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Dear America Wiki
Not to be confused with Dreams in the Golden Country (book) or the play.

Zipporah: "Oy vey, Tovah! This New York is trouble. Papa cuts pants. We live in a tiny apartment we can no afford. Why we come?"
Tovah: "Zipporah Feldman! Already, you forget our lives back in Russia. The Cossacks riding through our tiny village just to beat Jews like sport. We come so we can have a chance."
Zipporah and Tovah discuss their lives

"Dreams in the Golden Country" is the second film in the Dear America film series. It was based on Kathryn Lasky's 1998 book, Dreams in the Golden Country. The film aired on April 13, 1999 on HBO. Natalie Vansier and Dov Tiefenbach starred as Zipporah Feldman and Yitzy Silver.

Zipporah, a Russian Jewish immigrant girl, lives in New York City with her parents and older sister. She and family struggle to fulfill their dreams in America while staying true to their Jewish roots.


In the early 1900s, a Russian Jewish immigrant, Zipporah Feldman (Natalie Vansier) lives with her parents, Sarah (Maggie Huculak) and Yasha (Paul Hecht), and elder sister, Tovah (Heather Brown), in a small tenement apartment in New York City. Zipporah struggles at school, where she is placed in the first grade because of her weak English. She befriends a boy her age named, Yitchak "Yitzy" Silver (Dov Tiefenbach), who helps her study.

Sarah argues often with her husband, who has shaved his sidelocks and sometimes misses shul. Later, she tries to find a husband for Tovah with the help of a matchmaker (Joyce Gordon). Tovah scares the lady away with talk of unions and women's rights, and insists that she will marry only for love. After having tea with Tovah and Sean O'Malley (Josh Peace), Zipporah and Yitzy spot the two kissing. Tovah confesses her love for Sean, despite Zippy's warning that their mother will be angry.

Zipporah discovers the Russian Symphony Society and speaks to them about her father. They speak to Yasha and readily agree on a rehearsal day. To say thank you, Yasha plays Zippy's favorite song on his cello. Afterwards, things get better at the Feldmans as Yasha prays more and Tovah makes peace with her mother. Zippy is quickly promoted to the ninth grade, thanks to Yitzy's dedicated tutoring. Yitzy takes her to a play at the Yiddish Theatre to celebrate. Zippy is inspired by the play and rushes home.

Tovah and Sean announce their marriage to parents. Enraged, Sarah kicks the newlyweds out and sits shiva, pretending that Tovah is dead. Remembering Tovah's words, Zippy auditions for a role at the Yiddish Theatre and wins the part. The sweatshop that Tovah works is caught on fire. Fearing for Tovah's safety, Zippy and Yitzy search for her. They find her and bring her to the Feldmans apartment, where the family makes up. Later, Zippy's family and Yitzy attend her first play.

Cast and characters[]

Crew and credits[]

  • Directed by: Shawn Levy
  • Teleplay by: Jill Soffer
  • Adapted from the book: "Dreams in the Golden Country" written by Kathryn Lasky
  • Based on: the Scholastic book series "Dear America" created by Jean Feiwel
  • Executive producer: Deborah Forte
  • Co-executive producers: Bill Siegler, Martha Atwater
  • Editor: Richard Wells
  • Production designer: Ian Brock
  • Director of photography: Barry Bergthorson
  • Line producer: Lena Cordina
  • Executive in charge: Christie Dreyfuss
  • Music by: Jack Lenz and Douglas John Cameron
  • Story editor: Rhonda Jayne Olson
  • Production manager: Lena Cordina
  • 1st assistant director: Mark Tataryn
  • Location manager: Karen Perez
  • Art director: Roderik Mayne
  • 1st assistant art director: Theresa Tindall
  • 2nd assistant director: Eric Banz
  • Production coordinator: David Hardy
  • Script supervisor: Donna Gardon
  • Set decorator: Elizabeth Calderhead
  • Costume designer: Joyce Schure
  • Property master: Alan Doucette
  • Make-up: Leslie Dumbleton
  • Hairstylist: Etheline Joseph
  • Steadicam operator: Chris Kelly
  • Sound recordist: Bryan Day
  • Re-recording engineer: Steve Foster
  • Gaffer: Michael Forrester
  • Key grip: Darren Boyce
  • 1st assistant camera: Lori Longstaff
  • Post production supervisor: Lynda McKenzie
  • Assistant editor: Douglas Crawford
  • Construction coordinator: Bill White
  • Transport coordinator: J. Skavinsky
  • Stunt coordinator: Anton Tyukodi
  • Special effects by: Brock Jolliffe
  • Casting: Susan Forrest and Sharon Forrest
  • Production accountant: Kelly Decooman
  • Scholastic financial executive: Diane Vilagi
  • Production associate: Tessa Abdull
  • Production services provided by: Protocol Entertainment Inc.
  • Special thanks to: Dome Audio Video & Effects, The Lab

Home media[]


The film on VHS

Dreams in the Golden Country was released on video cassette on September 1, 1999.[3] It was also released in a three pack with "A Picture of Freedom" and "A Journey to the New World."[4]

Back of tape description:
"Twelve-year-old Zipporah (Zippy) Feldman is a Russian Jewish immigrant living with her family in Manhattan's Upper East Side. While Zippy faces the challenge of learning English and making new friends, her older sister Tovah fights to improve the working conditions of her sweatshop and struggles to hide her budding romance with a handsome Irish boy. When old traditions clash with modern ideals, family tensions begin to escalate. To save her family, Zippy must find a way to respect their heritage, while following her own dreams of the future."

Differences from the book[]

  • Several characters from the book are omitted, including Miriam Feldman, Bluma Wolf, Uncle Schmully, Mamie, and Boris.
  • Tovah's and Miriam's characters are combined in the film. In the film, Tovah falls in love with and marries Sean, like Miriam in book. However, she retains many of Tovah's aspects from the book, such as advocating for women's rights and forming a union.
  • Yitzy states that he is from Poland and is in the ninth grade. In the book, his homeland is never revealed and he is in the eighth grade.
  • In the film, Yitzy helps Zipporah study, which eventually promotes her to the ninth grade. Yitzy later takes her to see her first Yiddish play to celebrate. In the book, Zipporah takes almost a year-and-a-half to be promoted to eighth grade and her father actually took her to her first play.
  • Sarah already owns a sewing machine and does not rent one, like in the book. While, her husband, Yasha, is cello player instead of violin player.
  • The matchmaker's name is changed from Pesseye to Mrs. Goldfarb.
  • Tovah works at the Diamond Shirtwaist Factory, like Mamie in the book. The factory is also caught on fire, but unlike Mamie, Tovah is fired from her job before it happens.
  • At the end of the film, all Zipporah's family and Yitzy attends her play. In the book, only Uncle Schmully, Miriam, and Sean are present at the performance.

Behind the scenes[]



From the Dear America website (August 2000)


See also[]

External links[]