The following is a transcript of Walter Bingham's IsraelNationalRadio show Walter's World, broadcast earlier this month.
If I mention the name Rabbi Berel Wein, there is really no more introduction needed. But as it's been a long time since I had the privilege of a contribution to Walter's World from Rabbi Wein, here are a few sentences about him.
Before taking up a post as rabbi in Miami Beach as long ago as 1964 he was a practicing lawyer. Subsequently he was appointed executive vice president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in America, a very prestigious position, and he took over the duties of rabbinic administrator of their kashrut division. After five years he moved on and founded the yeshiva Sharei Torah of Rockland where he served as yeshiva head for the next ten years before making aliyah in 1997, serving as rabbi of the Beit Knesset HaNassi in Jerusalem. Now Israel has gained a great scholar.
In order that he is better able to disseminate Jewish knowledge to instill a sense of historical pride in Jews
Tens of thousands will have a chance to have a better understanding of our background, our story and the justice of our cause.
wherever they are, Rabbi Wein created the Destiny Foundation to develop media products such as audio tapes, videos and films including one of the life of our sage Rashi, and another on the life and times of the great sage Maimonides. Besides writing a regular and very popular Friday column in the Jerusalem Post, he is the author of numerous books including one of Pirchei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers.
But Rabbi Wein's forte is history, and he has already published four extensive books. His current project is a 13-volume documentary series called Faith and Fate: The History of the Jewish People in the 20th Century. It explores the conflicts between religion secularism and Jewish survival.
A two-part film is to be released this week for the years 1945-1948, featuring music by Jewish singer Yehuda Kaplan, giving the soundtrack a more modern feel. I have already had an opportunity to view it in its entirety and although I lived as an adult through that period, I found it a riveting experience which revived a lot of the lapses in my memory and indeed filled many gaps in my knowledge. The second part shows the dramatic and emotional story of how the State of Israel was created. It is an inspiring account of survival and resurgence. I had the opportunity to speak to Rabbi Wein on my program Walter's World.
Question: When did you first decide on this project and why?
Answer: About five years ago when I was working on my book Fate and Faith: The Story of the Jewish People in the 20th Century, I thought that this book shouldn't just be for the coffee table but an educational tool. But it's hard to get students to sit down and read a 400-page book. Part of the problem with history is that people feel that it's boring. If we can turn it into a film and show them exactly what happened in the 20th century, it would be a far different tool. The idea came to produce a 13-part series that would illustrate that in a real fashion so that the next generation would be aware of what the previous generations accomplished.
Question: Is this the first release in the series?
Answer: No. There were two previous documentary films released already covering the beginning of the 20th century until the first World War. The second film covers the first World War and its immediate aftermath. These have been released and shown all over the world and available for purchase. They have received wide approval, but what I am most proud of is that there are almost 200 schools that currently use these films as part of their school curriculum. Jewish history has come to life for thousands of students because of these films.
Question: Tell me a little about the work involved in gathering the material for it.
Answer: There's archival film all over the world. We got some of it from the former Soviet Union. Their archives are now open. The Israeli archives are all available. But just because it's available doesn't mean that it's seen. It could be around for 50 or 100 years before anybody looks at it. So the task is, to make an hour's worth of film you have to look at over 12 hours worth of film and decide which you're going to put in, which you're going to edit, and how you will make the story flow. You decide which film will be the motivating, informational and inspirational.
Question: How long did it take to bring it to this point?
Answer: Over two years worth of work and quite a lot of money.
Question: It contains a lot of historic footage of the struggle for the State and how it came into existence and how the Jewish Holocaust survivors had only one thought: to get to the Land of Israel and to freedom. I venture to say much of it is new to me. But there are also scenes that have been published in many forms, as straight-forward archive material, documentaries and even docu-dramas and are already widely known. Why did you find it necessary to make yet another version of that material?
Answer: Because there is a new generation in the Jewish world that does not know what happened in the 1940s
and schools throughout the world don't really teach Jewish history as a major course. People just don't know about it. By not knowing about it they are subject to misinformation and disinformation and even all sorts of anti-Jewish activity because of their ignorance. This film comes to teach the new generation the facts of what happened and to revive the memories of the older generation so they can be put into a correct perspective as well. There will be versions in Hebrew, English and Russian. Through the schools, tens of thousands of Jews, and the non-Jewish world as well, will have a chance to have a better understanding of our background, our story and the justice of our cause.
Question: I believe that the film is available in two versions. Can you explain that?
Answer: The film is available, together with a second DVD that accompanies it, that contains an educator's guide and biographies and valuable material for both the teacher and the student, and a chance for an interactive trace-your-family situation too. The second DVD that accompanies the film is an invaluable educational tool to make
the best use possible of the film.
Question: So you have downloadable photo archives and also downloadable biographies.
Answer: The film is user-friendly in an educational fashion.
Question: The historical biographies contain names of various people you feature in the film and then there is something very interesting, historical summaries. So there if the film mentions the Lechi and you don't know what that is, you just go to it on the second DVD and there it's all explained. Despite what I said about part 1 having material that is already available, this film it is an absolute must for every Jew that is interested in our history and particularly in the events of the 20th century. For everyone else it will serve as a reminder of the horrors perpetrated by one section of society on another and how a self-perpetuating tide of hate can end in catastrophe. It also shows the eventual triumph of good over evil.
Any similarities between today's situation in Israel vis-a-vis our neighbors? And could such a tragedy happen again?
Answer: Well, I'm not a prophet and I wouldn't hazard a guess. Anything can happen again, but nothing needs
to happen again if we have wisdom and faith and strength. I think the important thing in this film is that it portrays the faith of the Jewish people. It also portrays the fact that Jewish tradition is so important and maintaining that faith and that strength. It also shows that there is a G-d in the world. I think that somehow even with all of the dangers that we face, we'll get through and eventually be triumphant. So it's a triumph of faith which is ours and fate with belongs to the world and that combination will see us through.
The official release and showing of the movie in Israel will be this Wednesday evening, July 30th at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. In the United States it will be released in the fall. It is available for purchase at http://www.rabbiwein.com
Walter Bingham is the host of Walter's World which broadcasts live every Sunday on Israel National Radio. Mr. Bingham is a veteran investigative journalist who made aliyah from London, England.