For nearly a thousand years, klezmer music had been part of the celebration of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Immigrants brought it to America, where it intersected with the Yiddish theatre and jazz. Yet klezmer was virtually extinct by the 1970s when some young musicians went looking for their cultural origins in the vast American musical landscape. Tracking two groups of brilliant young musicians, Kapelye and the Klezmer Conservatory Band, and containing rare footage of the elder immigrant musicians they learned from, "A Jumpin’ Night in the Garden of Eden" is the first film to document the klezmer revival. Originally released in 1987 and re-released in 2021, it tells the story of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants restoring their cultural legacy: a very American story.

“The discovery of klezmer is comparable to the uncovering of the tomb at Tutankhamen.”

New York Post

Reviews

“…these young musicians are trying to recapture much more than just the tunes of a bygone time; they are after nothing less elusive than the spirit of a destroyed world.”

New York Times

“A revelatory musical documentary…it suggests an epic theme – how it feels to see yourself in an earlier generation.”

Boston Phoenix

“Music of joy and wit in this fine, exuberant and somehow very touching movie.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Director's Commentary: 

What does it mean to be a second or third generation American? What does such a person make of the legacy she carries from her not-quite-so-American forebears?  All those stories of the “old world,” the other language, the food, the celebrations, the music? The impulse to bury all that, the pull toward the cultural center in the desire to “pass” as an American, proves irresistible – in part because all along such a person harbors the suspicion that she is really not “American” at all. As Henry Sapoznik says in this film, “I wanted to be Beaver Cleaver – to pass. I didn’t want to have parents who had accents.”

But then, perhaps as the generation that came from the “old country” begins to pass on, many of us decide that we need to stand face to face with that legacy, investigate it, and integrate it into our own way of being before it’s too late. “A Jumpin’ Night in the Garden of Eden” is a film about some young second and third generation Americans who do that through music – and bring a lot of other young musicians along with them just for the fun of making something new. As a third generation American myself, I was especially engaged by their process of discovery and integration through music-making, so that became the film’s focus. Although the film was made in the 1980s, I believe it has a certain timelessness about it: second and third generation Americans turn out to be an abiding fact of American life, at least so far.