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Daily Israel Report

Jewish Filmmaker Makes the Past Come to Life

Why is a retired lawyer traipsing around trails and talking about Holocaust survivors? If it's Ethan Bensinger, he's promoting his new film.
By Judy Simon
First Publish: 9/23/2012, 2:37 AM

Eytan Bensinger
Eytan Bensinger
Photo credit: Judy Simon

What is a retired immigration lawyer doing in the northern Galilee, traipsing around trails and talking about Holocaust survivors? If it's Ethan Bensinger, he's researching for his blog, and promoting his new film.

Eytan (Ethan) Bensinger was born into a good Yekkishe (German Jewish) family in a small town in Israel. At the age of 6, he learned what it means to be an immigrant when his family moved to America. It wasn't easy. Perhaps that's why he grew up and became an immigration lawyer, though he says, "I always wanted to be a journalist."

After a satisfying 30-year career, Eytan retired, and developed new passions.

Bensinger was interviewed on the latest episode of Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio's Life Lessons podcast. To download the show click here.

One is a touring blog that focuses on out-of-the-way places in Israel, such as places an Israeli may not even know about. The blog has both articles and a podcast, serving as a virtual tour guide for armchair Israeli tourists as well as backpacking ones.

The other passion is a critically acclaimed film that Eytan created about the SelfHelp Home in Chicago, where his 100-year-old mom still lives. "Oma Ida [Bensinger's grandmother] lived at the SelfHelp Home and Mom volunteered there for 25 years. All those years, in visiting, I got to know some of their friends. Each of those friends had a very special, difficult story about their lives before, during and after the war."

Bensinger decided to capture the stories of Central European Holocaust survivors, who were slowly leaving this world. Eytan filmed 30 stories and created an archive of memories, which he presented to the Self Help Home.

From those 30 stories, an idea developed to create a film. Bensinger called the film "Refuge: Stories of the Self Help Home."

The film serves as a witness to "... in depth stories about struggle, about separation of family, about loss, about rebirth in America," Bensinger explains. "Hearing it from others whose lives brought them to the four corners of the world, and who on coming to America were really able to make something of their lives, it was very heartwarming for me and very educational." Bensinger adds that the film contains historical documents, background information, plus the in depth interviews with six residents of the SelfHelp Home.

"We've been selected for a number of film festivals that are coming up, including the Louisville Film Festival, the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival. We're very, very proud."

Eytan's blog can be seen at www.sightseeinginisrael.com, and details of his film can be obtained at http://storiesofselfhelp-film.com/

To download the full interview click here.

Judy Simon, the host of Life Lessons, explores the lives of fascinating people from all walks of life and follows their stories of lessons learned along the way. The Life Lessons podcast airs every Thursday from 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Israel time on Israel National Radio. For mp3 archives click here.