20th-century Jewish endurance

When the interactive disk is put in your computer, you are linked via the Internet to photos, videos, biographies, background information and lessons on establishing family trees.

September 20, 2007 11:11
3 minute read.
faith disk 88

faith disk 88. (photo credit: )


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Faith & Fate: Dawn of the Century Set #1 and Implosion of the Old Order #2, both comprise a DVD movie and an interactive DVD-ROM, in English for Windows and Mac, by Rabbi Berel Wein and the Destiny Foundation, sold in Israel via Miriam Cubac (052-833-9560 or www.jewishdestiny.com); in the Diaspora via TES (at www.jewishsoftware.com), for ages 12 through adult, special promotion through October 1 of the movie Dawn of the Century free and Set #2 for $24.95, afterwards each is $39.95; special English school edition with a teachers' guide for $59.95. Rating: ***** 'The amazing thing," says Jerusalem rabbi Berel Wein, "is that we are still here!" Indeed, after watching more than two hours of rare archive films he narrates on the Jewish people between 1900 and 1920, one can't help but believe that our survival is remarkable and miraculous. The two film disks cover only two decades, but during that period, world Jewry faced pogroms, disease, blood libels, dislocation and immigration to the West, the Ottoman Empire, World War I, ideological struggles, communism, aliya, assimilation and intermarriage - with the worst to come less than two decades beyond. Wein - a prominent author, historian and Jerusalem Post columnist - and his non-profit Destiny Foundation have committed themselves to chronicling within three years how the turbulent events of the 20th century affected the Jews. The whole series will have 12 parts. "Jewish history," Wein adds, "is our teacher... It is our rearview mirror. If you don't know where you come from, how do you know where you are going?" These two sets are an excellent start and will have most viewers eager for more. They could even intrigue Israeli teenagers (if they are eventually translated into Hebrew) who cram 20th-century history only for their matriculation exam, as well as assimilated young Jews in the Diaspora. Rarely viewed black-and-white videoclips and photos showing the dead of the Kishinev pogroms, the Jews of the Lower East Side and Eastern European shtetls, among others, come from 40 private and public archives. Although most of the Jews of this era lived out their often-abbreviated lives without being aware of the winds of history, the trends, forces and movements around the world that affected them are described in detail by Wein sitting in his book-lined study. The film was directed by the award-winning Ashley Lazarus and the head of archival research was Beverly Beard. Commentary is also provided by leading Jewish historians, such as Prof. Zvi Gitelman (University of Michigan), Prof. Monty Penkower (Jerusalem's Machon Lander Graduate School), Dr. Jeffrey Gurock (Yeshiva University in New York) and Prof. Jane Gerber (City University of New York), with background on the Sephardi community provided by Rabbi Marc Angel of New York's Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue. Wein, an Orthodox rabbi, of course believes that the Jews owe their survival to Torah study and observance. But he gives quite a lot of space to the growth and influence of the Reform and Conservative movements on American Jewry and praises the American Joint Distribution Committee for virtually saving the starving Yishuv in Palestine and Eastern European Jews elsewhere by raising money for them. How the Russian pogroms, Germany's defeat in World War I, the Musar and Enlightenment movements, socialist labor unions, communism, Zionism and others affected the Jews is explained by the narrator and panel of experts and is seen in films that go back more than a century. When the interactive DVD-ROM disk is put in your computer, you are linked via the Internet to additional photos, videos, biographies, background information and lessons on establishing family trees. This feature comprises a hands-on digital historical archive and productivity tool, designed as an educational media resource for school, home and community use. Focusing on how the events and the social, economic and political changes in the first two decades of the past century impacted on the Jewish people, the DVDs also highlight how the Jewish people impacted on the world at large. Clearly an education initiative, Faith and Destiny has the approval and support of the New York Board of Jewish Education as well as educators in Israel and South Africa. A dedicated educators' study guide on a DVD-ROM is being produced by a team of leading Jewish high school teachers for each of the series' 12 episodes. The goal of the project clearly is to educate and inspire Jewish people everywhere and make them proud of their roots. If the rest of the series is as impressive as its beginning and is widely viewed by Jewish youngsters and adults alike, it could have a impact on Jewish preservation and identity.

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