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San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘Against The Tide’

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO–The San Diego Jewish Film Festival is celebrating its 20th year this season. The Festival is being sponsored by the Mizel Family Foundation and runs from Feb. 10-21. Titles cover the alphabet from A to Z starting with Adam’s Wall and ending with Zrubavel.

Against The Tide is a new release and the latest documentary made available through SWC for use in Synagogues and schools.  A product of Moriah Films Against The Tide, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, documents the plight and if you will, differing strategies and conflicts by leading American Jews whose most powerful Jewish leader in the United States was Rabbi Stephen Wise and his adversary Hillel Kook aka Peter Bergson, on how best to rescue the Jews in Europe who were being methodically and diabolically annihilated while the rest of the world (including our own government under the leadership of President Franklin Roosevelt), stood by did nothing. 

Bergson’s grand Uncle was the Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He was born in Lithuania and migrated to Palestine as young boy. In the 30’s he moved to Europe and became involved in activities to bring Jews to Palestine despite the British restrictions on immigration. The British were afraid of angering the Arabs during that period. When the war broke out, Bergson’s activities were at risk of being shut down and his personal safety was in jeopardy. It was then he changed his name and emigrated to the U.S. He created the Jewish Brigade to fight along side the British against the Nazis.

When the newspapers finally confirmed that the Nazis were eliminating Jews by the thousands, he abandoned his Jewish Brigade and began his campaign to rescue his fellow Jews in Europe. That’s when he ran up against a brick wall with Wise whose friendship with President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a determinating factor in the course of American involvement in the rescue, or more importantly non-rescue efforts of European Jews.

Against The Tide chronicles with chilling photos, interviews and personal stories the plight of the Jews from the beginning of the Holocaust to the involvement of the Ultra Orthodox community, the Vaad Hatzala, led by Rabbis Aaron Kotler and Eliezer Silver to Hollywood moguls and actors including Ben Hecht, Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson to name a few who joined in Bergman’s effort to rock the foundation of Wise’s and the administration’s do nothing policy.

As history will attest, Wise and his fellow travelers, big wig friends both in and out of the administration, were successful in blocking and shunning all and every attempt made by Bergson and his allies to rescue his fellow Jews by doing nothing. He defended his do nothing and let’s wait until the Nazis are gone attitudes and actions by thwarting all attempts to look too Jewish, since he was so afraid of what the rest of the country would think of Jews interfering in the work of the government.  In essence,  they sacrificed over six million of their own to save face.

Hope and expectation in Europe are juxtaposed with the unenthusiastic and negative campaign by Wise and his anti Semitic friends in the administration along with his fear of being singled out.  The effect  is both frustrating and heartbreaking.

Against The Tide is an informative, well-documented film and well worth the time to take another look at what being a naysayer as opposed to being pro active can achieve. The saying “Never again” can only be applied if we, the people don’t let it happen again to any group of humanity.

“Against The Tide  includes a never before seen interview with Bergson filmed by legendary documentarian Claude Lanzmann (“Shoah”) in the late 1970’s. Historians Martin Gilbert (official biographer of Winston Churchill), David Wyman (‘The Abandonment of the Jews’),  Deborah Dwork (‘Flight From the Reich’) and Samuel Kassow (“Who Will Write Our History?”) offer commentary and analysis. Bergson’s daughter, Rebecca Kook, discusses her father’s work and legacy. Eyewitness accounts of those who survived those turbulent times are also featured. Finally, those inspired by Bergson’s example and went to the forefront of fighting genocides in Darfur and R’wanda are profiled. Made by Moriah Films, the Academy Award winning producers of  Genocide and ‘The Long Way Home, the film Against The Tide features rare archival footage and stills and is a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring or not reacting quickly enough to genocide.”

Against The Tide will play at the AMC La Jolla, Sunday, Feb. 4th @ 1:30 PM. A panel discussion will follow.

The San Diego Jewish Film Festival is presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacobs Family Campus.

For tickets or information call 858-362-1348 or visit www.lfjcc.org/sdjff

See you at the theatre and happy movie going.

*
Davis is a theatre critic based in San Diego.  She may be contacted at davisc@sandiegojewishworld.com

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