seeks to compensate for an inferiority complex.


Women’s entertainment is a fairly different endeavor. There is less of the “Hollywood ambition” evident because, first of all, women can’t reach the same audience. Men are not allowed to see them perform or hear them sing. Second of all, many of the women’s plays are put on by girls’ schools, so it’s more of a school project than an industry. Additionally, women’s performances are generally in English, which means they are typically created by a more “modern” team. The modern Orthodox arts crowd is a bit more experienced, exposed, connected. They are not as awe-struck by the trappings of the Hollywood-esque, and they focus more on storytelling and production and less with the behind the scenes work up and all.

Here’s an interesting New York Times piece on Ultra-orthodox filmmakers. In my days, these films were called “slides,” so as to make sure no one thought they were films. Now they call them “production.”

Here’s a poster for a Dina Perlstein production. You’ll see there are public viewing dates. These dates are huge events and the crowd eats it up.

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