TWO Sydney filmmakers and a klezmer singer have launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable the production of Pockets of Hope, a documentary film which tells an inspiring story they believe might play a role in stemming the rising tide of resurgent anti-Semitism.
In 2013, with the assistance of the Polish government and in response to invitations from local towns, filmmakers Judy Menczel and Paul Green joined renowned klezmer musician Fay Sussman on a journey around Poland.
Speaking to The AJN, Menczel recalls that the group set off with much trepidation, particularly herself and Sussman, both children of Holocaust survivors.
But these feelings of fear and apprehension quickly evaporated, as they were warmly and gratefully received by sizable audiences everywhere they went.
Poles “are actually thirsty for the Jewish knowledge. For things to do with Jewish culture, and Yiddish music, and songs. It was just beautiful to see standing ovations,” Menczel enthuses.
At the outset, Menczel and Green aimed to document Sussman and her band of Jewish Australian musicians’ performances of klezmer music in cities, towns and villages – including some where entire Jewish populations were wiped out in the Shoah.
They sang and played on the site of Oskar Schindler’s factory and at the newly-opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Along their travels, the group learnt many things which challenged their preconceived notions of Poland and were particularly inspired by the younger generation.
“All we ever hear about with Europe and Jews at the moment is how anti-Semitic it is. But it really is a huge deal that Poland, and the Polish government itself, and these pockets of young people are really working on something very special.
Menczel hopes they will raise $40,000 to $60,000 to at least cover the editing of the film which will be screened later this year at the Jewish International Film Festival.
Menczel has been working in the industry for more than 30 years, but says this project has special significance for her – as for all descendants of survivors.
“I think it’s important to open the dialogue. We’re not saying terrible things didn’t happen. We’re just doing something new for a new generation.
“If there’s a chance of opening up these pockets of hope for a future, then I think we should,” Menczel says.
For more information and to donate, visit www.pocketsofhopemovie.com.
Fay Sussman (centre) with young Polish leaders.