Sep 29, 2017

16th Annual Kristallnacht Film Forum to Feature Loving Henri, and Honor Mark & Joan Mendel

In commemoration of the 79th anniversary of the event considered the start of the Holocaust, the 16th Annual Kristallnacht Film Forum (KFF) will once again showcase a compelling Holocaust-related feature. Presented by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and the March of the Living, Loving Henri will be screened on Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 12:30 and 6:00 p.m. in Zinman Hall on the Federation campus.

Loving Henri tells the story of Henri Landwirth, founder of Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, which, for 30 years has hosted families of children with life-threatening illnesses. A Nazi slave from ages 13 to 18 who survived death camps, he devoted his life to helping those in dire situations, with great success and acclamation. Yet, his life remained haunted by a crushing numbness, from which he eventually sought relief by revisiting the horrors of his earlier life.

For an inside look at the man and the film, each screening will include a live panel with the film’s producer, David Haspel, Lisa Landwirth Ullman, Henri’s former wife, and other family members.

“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 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 – and this year we will travel with a record-breaking group of more than 90 local students,” 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) when, this year, we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel.”

“This past spring, I was fortunate to participate in the local adult bus March of the Living trip,” said Hal Klein, this year’s KFF Chair. “Marching between the camps with over 12,000 Jewish teens and adults from around the world was an inspiring and emotional experience.”

“This trip does not just revisit the past horrors of the Holocaust,” continued Klein. “It also provides our youth, often for the first time, a profound recognition of what it means to be Jewish with a deep connection to the state of Israel. And it inspires them to identify with Judaism and further engage with the Jewish people. 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 one can make in our Jewish future.”

A donor reception commemorating Kristallnacht with a candle-lighting ceremony led by Holocaust survivors will take place between film screenings at 3:45 p.m.. The reception will also honor long-time supporters and March of the Living activists, Mark and Joan Mendel, and the current March students will be present in their blue and white jackets. Donors who contribute $180 or higher to the event may attend the reception, and will receive two tickets to the film.

“We are thrilled to have the inspiring Mark and Joan Mendel as our honorees for the Kristallnacht Film Forum,” said Debbie Rudman, local March of the Living Co-Chair. “Dedicated to education and to the Jewish people, they have long helped sustain the March as leaders and volunteers, as ongoing and endowment contributors, as participants and more.”

“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.”

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 can be purchased and donations made at, 561.852.3126 or The Jewish Federation campus is located at 9901 Donna Klein Boulevard, Boca Raton. A valid driver’s license is required for entry.

Loving Henri

Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth, founder of Give Kids the World Village, which helps families of children with life-threatening illnesses, is a man who devotes his life to helping those who have nothing, especially ill and dying children. While he is friends with astronauts and politicians and is successful, honored and loved for what he does, a crushing numbness haunts his every move.

He will do anything, including returning to the old haunting grounds of his youth, revisiting his years as a Nazi slave in a place he swore he’d never see again, in order to free himself from his lifelong antagonist —numbness.

LOVING HENRI explores the age-old psychological/spiritual questions that affect us all: Can we ever free ourselves from the past? And if we can’t, what must we do?

Mark and Joan Mendel: Devotion to Education Includes March of the Living

Mark and Joan Mendel are longtime local March of the Living supporters and activists. They have also been March participants, as were their children in high school. Deeply devoted, the couple has further established commitments to the March of the Living Endowment Funds that will continue their support on an ongoing basis. .

Mark is also a longstanding member of the March of the Living Advisory Committee, which he chaired for four years. As a volunteer, Mark has helped to staff several teen Marches as well as the adult March in 2014. He has also long served on the March of the Living Financial Aid sub-committee that disburses scholarship funds for students. Farther back, Mark was Chair of the Jewish Federation’s Education Commission as well as a member for many years.

Residents of Boca Raton for 20 years and married in 1985, Mark and Joan have also committed their professional lives to education.

Joan’s professional career and passion has been advocating and promoting high quality early childhood education. Together with Mark, she founded and operated Kidstop Early Learning Centers in South Florida. For almost 30 years, Joan has been an early childhood consultant. She has worked for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), where she was responsible for on-site quality assessment visits. Joan started her career teaching hearing-impaired children, and was also Assistant Director of Early Childhood at the JCC of the Palm Beaches.

Mark has worked in several senior leadership positions for Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a leading provider of early education and preschools, employer-sponsored child care, back-up care, educational advisory services and other work/life solutions. Early in his career he was a youth director at the JCC of the Palm Beaches as well as on staff at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County in development and Young Leadership.

Longtime members of B’nai Torah Congregation, Mark and Joan’s children, were educated at Donna Klein Jewish Academy and attended Camp Ramah Darom. Jared and his wife Miriam, live in Miami Beach with their three children, and Lauren and her husband Graeme, live in New York with their son.