How did Gus' Pickles, the abandoned Eldridge Street Synagogue, and Sammy's kosher-style steakhouse become fixtures in American Jews' attachment to New York City's Lower East Side? The New Old Country follows the journey of American Jews who flock from across the country in search of their grandparents' stories about growing up in the neighborhood. Their tourist travels reveal an intricate web of nostalgia, collective memory and the elusive nature of recorded history.
The New Old Country explores the question of how nostalgia and memory diverge, by weaving together a variety of footage: tourists and Jewish youth groups who travel from across the country to take the Big Onion Walking Tour of the Lower East Side; elderly, mah jong-players whose banter about the good old days both celebrates and debunks various myths about the area's history; a three-generation family that has remained in the neighborhood despite a suburban exodus; and patrons of local eateries who connect their cultural identities to Jewish foods they believe are authentic only when consumed on the Lower East Side. Together with interviews with urban historians, these scenes create a visual essay which raises discussion about the immigrant experience, the formation of cultural identity, and the acts of storytelling, remembering and writing history.