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Rachel Deblinger, Author

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Media: Film

A broad number of Jewish communal organizations employed film technology for their publicity and a few, like the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and Hadassah, used the technology regularly. Jewish leaders recognized the possibility for story telling in the new medium and embraced the technology, making short films that were shown at annual conferences, membership events, and local meetings.

Fundraising Films
The majority of these early postwar films were produced as part of an organization's fundraising campaign and matched the messaging of printed materials. These films told stories about survivors of Nazi Europe in Europe as well as the stories of those who had arrived in Palestine and then Israel. Yet, with the goal of raising money, these film depicted the stories of survivors in light of American humanitarian work conducted by the sponsoring organization.  Most notably, UJA produced an annual film as part of their fundraising campaign that featured the images of survivors in need with voice overs from celebrities or UJA leaders.

Many of these films echoed the themes evident in the materials throughout this exhibit, including immigration, children and Americana. The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive has made a number of these early films available on YouTube. A few selections that reveal the hybrid narratives that told stories of both Holocaust survivors and American Jewish communal efforts:

"Forgotten Children" (1945) produced by Hadassah
"Battle for Survival" (1945) produced by United Jewish Appeal, narrated by Orson Welles
"Passport to Nowhere" (1947) produced by RKO, sponsored by Committee for Displaced Persons
"The Future Can be Theirs" (1948), produced by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
"Homecoming 1949" (1949) produced by the United Israel Appeal

Hadassah: Tomorrow's a Wonderful Day

Haddassah was, perhaps, the only Jewish American organization to produce a feature film about Holocaust survivors.* Tomorrow's a Wonderful Day starred young Holocaust survivors in Palestine as young Holocaust survivors in Palestine and told the story of Benjamin, who arrived in Palestine through Youth Aliyah and had trouble adjusting to life at the Ben Shemen Youth Village in Palestine. The film fictionalized the real story of the people it represented, focusing on the challenge of overcoming fear, memory, and trauma. To evoke the emotional memories that haunted Benjamin, the film included historical footage of the concentration camps in a flashback.

Produced by Hadassah as a fundraising and promotional film about Youth Aliyah, the film showed Benjamin's process of healing first through his connection with the land as he built a new Kibbutz with other young survivors and then through Jewish practice. The culmination of the film shows Benjamin carrying a torch into Ben Shemen's Hannukah ceremony, recognizing his place in his new community.  The film was edited in an alternate order by the director, Helmar Lerski as the Israeli film, Adamah, and was the first Israeli film to play internationally at the Locarno film festival in July 1948.

The film was shown in America and reviewed widely.

*Other feature films, produced in Hollywood, featured survivors as well.  See: The Search (1948), dir. Fred Zinnemann and My Father's House (1947), based on the novel by Meyer Levin.
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