Oct 3, 2018

17th Annual Kristallnacht Film Forum to Feature The Samuel Project with Hal Linden, and Honor Sam & Bilha Ron

In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the event considered the start of the Holocaust, the 17th Annual Kristallnacht Film Forum (KFF) will once again showcase an interesting Holocaust-related feature. Presented by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and the March of the Living, The Samuel Project, starring Hal Linden, will be screened on Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 11:30 am and 4:45 pm in Zinman Hall on the Federation campus. Each screening will include a discussion with the producer of the film.

A comedic drama, The Samuel Project, tells the story of Eli, a teenager (Ryan Ochoa) who gets to know his grandfather Samuel (Hal Linden) for the first time when he makes him the subject of a senior year animated art project. He discovers that his grandpa, a Jewish dry cleaner, was heroically saved from Nazi capture in Germany as a boy. After hesitating, Samuel agrees to tell his story for the project—a story he hasn’t told in over 75 years. Eli’s project makes the finals in a countywide art showcase. And, after decades, three generations of Eli’s family finally connect with one another. (see more information about The Samuel Project below).

“As well as an important commemoration, KFF is a vital annual effort to raise scholarship funds for local teens to participate in the life-changing March of the Living, and to enable our courageous Holocaust survivors to accompany them,” said Jack Rosenbaum, March of the Living Southern Region Director.

“Each year, the March takes high school juniors and seniors through months of preparation, capped by the largest annual gathering of Jewish teens in the world,” continued Rosenbaum. “Our teens are accompanied by local educators, rabbis from all denominations and Holocaust survivors as we travel through the camps, ghettos and communities of Poland. On Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) we march from Auschwitz to Birkenau. Then we move on to the joy of Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) in our homeland, to celebrate the miracles of the modern state of Israel.”

Starting at 2:00 pm, between the two screenings, a donor reception followed by a program with a moving candle-lighting ceremony will pay tribute to this year’s KFF honorees, Sam and Bilha Ron, as well as recognize many local Holocaust survivors, long term March of the Living participants and supporters. Donors of $180 or more to the KFF will be invited to the reception in the Lester M. and Sally Holocaust Pavilion, and will receive two tickets to the film.

“The benefits of the March are far-reaching. I have been extremely fortunate to participate in one of our community’s annual local adult bus March of the Living trips,” said KFF Chair Hal Klein. “Marching between the camps with over 12,000 Jewish teens and adults from around the world is a deeply inspiring and emotional experience for all of us.”

“This trip doesn’t just revisit the horrors of the Holocaust,” continued Klein. “It also provides our youth, often for the first time, with a profound recognition of what it means to be Jewish and a deep connection to Israel. It inspires them to identify with Judaism and further engage with the Jewish people. For the past 30 years, “March” alumni have stepped up in their communities across the US, as Jewish leaders who continue to make a difference. Contributing to the March supports the fight against deniers of the Holocaust and empowers our youth to defend Israel and fight antisemitism and bigotry.

“We are thrilled to have the truly remarkable Sam and Bilha Ron as this year’s KFF honorees,” said Debbie Rudman, local March of the Living Co-Chair. “Dedicated to educating our young people and to memories of those lost, their extremely generous time and support have long helped sustain the March.”

Sam, a survivor of the Cracow ghetto and multiple camps, as well as his injuries in Israel’s War of Independence, went on to bring refugee children from Europe to the fledgling homeland and later became a successful businessman and Jewish community leader in Ohio. Deeply committed to the March of the Living, he is always ready to share his experiences with young people and other groups. This coming spring, at age 94, he will participate in his eleventh March. A Sabra and accomplished Jewish educator and Holocaust educator, Bilha’s dedication to fostering Jewish knowledge and commitment continues today. View a complete bio of Sam and Bilha Ron »

“Lifelong Jewish identity is forged into the souls of participants of the March of the Living, and it is our responsibility to see that our local Marchers are not limited only to those who can afford it outright,” added Phyllis Gutmann, local March of the Living Co-Chair. “By featuring quality Holocaust films and commemorating Kristallnacht, the Forum is a powerful vehicle to raise funds while educating the public. There is no greater gift we can provide teens as they prepare to embark on their college experience away from home, than this life-changing Jewish experience, and no better investment we can make in our Jewish future.”

Individual film tickets are available in advance for a $10 donation and $8 with a valid student ID, or $18 at the door. All proceeds support the March of the Living Fund, which enables local high school students to participate in this unique Holocaust education experience capped by travel to Poland and Israel.

Tickets may be purchased and donations made online at jewishboca.org/engage/events/rsvp/kristallnacht. More information is available at 561-852-3126 or KFF@bocafed.org.

The Jewish Federation campus is located at 9901 Donna Klein Boulevard, Boca Raton. A valid driver’s license is required for entry.

The Samuel Project

A comedic drama, The Samuel Project, tells the story of Eli, a teenager (Ryan Ochoa) who gets to know his grandfather Samuel (Hal Linden) for the first time when he makes him the subject of a senior year animated art project. With dreams of becoming a professional artist, the teen discovers that his grandpa, a Jewish dry cleaner, was heroically saved from Nazi capture in Germany by a young woman when he was a boy. After hesitating, Samuel agrees to tell his story for the project—a story he hasn’t told in over 75 years. In the end Eli’s project makes the finals in a countywide art showcase where he unveils his animated ‘Samuel Project’ with the help of his unlikely friend Kasim, an electric guitar wielding school misfit. And, after decades, three generations of Eli’s family finally connect with one another.

One of the themes of The Samuel Project is that immigrants are a part of all of us to some degree, and those immigrants all have unique stories to tell. Some of those stories are about escaping extreme suppression in life or death situations, and some are simply about trying to achieve the best life possible. Samuel’s story is no different and really a combination of the two. He happens to be a Jewish immigrant from Germany—orphaned after losing his family to Nazi capture in WWII.

Experiencing survivor stories first hand as they were being recorded by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation as the director’s assistant, and raised as the son of an Italian immigrant himself, The Samuel Project director/co-writer Marc Fusco became enthralled with one curiosity: How are the current generations of grandchildren and great grandchildren of those survivors affected today? Aside from the obvious answer of existence, what else is happening there? What goes on in a family dynamic where such memories are avoided and not passed down or even spoken about?

When producer Steve Weinberger brought his cousin and author Leslie Schwartz, a Holocaust survivor, into a conversation with Fusco, the germ of a story began to develop and the two filmmakers were inspired. After Weinberger presented a new art project angle for the main teenage character to Fusco, and with the help of fellow screenwriter Chris Neighbors, The Samuel Project was born.