The Film

100-year-old Hattie Russ Gold and her sister 92-year-old Anne Russ Federman have life stories that hit all the key notes of the Jewish immigrant experience: hard work, humor, romance, and a little tsuris. Hattie and Anne are the two surviving daughters from the famed lox and herring emporium Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. They are also the stars of THE STURGEON QUEENS.

This documentary – timed to coincide with the store’s centennial in 2014 – traces four generations of Russ family history, from patriarch Joel Russ, who immigrated to the US from Austria-Hungary with little more than the shirt on his back, to Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Federman, Joel’s great grandchildren, now in their 30s, who run the store today. Niki’s father Mark Russ Federman, who ran the store from the 1970s until 2008, adds insights from his years researching Russ family history.

The film also features Herman Vargas, aka “The Artistic Slicer,”  longtime Russ & Daughters employee, now manager, who represents the new wave of immigrants behind the R & D counter.

HATTIE: Prices were ridiculous. Eight cents a quarter for lox.


HATTIE: oh g-d!

2nd Generation Russes


Julie Cohen - Director, Producer & Writer

Julie’s love affair with Russ & Daughters’ pickled herring began in 2007, when she selected the store as one of six subjects in her documentary The Jews of New York, produced for New York PBS.

The founder of BetterThanFiction Productions, Julie has directed and produced ten films and won three New York Emmys, including the 2014 award for Best Arts Program.

Before starting BetterThanFiction, she was a longtime staff producer for NBC News. She graduated from Colgate and holds master’s degrees from Yale Law School and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she is an adjunct professor.

Julie lives in Brooklyn with her husband Paul M. Barrett, senior feature writer for Bloomberg Businessweek and author of four nonfiction books, including Law of the Jungle

“Even before I heard the word ‘feminist’, it made me happy to see this was an enterprise where the daughters counted.”

–Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Supreme Court Justice

Other key personnel on The Sturgeon Queens include:

“It was more like a street brawl than a commercial transaction. My family would reject a piece of fish and say it’s awful. ‘What do you mean it’s awful? You don’t even know a good piece of fish.’ And then the cursing would start.”

–Mark Russ Federman, 3rd Generation Russ, on historic arguments with smokehouse vendors


SQ The narrators

The narrators are six longtime customers – now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s – who sit around a table eating, kibitzing, and reading the script paragraph-by-paragraph, seder style.

“It’s like what my great grandmother would’ve done when she wanted to buy smoked fish.”

–Maggie Gyllenhaal, actress

Upcoming Screenings (more to come)


WLIW/21 DECEMBER 7   9:30 am, 7:00 pm

Previous Screenings – 2014

  •  Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival – January 20 & 21   WINNER Audience Choice Award 
  • Tucson Jewish Film Festival – January 20
  • Virginia Festival of Jewish Film – January 22
  •  San Diego Jewish Film Festival – February 7, 8 & 9   WINNER Audience Choice Award 
  • Congregation Beth Sholom, Anchorage, AK “The Frozen Chosen” – February 15
  •  Washington, DC Jewish Film Festival – March 2 and 3
  •  Boulder Jewish Film Festival – March 9
  •  Houston Jewish Film Festival - March 14
  •  Desert Film Society, Palm Springs – March 15
  •  Pittsburgh Jewish Film Festival – March 30  SOLD OUT  show added April 6
  •  New Jersey Jewish Film Festival – March 30
  •  Austin Jewish Film Festival – April 3
  •  Westchester Jewish Film Festival – April 10 CLOSING NIGHT  SOLD OUT 
  • Irvington Town Hall Theater  – April 18
  •  Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival (Detroit) PATRONS NIGHT – May 1, 4 and 8
  •  Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival – May 3 & 4 WINNER Audience Choice Award
  •  Toronto Jewish Film Festival – May 5 & 11
  •  National Center for Jewish Film (Mass) –  May 3 & 11
  • Rockland County Jewish Film Festival –  May 18
  •  Manhattan JCC CineMatters Series – May 20  SOLD OUT 
  •  Allentown Jewish Film Festival – June 1
  •  Lower East Side Film Fest, Landmark Sunshine – June 12  OPENING NIGHT – SOLD OUT  
  • Lower East Side Film Fest, Cinema Village East – June 21   WINNER Neighborhood Award 
  • Portland OR Jewish Film Festival –  June 23   WINNER Audience Choice Award 
  •  Skirball Cultural Center, L.A. –  June 29
  • Circle Cinema, Tulsa OK – June 29
  • 3 Stars Cinema, Dallas – June
  •  Berkshires Jewish Film Festival – July 7
  •  Rochester NY Jewish Film Festival – July 12 & 21  WINNER Audience Choice Award 
  •  Liberty Hall at the Ace Hotel, NYC - July 20 (NOTE NEW DATE)
  •  SAN FRANCISCO JEWISH FILM FEST #1 Palo Alto – “Best of the Fest”  July 26
  •  SFJFF #4 San Rafael –  Aug 10
  •  Spertus Institute, Chicago –  September 7
  •  Santa Fe Jewish Film Fest –  September 7   SOLD OUT 
  • Cleveland Jewish Film Fest –  September 7
  • Cinema du Parc, Montreal –  September 12 – 19
  •  San Luis Obispo Museum of Art – September 14
  • Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, MA –  September 21
  • Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation –  September 21
  • Greater Washington JCC, Rockville, MD –  September 21
  • Cinema Arts, Huntington, NY –  October 14
  • Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival –  October 14
  • Temple Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA –  October 18
  • Circle Cinema, Tulsa, OK –  October 21
  •  Twin Cities Jewish Film Fest - October 23  OPENING NIGHT  - SOLD OUT 
  • Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA –  October 26
  •  Stamford CT Jewish film fest - November 1
  •  Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival - November 2
  • Rutgers Jewish Film Festival, New Brunswick, NJ - November 2
  • Charlotte, NC JCC – November 2

    “I tried to master slicing the best I could. When I became boychick the artistic slicer everyone wants Herman to cut their salmon.”

    –Herman Vargas,
    Manager (and slicer)

    NIKI: Through the food, coming here and schmoozing and
    eating, people connect with their parents and grandparents.

    JOSH:  We’re kind of holding the torch of this business. We really don’t want to be the ones to screw it up.

    4th Generation Russes

    Pre-order a DVD  
    To schedule a screening:
    Contact the director
    Social Media
    Order a T-Shirt 

    Gefilte Fish

    gefilte fish shirt 600px

    Front: “Does your mother make gefilte fish with sugar?”

    Back: “I’ll be there Friday night.”

    Price: $20 (includes postage)


    Schepping Nachas

    schepping 700px

    Front: “I’m shepping nachas. Do you know what that means?”

    Back: SHEP·ing NACH·us: bursting with pride

    Price: $20 (includes postage)