Saul Rubinek talks about returning to his mother tongue of Yiddish for a new role

Saul Rubinek in Shttl
Canadian actor Saul Rubinek plays a Yiddish-speaking village rabbi in a fictional shtetl in Ukraine right before the Germans invaded in 1941 in "Shttl". (Submitted photo.)

Actor Saul Rubinek was born in a displaced person’s camp in Germany right after the Second World War. His Polish parents survived the Holocaust thanks to Christian farmers who hid them from the Nazis. After the family moved to Canada in 1949, Rubinek’s father Israel used to blame Hitler for curtailing his burgeoning career in Yiddish theatre. That’s why it meant so much to his son, now 74, to play the role of a Holocaust-era rabbi in the new movie Shttl, reciting his lines completely in Yiddish, his mamaloshen.

Acting in a fully Yiddish film was a first for the veteran Hollywood star, whose Jewish credits include Barney’s Version, Hunters and The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick. And shooting it in Ukraine, just before the Russian invasion, has imbued it with even heavier symbolism.

Stttl debuted in Canada at the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival in March, and has its big screen moment at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival this week, and Rubinek joins The CJN Daily from his home in Los Angeles to discuss why filming it felt so personal.

What we talked about

  • Learn more about Shttl at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival website, where you can also attend Saul Rubinek’s in-person talk about his long show business career.
  • Read why Saul Rubinek is producing a play, All in the Telling, about his family’s personal Holocaust story through several generations, in The CJN
  • Hear our November 2021 interview with Saul Rubinek ahead of his Ottawa speech for Kristallnacht on The CJN Daily
  • Subscribe to the free CJN newsletter to receive all the stories Facebook and Instagram are blocking


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here.