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Co-presented by The Tenement Museum

U.S., 1932
Directed by Sidney M. Goldin, Aubrey Scotto
Starring Maurice Shwartz, Judith Abarbanel, Mark Schweid
Approx. 87 min
. 16mm print courtesy National Center for Jewish Film.

"When poverty and persecution compel his Polish landsmen to leave their shtetl, "Uncle" Moses, the crude and lusty former butcher, welcomes them to the promised land of his Lower East Side clothing factory. A master in the harsh new American system, with its fourteen-hour workday, Moses attempts to reconstruct the lost harmony of the shtetl community in the paternalistic order of his sweatshop. He uses his wealth to show off and leaves the daily operations to his nephew Sam. When Masha Melnick pleads with him for her father's job, Moses, taken with the girl, rehires him. Masha also happens to be the sweetheart of Charlie, a labor activist who is trying to organize a union in Moses' factory. Moses begins to court Masha who agrees to marry him in order to improve her family's desperate financial position. She bears his child but confesses she feels wretched because she did not listen to her heart and marry Charlie who incites the workers to strike. The first Yiddish talkie engaged directly in the progressive currents of the day, political and aesthetic." – Notes from The National Centre for Jewish Film

With support from the Robert Jolin Osborne Endowed Fund for American Classic Cinema of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. and the Joan S. Constantiner Fund for Jewish and Holocaust Films, donated by Leon Constantiner and Family.


"UNCLE MOSES stands as one of the finest examples of Yiddish cinema and is unique in its portrayal of a despotic Jewish factory boss who takes pleasure in seeing the tables turned by employing the former leaders and highly respected men of his shtetl as sweatshop tailors. Uncle Moses is a harsh man who uses his wealth and power to fight against unionization of his shop (by a young idealistic Jew) and manipulate women, especially the daughters of his workers."
– J. Hoberman, Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds

"Here is a chance to see one of the century's greatest actors (Maurice Schwartz) in a melodrama focusing on work and tenement life in the Lower East Side."
– Georgia Brown, The Village Voice

"A symphony of contradictions, which Schwartz orchestrates brilliantly."
– Richard Corliss, Time

Film Forum