1920s Synagogue Soiree – Films of the Era

Here at Eldridge Street we are getting ready for our 1920s Synagogue Soirée taking place on Wednesday, February 23 from 9pm to 12am. We’re looking forward to seeing the synagogue filled with people in period garb and looking back to an era when Eldridge Street attracted a new generation of parishioners, including renowned rabbis, businessmen and the occasional actor and artist. We’ve been having fun brainstorming music, activities and light fare typical of the era. To get you in the mood here we suggest 5 films that came out in the 1920s or were inspired by that period.

 1. The Jazz Singer, 1927

Starring Al Jolson and one of the first talkies, this Broadway play turned movie is the classic immigrant story – with great period music and fashion to boot. It tells the story of Jackie Rabinowitz, a cantor’s son who chooses to sing popular songs at a beer hall instead of following in his father’s footsteps.  Jackie runs away from home because of his disapproving father, but returns years later as a popular jazz musician.  His return home leads him to face conflict between his Jewish heritage and American assimilation.

 2. Metropolis, 1927

This German Expressionist science fiction film is set in a futuristic metropolis with a strict two-class structure – cushy manager or oppressed toiler. The main character is the privileged son of a wealthy businessman. After he experiences love at first sight in a public park, he follows the young girl into the underground factories that keep the gleaming art deco city alive above the streets. He witnesses the abject cruelty underground and quickly becomes obsessed with dismantling the unequal system. This film features stunning special effects for its time and beautiful renderings of Metropolis’ city of the future.


3. The Hole in the Wall, 1929

We’ve selected this somewhat obscure 1920s film because it stars Edward G. Robinson – who was rumored to have worshipped here at the Eldridge Street Synagogue in his youth. This film marks Robinson’s first appearance in a gangster role and also features a beautiful Claudette Colbert sporting classic 1920s fashion and hair styles.


4. The Roaring Twenties, 1939

Enjoy this later interpretation of the 1920s, based on the short story “The World Moves On” by Mark Hellinger, a native New Yorker and Orthodox Jew. Follow the story of a man who comes home from fighting in WWI to find that he no longer has a job and must become a bootlegger in order to make money.



5. The Great Gatsby, 1974

You can’t invoke the1920s without paying tribute to writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who so brilliantly captured the gestalt of this era. Enjoy this 1974 take on Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic – a glimpse into the opulent lives of Long Island’s elite. Follow the mysterious protagonist, Jay Gatsby in his life of leisure though scandals, love triangles, and lavish parties. The party scenes and fashions (think flapper dresses and fabulous cloche hats) will definitely put you in the mood for our 1920s Soiree!


Please share your own suggestions!

Categories: Art & Architecture, Jewish History, Lower East Side

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