Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem

USA, 2014, 75 minutes
Directed by John Lollos
Executive Producer: Theodore Bikel
Narrated by Alan Alda

New Release

Now Available for
Festival & Event Screenings

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"Critics Pick" - Australia Jewish News

"The grandest event...must-see" -San Jose Mercury News

"Bikel accentuates the positive...a festival highlight" -San Francisco Chronicle

"Performance-packed doc destined to have a long life" -KQED

"A moving and thoroughly entertaining portrait...had audience members laughing and clapping after every precious Bikel performance. It was truly a memorable highlight of the festival." -Jay Rosenblatt, Program Director, San Francisco JFF

SFJFF Festival Highlight Critics Pick:
San Francisco Chronicle,
KQED, San Jose Mercury News, Culture Vulture, Indieplex


AWARD WINNER — Warsaw Jewish Motifs Festival 2016, Poland, Ger Mandolin Orchestra Award
Honoring cultural preservation through music.


Festival Screenings

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Castro Theatre
SOLD OUT (1400 seats)
View more images

Haifa International Film Festival
Orange County Jewish Film Festival

Australia Jewish Film Festival – Sydney & Melbourne
(12 screenings)
Warsaw Jewish Film Festival

Sedona International Film Festival
Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival
Marin JCC "Best of Fest" series with San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Spertus Institute - Chicago, IL

Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival

Mr. Bikel received Lifetime Achievement Award
and Feb 15. declared "Theodore Bikel day" in Scottsdale, AZ
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
CLOSING NIGHT, Theo Bikel in attendance
San Diego Jewish Film Festival

Washington DC Jewish Film Festival
CENTERPIECE, Theodore Bikel in attendance
Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival
Boulder Jewish Film Festival

Hartford Jewish Film Festival

East Bay Jewish Film Festival

Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival

Movies of Delray and Movies of Lake Worth (Limited theatrical run)
Baltimore Jewish Film Festival
Sarasota Jewish Film Festival
OPENING NIGHT, Theodore Bikel in attendance
Michigan City Jewish Film Festival

Jewish Film Festival/ Honolulu Museum of Art/ Temple Emanu-El Kirk Cashmere

Houston Jewish Film Festival

Seattle Jewish Film Festival

Westchester Jewish Film Festival/ Jacob Burns Film Center

The Avalon Theatre, Washington DC

Toledo Jewish Film Festival

JFilm/ Pittsburgh Jewish Film Festival

Santa Cruz Jewish Film Festival

Detroit Jewish Film Festival

American Jewish University

Special guests: Theodore Bikel in conversation with Leonard Maltin
Toronto Jewish Film Festival
National Center for Jewish Film Festival
Monmouth University
Tallahassee Film Society
St. Louis Jewish Film Festival
KulturfestNYC, The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
Special guests: Alan Alda, Theodore Bikel & Director John Lollos
Chicago Jewish Film Festival
Portland Jewish Film Festival
Tel Aviv Cinematheque
Berkshire Jewish Film Festival
Sinai Temple - Springfield, MA
Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival
Cleveland Jewish Film Festival
Boston Hebrew College
Special Guest, composer and musician Hankus Netsky
Vienna Jewish Film Festival
Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival
Laemmle Theatres Los Angeles
Denver Mizel Arts & Culture Center, JAAMM Festival
Rutgers Jewish Film Festival
Viennale - Vienna International Film Festival
Special screening in memory of Theodore Bikel
Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival
Virginia Jewish Film Festival Special Guest, Director John Lollos
Boston Hebrew College
Jewish Family Service of the Desert Auxiliary Group
Haverford Yiddish Culture Festival
Vancouver Jewish FIlm Festival
Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival
Yiddish Book Center
Fresno Jewish Film Series
Marco Island Jewish Film Festival
Chattanooga Jewish Film Festival

Or Shalom Film Society, Congregation Or Shalom
JCC Manhattan

Jewish Cinema Mississippi Festival
Southwest Florida Jewish Film Festival

Carmel Jewish Film Festival
(with Aimee Ginsburg Bikel)
Tucson International Jewish Film Festival
Jewish Film Festival of Central New Jersey
Warsaw Jewish Motifs Festival, Poland
Segal Centre for the Performing Arts
Indianapolis Jewish Film Festival
(with Aimee Ginsburg Bikel)
Madison Jewish Center Brooklyn, NY

A New Documentary Film

Portraits of two beloved icons--Sholom Aleichem and Theodore Bikel--are woven together in this enchanting new documentary. The two men have much in common: wit, wisdom and talent, all shot through with deep humanity and Yiddishkeit.

Theodore Bikel, the unstoppable performer whose career spans more than 150 screen roles (including an Oscar-nominated turn in The Defiant Ones) and countless stage and musical productions, is also the foremost interpreter of Sholom Aleichem's work. Now 90, Bikel has played Tevye the Milkman on stage more than 2,000 times, and he has animated Aleichem's work through his creation of two celebrated musical plays about the great Russian author.

The new film Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem combines Bikel's charismatic storytelling and masterful performances with a broader exploration of Aleichem's remarkable life and work.

A pioneer of modern Jewish literature who championed and luxuriated in the Yiddish language, Sholom Aleichem created dozens of indelible characters. His Tevye the Milkman, Motl the Cantor's Son, and Menachem Mendl--"shtetl Jews" for whom humor and pathos were two sides of the same Yiddish coin--remain invaluable windows into pre-war Eastern European Jewish life, real and imagined.

Press Links

Leonard Maltin writes about Theodore Bikel following their onstage conversation following a screening of Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem
-IndieWire | Full Article
"A worthy celebration of performance, storytelling, culture and endurance. And did I mention Bikel is a charmer?" -Arts Atlanta | Full Article
"See it once with an appreciative audience and you will want to watch it at home -again and again- with your family." -JUF News Chicago | Full Article
"A splendid showcase for the actor’s gift for Yiddish theater, the film will stand as both an introduction and testament to two extraordinary talents for many, many years." -San Diego Jewish Journal | Full Article

Spertus screens film featuring Theodore Bikel's homage to Sholem Aleichem -Chicago Sun-Times | Full Article


Theodore Bikel: 'If we did not leave, we would be dead' | Full Article


Theodore Bikel: Still Entertaining
-Oakland Daily Tribune | Full Article


Director: John Lollos
Narrator: Alan Alda
Producer/Writer: John Lollos & Marsha Lebby
Original Music: Hankus Netsky
Interviewees: Fyvush Finkel, Gilbert Gottfried, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Jeremy Dauber, Michael Wex, David Krakauer, Allen Lewis Rickman, Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson, Sheldon Harnick & Bel Kaufman
Produced under the aegis of The National Center for Jewish Film

Sholom Aleichem (1859-1916)

When Sholom Aleichem wrote his stories of shtetl life the in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, he was acutely, aware that he was chronicling an already vanishing Jewish culture. What does it mean to be a Jew in a world of pogroms on the one hand, and assimilation on the other?

"Many of the revelers have died out. And those who are left will soon be gone too. So, I hasten to set down their names and describe each one separately, with all his quirks and oddities. Let there be a memorial, no matter how small. Let there be a record of how Jews used to celebrate and make merry in their exile when Simchas Torah came." -- Sholom Aleichem

Theodore Bikel

Born 1924 in Vienna, Theodore Bikel was thirteen when he and his parents left Austria for Palestine. Fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German with a respectable command of English and French, he intended to study and eventually teach comparative linguistics. But the pull of the theatre was stronger, and he joined the famous Habimah Theatre in 1943 as an apprentice actor. A year later, he became one of the co-founders of the Israeli Chamber Theatre.

In 1946, Bikel entered London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from which he graduated with honors two years later. It was also at this time that he began to develop a serious interest in the guitar and folk music.

Bikel’s stage career began in earnest when Sir Laurence Olivier offered him a role in his production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Vivien Leigh. A career on the stage followed. In London, Bikel won acclaim playing the Russian Colonel in Ustinov’s The Love of Four Colonels. On Broadway, his roster of memorable performances includes Tonight in Samarkand, The Rope Dancers, The Lark, and the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music for which he which he received a Tony nomination for originating the role of Baron von Trapp. Bikel has starred in numerous national tours, including Zorba and Fiddler on the Roof. Bikel has performed as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof more than 2,000 times. Bikel is co-author and co-star of the musical plays Sholom Aleichem Lives and Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears.

Bikel made his film debut in The African Queen (1951) directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Since then, he has appeared in more than forty films, including The Defiant Ones (1958) for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the Southern Sheriff; The Little Kidnappers (1953); My Fair Lady (1964); The Blue Angel (1959); The Enemy Below (1957); Sweet November (1968); The Dog of Flanders (1958); I Want to Live (1958); The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1965); See You in the Morning (1989); Shattered (1991); Crisis in the Kremlin (1992); Benefit of the Doubt (1992); and Shadow Conspiracy (1996).

Bikel’s versatility is demonstrated by his wide range of roles, which include a Chinese crook, Scottish police officer, American university dean, Russian submarine skipper, Czech MVD officer, Jewish refugee, Greek peanut vendor, Hindu doctor, Austrian nobleman, and Hungarian linguist, among others.

Mr. Bikel’s Emmy-winning television career spans some sixty years and eighty TV shows, movies and specials, including playing Henry Kissinger in The Final Days; the title role in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; and various parts in Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Goodyear Playhouse; Studio One in Hollywood; Kraft Theater; Playhouse 90; Naked City; Twilight Zone; Dick Powell Show; General Electric Theater; Dr. Kildare, Bob Hope Presents; Rawhide, Gunsmoke; Mission Impossible; Hawaii Five-O; Mod Squad; Columbo; LA Law; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Murder She Wrote; Paper Chase; Dynasty; Law and Order; Victory at Entebbe; Diary of Anne Frank; Gershwin: The Man Who Wrote Porgy & Bess; Martin Luther King: The Man and the Dream.

One of the world's best-known folk singers and a founder, in 1961, of the Newport Folk Festival, Bikel has enjoyed a major—and diverse—musical career, in folk, opera, orchestral, Yiddish, and Israeli music.

A multi-faceted entertainer, Bikel often performed 50 to 60 concerts a year throughout the United States and abroad, performing alone or with symphony orchestras. He has recorded 20 albums, including cast albums of The Sound of Music and The King and I, music for children, and an album of Soviet Jewish freedom songs smuggled out of the USSR. He has also appeared in opera productions at the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Yale opera companies.

As an author and raconteur, Bikel wrote and starred in NBC-TV’s The Eternal Light, for CBS-TV’s Look Up and Live, and ABC-TV’s Directions. His 90-minute television special One Night Stand and his weekly radio program At Home With Theodore Bikel enjoyed national syndication. The author of Folksongs and Footnotes, Bikel is a frequent contributor to various journals and publications. His autobiography entitled Theo was re-released in 2002 by University of Wisconsin Press.

Bikel has recorded many books-on-tape, including the Herman Wouk novels The Hope and The Glory, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s “O Jerusalem.” He has also recorded the Tevye stories of Sholom Aleichem.

Active for many years in the civil rights movement, Bikel was an elected delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. He formerly held the position of Senior Vice President of the American Jewish Congress. He served as President of the Actors' Equity Association (1973-82), as a Vice President of the International Federation of Actors (FIA), (1981-1991), as a Board Member of Amnesty International (USA), and, by Presidential appointment, as a member of the National Council on the Arts (1977-82).

Now 90 years old, Bikel is the current President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (4As). In a recent article about the 4A union, Nick Wyman, president of Actors’ Equity expressed his admiration for Bikel, “Theo Bikel is a mensch, a tireless force for good, having served his fellow actors as union leader for more than 20 years and lending his voice to significant issues of the day. He has had a remarkable, multi-faceted career and there are very few who loved their union more, fought as passionately for what mattered, or honored their craft as much as Theo.” (Deadline, Apr. 2014)

About the Producers John Lollos & Marsha Lebby

John Lollos & Marsha Lebby are uniquely suited to this project as their extensive writing and producing credits reflect a wide-ranging creativity. Translating theater to television is a special talent of Lollos, who received an Emmy nomination for his re-imagination of the landmark musical theater event, The Cradle Will Rock for television. In addition, Lollos adapted and produced G.B. Shaw’s Candida for television with Olympia Dukakis’ Whole Theater Company. Lebby is a current contributor to both A&E Television and the History Channel. As a team, they recently wrote and produced for PBS A Jewish Spirit Sings-- a music-based documentary about the power of music in Jewish life featuring some of the greatest Jewish singers in the world today. Their Broadway comedy Mr. Goldwyn was produced by David Brown and starred Alan King as movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn. The team each won Ace Awards for The Dr. Ruth Show for their work producing and writing over 500 episodes.

External Links

PRX Radio Interview with Theodore Bikel (July 31, 2014)

We Remember Theodore Bikel

Theodore Bikel (May 2, 1924-July 21, 2015)

We mourn the passing but celebrate the life of the incomparable Theodore Bikel, singer, actor, activist, and mensch. Mr. Bikel was an unstoppable performer and force of nature whose career spanned more than 150 screen roles and countless stage and musical performances. From folk to opera, from The Defiant Ones, which earned him an Oscar nomination, to Sholem Aleichem (he played Tevye on stage more than 2000 times), Mr. Bikel was the consummate performer, beloved worldwide. He spent a lifetime fighting on behalf of civil rights, social justice, and peace. Born in Vienna in 1924, he was one of a kind, a rare combination of Hollywood star, troubadour, humanist, and Yiddishist. He was charismatic, witty, and kind. Theodore Bikel was a beloved icon. And a friend. We will miss him.

It has been our pleasure to work with Mr. Bikel over the last several years on his film THEODORE BIKEL: IN THE SHOES OF SHOLOM ALEICHEM. Oh, how many wonderful stories. Everyone has their Theo Bikel story, moment, or memory: how he introduced them to a new world of music, mesmerized at a concert, or galvanized at a labor or civil rights rally. Exactly one year ago, at the premiere of the film in San Francisco, a sea of 1000 fans filled the Castro Theater to see Mr. Bikel, hundreds had Theodore Bikel albums and books in their laps.


Hollywood Reporter
New York Times

Los Angeles Times
Boston Globe

Actor's Equity
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