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POV Reviews

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May 30, 2012
Amazing film about how it feels to have one's prejudices challenged.
½ January 21, 2012
well made documentary
½ May 1, 2011
But the World Entire Must Be Saved Again

It probably says a lot about the United States that Menachem Daum's parents, Holocaust survivors both, gave him a name of great significance, and when his aunt registered him for school, she registered him as "Martin," because it was easier to pronounce. "Menachem," you see, means "comforter," or something approximating that. He was, to his parents, a symbol that life goes on. Their world and their people did not vanish up the chimneys at Auschwitz. I mean, there's some power behind that. Names hold a great deal of weight, and Americans don't seem to care as much about that. ("I'm an American," says Butch in [i]Pulp Fiction[/i], explaining that his name doesn't mean . . . anything.) And in fact Martin means "dedicated to Mars" or some such and probably isn't the kind of thing survivors want to lay on their son. But American awareness of names is so shaky that I deeply distrust my own poking around on that latter issue, because most name origins websites are of only dubious reliability. We're more interested in thinking any name means something cool than in understanding its real meaning.

Anyway. Menachem Daum is the son of Holocaust survivors, as is his wife, Rifka. They have sons, Akiva and Tzvi Dovid. Rifka acquired a tape of a rabbi espousing deep and fervent hate for Gentiles, expressing a belief that Jews should build a wall around Jewry and separate from Gentiles entirely. Menachem plays it for his sons, and one says it's wrong but understandable. The other basically says it's true. Menachem's father felt much the same way, but his mother had come out of the Holocaust with a distaste for God and a dislike of separating people by belief. Menachem believes that the greatest evil in the world today is religious extremism, regardless of stripe, and does what he thinks is the only solution. Rifka's father and uncles were hidden during the Holocaust by a Polish family. Despite a promise that they would write--and compensate the family for their expenses--once the boys left Poland, they never spoke to the family again. So Menachem takes his sons to find the Gentiles who saved their grandfather.

One of the sons says at the beginning that he's sure there are good Palestinians, too, and you never hear about them. He says that it's the bad Gentiles who have held all the power in the world. However, I would say instead that it's easier to remember those who have wronged us than those who just sort of get along with us, and you need to do something pretty spectacular to outweigh the bad. Don't get me wrong; the Jews have been horribly mistreated over the millennia. A lot of really bad people have held power over them as long as they've been a people. I don't dispute that at all. I just think that the average person who has had anything to do with Jews over the last six thousand years or so has let them just sort of get along. Probably this is even true of Palestinians. I think in most cases where there's bad blood today, at least, it's more about actions than ethnic and religious identity.

After all, there is old Honorata Matuszezyk Mucha and her family. They risked death for the Federman boys. According to her, at least one of their neighbours knew about it, too. The Nazis came to the farm once, and the boys were very nearly discovered, but they made it through the war through the compassion of the Muchas. They have been added to the list of the Righteous. And indeed, the fact that such a list exists pretty well shows that not all Gentiles have harmed the Jews over even the last century. People are likely, I think, to take advantage of any situation which benefits them in some way unless they are very good people, but that still proves that there are very good people in the world. Akiva and Tzvi Dovid must come to terms with the fact that some of them, at least, are Gentiles. Probably this means some of 'em are Palestinians.

In the end, the younger men are left only with things to ponder. I doubt their minds were changed, and they probably haven't been all these years later. Not entirely, anyway. It takes a lot to change minds which are set in place about How People Are. Menachem says that he hopes he's planted a seed, though, and he at least proved that Jews are capable of failing their words, too. Chaim Federman never wrote the Muchas. He never compensated them. This, we are told, is because he was at first poor and then was in obligation beyond what he could face. He was ashamed. Which is understandable. What's important here is that he overcame it. The Federman family have now set up an educational fund for Honorata Matuszezyk Mucha's grandchildren. They went through the effort to get her, her husband, and her father placed on the list of the Righteous. Maybe Menachem's sons will now think of them as exceptions to the general rule that Gentiles are to be at best ignored. But maybe having that exception will make them consider that perhaps it isn't a rule at all.
½ April 6, 2011
A wonderful documentary of a family that goes to Poland to meet the family of the people that saved three brothers during WWII. Touching to see the mother and sons as they meet the people without whom they and their families would not exist. I truly felt thankful that they documented and shared their experience.
January 14, 2010
It was the title of this documentary that caught my attention - "Hiding and Seeking:Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust", which made me wonder what the deeper meanings of the words "hiding" and "seeking" were. Menachem Daum (who made this documentary) is a child of Polish Holocaust survivors, and a devout Orthodox Jew residing in Brooklyn, N.Y. His two sons have moved to Israel where they are full-time Yeshiva students. When Daum's wife Rifka comes home one night after attending a lecture where the rabbi preaches hatred of the Goyims (or Gentiles) because of the thousands of years of suffering endured by the Jews at Gentile hands, Daum decides to get a tape of the lecture and goes to Israel. He plays the tape and asks his two sons what they think of the lecture - their response troubles him because although they decry the lecture as being rather extreme, they don't really completely disagree with it either. They both feel comfortable not being in touch with Gentiles as they feel their way of life, completely surrounded by the Jewish way of life, best meets their spiritual and other needs. Daum does not feel comfortable with this, as his own philosophy is quite different - as he says, "The goal of all religion is to bring us to a level where we can see the divinity that's all around us."

Though Daum is glad that his children and grandchildren are being raised in his father's traditions, he is also worried that they inherit his father's beliefs, that "the only good goy (gentile) is a dead one." In his attempts to widen his children's worldview, Daum undertakes a family trip to Poland, where he undertakes to find the Gentile family that was responsible for saving his wife's father and two brothers, a trip fraught with bittersweet memories and some insightful revelations.

The documentary is quite well-filmed and I liked how everything falls into place even though it moves between Brooklyn, Israel and Poland. The actual interviews with Daum's family members (his father-in-law, sons, wife, etc.) as well as interviews with the Polish people are interspersed with actual archival footage of historical events during the Holocaust. There are some truly sad moments in this documentary - as when the Daum family visit an abandoned and destroyed synagogue in the the little Polish town where Rivka's family used to live (though it's not mentioned whether it was the result of the Nazis destroying it or the communists). There are no longer any Jews living in this Polish town, but interestingly, a Polish Gentile graduate student (researching the history of the Jews in the town) helps them find the old Jewish cemetery (which has been almost obliterated), and they finally find the Polish couple who sheltered Rivka's father and his two brothers for two years (1943-1945) during the Holocaust.

It was interesting to see how Daum's two sons come to appreciate that there are good Gentiles in the world, though the ending of the documentary gives one the impression that they aren't totally convinced (there's an element of ambiguity). I wished there had been more discussion about the Polish couple and their family - the penalty for sheltering Jews during the war was almost certain death, and this couple, just simple farmers in the countryside, took great risks to hide these Jews and never heard from them after the war. I wished there was more dialogue on that aspect - and a more in-depth exploration as to their motives, and how the Polish family got through the war and rebuilt their lives after the war. This would have made it more balanced in my opinion. On the whole though - this is an insightful documentary on rapprochement between people of different faiths and cultures and quite well-done.
½ December 25, 2009
well made documentary
½ September 5, 2009
A man's gift to his family brings about a reunion long overdue. This film illuminates some quirky aspects of human nature and a hope for reconciliation. Kindness can be so great, so inexplicable, that the recipient, overwhelmed by the burden of perceived debt, retreats and hides rather than expressing a gratitude he fears to be inadequate. In doing so, he can also leave a legacy of misunderstanding. This filmmaker attempts to leave his family a legacy of understanding and love. Although not extraordinarily in technical aspects, this film is worth watching for the heart behind it.
August 30, 2009
Menachem Daum, the son of Holocaust survivors immigrated to the U.S. in 1951, He was raised Orthodox community and his spiritual path was formed by his father's seemingly unwavering faith and his mother's skepticism. Daum fears that his sons' studies at yeshiva in Jerusalem will blind them to the dangers of burning bridges with their own place and past.

Daum and his wife Rivka take their two sons back to a town in Poland to a family who gave his son's two uncles safe haven during World War II. The family was Gentile. Most of the evidence of any Jewish history in the town has been nearly wiped out save for the ruins of a synagogue and the members of this Polish family.

Daum's two sons have been convinced trusting anybody outside the Jewish community is not a good thing. Daum is trying to get his son's to move from that conviction by showing his sons if it hadn't been for this Polish family his uncles and them, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would not be here today.

Humanistic to the core laced with the language of tolerance, this documentary gives us a different view of the Holocaust through the eyes of survivors and how the world of our time is affecting them and their offspring. One piece of history which we ignore and therefore know nothing about is that some Polish Jews returned to Poland after the war to look for loved ones and their old residences. What many of them found was a Polish populace which didn't want them back and even killed some of them for returning. The distrust of of Daum's sons of Gentiles is challenged but unbroken but according to Daum all he wanted to do was plant a seed.
August 16, 2009
Watched this last night and I highly recommend it. A very powerful effort on the behalf of a Jewish father to open the minds and hearts of his more conservative children to an understanding that ALL PEOPLE have the potential for good and that we're all connected through God, despite our different pathways to God. He does this by returning with his children to Poland, where his own parents and in-laws lived during the Holocaust. The documentary ends and you are left not really knowing how this entire experience has impacted his children, but I am hopeful that a seed was planted. (One seed at a time.)
August 7, 2009
Excellent documentary. The film maker is the child of a Jew who survived the Holocaust because a Polish family hid him and his 2 brothers for more than 2 years during WWII. The director has become concerned that his adult sons, who have moved to Israel, are becoming religious extremists and shutting themselves out from the world around them; writing off all non-Jews as bad, dangerous people. Hoping to teach them that goodness can be found in all peoples he asks them to accompany him on a trip to Poland to see the place where their grandfather spent the war and to try and find the children of the people who hid him, however; when they get there the actual people who hid their grandfather are still alive and living on the very same farm. A very moving and emotional film. I highly recommend it.
July 4, 2008
This one is emotional and worth seeing. I would enjoy meeting Menachem and having a meaningful dialogue with him
March 21, 2008
I did not really like this movie.
½ January 18, 2008
Thought-provoking and moving. The filmmaker works his way back through time and space, taking his reluctant sons with him, to the place where their grandfather hid from the Germans, and the people who helped him hide.
January 14, 2008
A Great program film to begin many conversations. The father an Orthodox Jew who believes that orthodoxy should not be so insular takes his children to Poland to find where their Holocaust grandparents hid and lived. Many different levels to discuss. One hour 24 minutes in length. Highly recommend.
January 4, 2008
Wow!!! I am a huge fan of Menachem Daum, this one hit real close to home and was a real tear jerker... Real and amazing
December 7, 2007
A very powerful documentary. A small glimpse into the world of the post Holocaust for a Jewish family along with Gentile.
½ August 5, 2007
This was a beautiful film. I highly recommend it for anyone.
July 6, 2007
Excellent film, but then I'm a history/Judaic studies/documentary buff (if there is such a thing), so this is right up my alley.
June 14, 2007
wonderful insight into the jewish orthodox. shows how one side of a family views jewish gentiles and non-gentiles, and the tolerance for each side.
June 9, 2007
Wow! Really powerful! Important issues in Jewish-gentile relations in a post-Holocaust world are very personal for this family.
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