Assignment #4 – Juan Carmona


Hester street tells the story of of Jewish immigrants who come to the Lower East side of New York City in 1896 from Europe and who live on Hester Street in Manhattan.

Jake totally embraces the “new world” he speaks English instead of his native language, he wears the “American style” clothes, he not only changed his name to Jake but also his son’s name in order to “seem” more American or “yankee”.


For Gilt everything was completely different, she feels like stranger in the “new world” she doesn’t speak English and her spouse is a totally different person in America. He doesn’t like the way she looks because for him is very “traditional”… Jake lost his love for his wife. In addition, For Gilt the tradition appears to be more important than the “new world” for Jake the “new world” is his world.

Instead Jake’s mistress Mamie is different from Gilt she is in the same way Jake is, she communicate in English, she wears fashion clothes and do everything as possible to live in “American way”


For Bernstein America the “new world” is simply a modern world where he feels an stranger, trying to keep all his traditions. He wears traditional clothes and continues studying about his culture and religion . Maybe because of his resistance to the “new world” his friend Jake is more effective at his job.

By the end of the movie Gilt and Bernstein get together as a traditional couple, they preserve their traditional roots but also adjusting their lives into America way. Gilt communicates in English and changed her traditional clothes and her hairstyle to looks more “modern”.


Hester street.

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”
H. G. Wells

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This was the likeliness for Jake, who was a Jewish man in Hester street. He felt as though he had to be more American to fit in. Throughout the years the Jewish community ever since they had been exiled from Palestine. They had no homeland they were shunned in the different parts of the world that they had settled. It is easy to empathize with Jake for not wanting to have that same problem here that was everywhere else. Jake on the other hand took it a bit farther to try to change his wife Gitl and son to be more “Americanized”.
Being more like an “American” wasn’t what made jake more unlikeable it’s the fact that he disregarded all his morals his code of ethics. He had not only changed his outward appearance but his inner. After trying to change Gitl he realized that he would prefer her to be more Jewish because it kept her “in order’ so to speak. He was boasting to his friend what it was like to have Jewish wife and how much better than an American woman they are. “American women are good time but not suited for marriage” Jake boasted to his friend.
“There are so many different walks of life, so many different personalities in the world. And no longer do you have to be a chameleon and try and adapt to that environment – you can truly be yourself”. Hope Solo

This is the understanding that Jake just did t seem to get he just didn’t want to be what he was anymore and he called it being more Americanized when in fact being American is just being yourself. It is more accepting of the different types of people that have come here. It just takes time for people to get to learn for fear and threat of their world changing each race,sect etc, puts up a fight before accepting that we are all just humans with different views/ways of life. Gitl changed a few of her ways of dressing and a few things to help her fit in, but not enough to be a sellout on her religion or culture. Keeping her values while adapting to a new life.
In the end Jake didn’t appreciate how lucky he was but someone else did. His tenant Bernstein was being taunted by Jake for not having a woman, he was not just looking for any woman but someone who he thinks would coincide with his beliefs and values.It just so happens those qualities were all in Gitl who in the end divorced Jake.
In the end they shower a parallel action scene of the both types of families Jake and his new bride and Gitl her son and Bernstein the Jewish American family.

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Hester Street assignment #4 by Mayra Acero

Gitl and Jake adapt to the “new world” in the late 19 centuries by changing their traditions and the way they look. Jake shaved his beard and his sideburns off to look more like Americans look here in the United States. Gitl eventually stops wearing her wig and starts showing her real hair. Married Jewish woman are usually supposed to wear only wigs once they are married which means Gitl is breaking this tradition just to pleased Jake. At first Gitl does not agree with Jake about changing the way she dresses or about taking off the wig but she sees she is not pleasing him in any way, so later in film she stops wearing her wig.

Jake relinquished his roots of being a Jewish in totality because he no longer follows their bible nor reads it, doesn’t dress like a Jew and of course leaves his believes aside and tries to be an American in all the ways possible. Gitl on the other hand stays firm to her Jewish roots although she stops wearing her wig. Gitl stayed with Bernstein which in a way makes her get closer to her roots being with someone who is a faithful Jewish.
Mamie is a Polish dancer who is having an affair with Jake (a married man). Mamie thinks similar to Jake because she wants to be the most American possible to fit in. She dresses like an American women leaving behind her Jewish traditions. Mamie stop following anything Jewish. She is different from Gitl because she no lingers follows anything Jewish while Gitl still follows most of the Jewish traditions.
Bernstein is similar to Gitl because they are both staying true to their beliefs. This is the difference between Jake and Bernstein that Jake no longer wants to continue practicing his religion while Bernstein studies, speaks and educates himself on his religion. Another difference between these two men is that they both want something different for Yossele. One man teaches Yossele the American ways and the other the Jewish ways.
Yiddish is used in the film as the main way of communication within the Jewish people in the film. Although Jake and Mamie speak mostly English, the German Jewish language is used throughout the film. Many posters were put up to learn English that were written in Yiddish which gives us a hint that if you do not learn English, you can not do anything in America. It brought an authentic feeling to the film and also made it more realistic in feeling the way Jewish lived their life in the lower east side.
Being Jewish in the film is portrayed very strict in the film because woman have to wear wigs, men cannot shave their beard and so on. It feels like when they came to America they felt some freedom especially Jake and Mamie. Feeling out of their routine they felt free to express themselves in America. While Gitl and Bernstein felt faithful to their religion and try to remain with their routine to keep practicing and to learn to be true to their beliefs.

Assignment #4 – Assimilation Nation – Stephan Moyano

“A Jew is a Jew”

This is how Bernstein replies when Jake clownishly asks for him and his wife (Gitl) to take a good look at him and identify whether his appearance is of a Jew or a Gentile (not Jewish).

a jew is a jew

I particularly like this quote because not only is it true throughout Joan Micklin Silvesters’s film Hester Street (1975) but also in general one can never forget where they come from. As much as you and I would ever want to, metaphorically speaking, we cannot fully relinquish our roots; it’s who we are. We may be able to change our names and style as Jake did but deep down we will always be a part of who/where we came from; likewise, Jake will always be a Jew.

Now, there’s a difference between being proud of who you are yet trying to adapt to a new environment, and being ashamed of who you are whilst trying to become someone you’re not. Unlike Jake, who stressed and failed trying to eliminate any sign of his traditional religion to live the American lifestyle he so dearly craved in the late 19th century it was the lovely Jewish woman Gitl who stayed true to her religion followed by her customs and beliefs.

And I’ve implied the implicit meaning behind Gitl’s morality; which worked in her favor for in return God saved her from an unhappy life with the unethical Jake by punishing him with his own words and rewarding her with Mamie’s money; who had also been doing wrong in seeing Jake, a married man.

Jake and Mamie assimilate differently from Bernstein and Gitl to the American culture; all explicitly serving a significant purpose to the moral of Hester Street.

Assignment Four By Stacy Reddy


Hester street, was released in 1975. It tells a story about a Russian Jew family who moved to the Lower East Side. Yankel Bogovnik, emigrated to the United States before his wife, Gitl and son, Yossele. Yankel, who calls himself “James” works as a seamster and earns 12 dollars a week. Before Yankel’s family arrived in New York, he was having an affair with a lady name Mamie. Mamie had know idea Yankel was married and had a family, she also did not know his family was moving to New York. Yankel met Mamie at a dancing academy.


The very first time Yankel saw his family, he was second guessing about bringing them to New York. Yankel wanted his family to be more Americanized like he is, but his wife refuses to adjust to her new life. Yankel’s wife always wore a wig when she was back in Russia, but since she moved to New York, Yankel wanted her to remove it to show her natural hair, and also wanted her to dress like every lady in New York. He also wanted his son to speak English, and to learn to play baseball.


Bernstein, who boards with Yankel and his family is way different than he is. Bernstein still practices his Jewish faith and could care less about becoming an “American”.  Bernstein is also a Yeshiva student.

Bernstein and Gitl are both alike because they both believe in their religion and they don’t want to change their apperence just because they are in a new country. 


Assignment #4: Hester Street by Jessica Gonzalez

Assimilation is the process of adapting or adjusting to the culture of a group or nation,or the state of being so adapted.


With that being said, New York City’s lower east side should have been considered its own country, with the amount of different people that had arrived from all around the world. And each new person that did arrive to this foreign place, had to adjust to a completely different life. In the film Hester Street, Gitl and her six year old son arrive from Europe to reunite with her husband, Yekl. Who now calls himself Jake. I think this is the first example of adapting to a new country, in which you change your name, and I believe that once you step foot in a new country, everything changes.


Jake immediately adapts, cuts off his hairs, and shaves his beard which is not traditional for Orthodox Jewish men. And he goes straight to work, and makes money and becomes involved with Mamie, another immigrant who came at the age of 16 and adjusted quickly as well. Jake has immediately given up all his roots, and acknowledges himself as an American, or a ‘Yankee’. Gitl, on the other hand, does not adjust so quickly. She refuses to show her real hair to anyone who is not her husband, and wears a traditional dress that does not reveal anything. It even seemed like she was uncomfortable talking to Bernstein, because he was not her husband and it seemed disrespectful. Gitl does not assimilate as fast as Jake wants her too.

Fix Yourself Uphhh

Bernstein has not been in Lower East Side for very long, but he has chosen not to assimilate. He has his traditional yamaka, he has a beard and hairs, and he reads and studies the Torah. He’s not married, but he chooses not to be involved with just any girl, he believes in a traditional wife who shares his beliefs. He is much different than Jake, and doesn’t adjust easily with how different life is in America.


In general, the Russian/Jewish traditions and values of the ‘Old Country’ are far different from the ones in America. In the ‘old country’ life is simple, and you stick to your roots and there are no questions or hesitations. In America, a student can become a teacher without anyone’s approval. The idea is that you can be anyone you want to be and you can believe anyone you want to, and there is no punishment. In the beginning, Jake and Mamie are introduced to a new immigrant who has just arrived and is clearly shaken; they do not speak Yiddish immediately, and Mamie makes it a point that she “almost forgot” what it’s like to speak it. Jake only speaks Yiddish because the immigrant obviously doesn’t understand English. And same goes for when his wife arrives although he makes a point to make sure that she’s going to learn English right away.

Since we are discussing assimilation, I thought I would write my own input on how it has affected my family.

Personally, it is extremely difficult to stick to your culture and your roots in America, because no one else follows what you follow and I learned that growing up with immigrant parents. It’s rough to go to school and participate and be social when you’re not accustomed to what the “norm” is in the United States are. Living in a small town in Florida, I knew that it would be different for me. I would bring food to school and people had no idea what I was eating, because my mom came from Poland when she was 30, and cooked traditional polish meals. Stuffed cabbage and white borscht was far different from your average peanut butter and jelly. In the polish church, the priest was supposed to put the Host (bread) on your tongue, you were not allowed to touch it whatsoever. In American catholic churches, the priest put the bread right in your hands.

I do have to add that it wasn’t so difficult for me as it was for my mother, who to this day will still ask me what a word means. I’ve adjusted, as has my entire family. But I will repeat myself when I say how difficult it is to grow up in America, with parents who are not from here. (As a side note, my father came here from Mexico when he was 18 years old, and became Ramon instead of Refugio, which was his given name. He explained that it was easier for people to pronounce.)

Hester Street by Christine Brosnan

The film Hester street, released in 1975, is about assimilation in America. The story is shown through a young Jewish family. The father Yankel, the mother Gitl and the son Yossele. It shows the struggles in every sense of coming to America as an immigrant and trying to fit into society.

Yankel came to America and settled on Hester street in the Lower East Side of New York City where most Jewish immigrants settled. Yankel assimilated to American life, learning English, changing his name to Jake and shaving off his beard. He began to cheat on his wife, who was back home, with a dancer named Mamie. He was working as a seamster earning 12 dollars a week. The money that would help him bring his wife and son from back home to America. At first Yankel was very excited about his wife and son coming to America. His happiness is dampened at the sight of their arrival when he sees his wife Gitl and his son Yossele are not his American dream.

Gitl’s arrival to America was very different than her husbands. She didn’t assimilate herself into the American life as willingly and quick as her husband did. Gitl soon realized she had reunited with her husband but he was a different man. One of my favorites scenes is when Gitl is with Bernstein, who is a boarder in their apartment. Gitl was pleasantly surprised to learn that Bernstein is a yeshiva student. Bernstein explained to her how that validates for nothing in America making Gitl realize she is far from home. CaroleKane-HesterStreet hhh index