A Pocket of Hope

March 11, 2015 by Geoff Sirmai
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Two Sydney Jewish film-makers and a soulful klezmer singer have launched a ‘crowd-funding’ campaign to help them tell an inspiring story which may help to stem the rising tide of resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe.

Dr Kamila Klauzinska, Fay Sussman and Judy Menczel

Dr Kamila Klauzinska, Fay Sussman and Judy Menczel

In 2013, with the assistance of the Polish government and in response to invitations from local towns, filmmakers Judy Menczel, Paul Green and singer Fay Sussman went on the most amazing, life-changing journey together to Poland.

At the outset, Judy and Paul’s aim was to document Fay and her band of Jewish Australian musicians’ performances of klezmer music in cities, towns and villages – including some where entire Jewish populations had been wiped out in the Shoah.

They sang and played on the site of Oskar Schindler’s factory and at the newly-opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto.

As most Australian Jews might, they went with trepidation and very mixed feelings. Judy is the child of Holocaust survivors. Poland may be the land of Fay’s birth but it is also the site of her people’s greatest tragedy: Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka – these are just some of the names that conjure only death and destruction for the surviving remnants of European Jewry.

But what followed was a revelation for them all. They were received by huge audiences with cheers and standing ovations, with love and gratitude everywhere we went.

More than that: in their travels they learned amazing things which challenged their pre-conceived notions and met extraordinary people who renewed their own faith in humanity; among them were young Poles now involved in repairing and rebuilding historic Jewish sites, synagogues and graves.

“We went expecting to record a story of our travels and concerts,” says Judy. “What we discovered was an altogether different, more important and inspiring story. And that is: that racism is not inevitable; it is a choice people make out of ignorance.”

And that is the story that – with help of the community – they hope to be able to tell in a planned full-length documentary and educational project: Pockets of Hope.

The film looks at the multilayered issue of the resurgence of Jewish culture and life in Poland, as well as reconciliation between Jews and Poles. This occurs mainly through engagement by the third generation of young people ‘on both sides of the fence’ as they try to come to terms with the horrors of the Shoah – and make genuine moves towards regret, contrition and acknowledgement.

“Our Jewish religion tells us that we cannot hold the children responsible for the sins of the parents,” says one Holocaust survivor in the film.

Says Judy: “We’ve tried to portray the dynamic and multifaceted new reality we found unexpectedly and to share the new meaning we made of this. People will respond differently, and that is fine. We share our journey – including both our pain and pleasure – and invite people to decide for themselves how we deal with this collectively; and then move ahead in a positive way.”

Fay and her music deeply touched audiences deeply. “I don’t hate,” says Fay. “My vision is that we change the cycle of hate so that the children of tomorrow have hope.”

Says Paul: “We have the stories, the interviews, the video footage, the Jewish music and the passion to make this surprising and moving story come to life. Just as Jewish life continues to bloom and flower despite every challenge! We now need our community’s help to fund the production.”

Visit http://www.pocketsofhopemovie.com/ to see a brief trailer, meet the team and learn more.
Or donate now at

For more information, interviews, high resolution images, audio, video clips and more, contact:
Geoff Sirmai, Sirmai Arts Marketing (02) 9345 0360   mob 0412 669 272  e: geoff@sirmai.com.au


6 Responses to “A Pocket of Hope”
  1. Schneur Naji says:

    Yes, there are many sensitive third generation Poles who feel guilty over the murderous actions of the previous generation.
    I was in Poland 3 years ago,and unfortunately felt dreadfully anti Jewish sentiment in many small towns.
    I was screamed at….”f…off you filthy Jew”…..burn you Jewish pig” on more than one occasion.Many people would kill another generation of Jews if it was politically correct.
    No Jew should live in that country.
    Poland is saturated with the blood of our People much repentance is need from the Polish Gentiles.

    • fay sussman says:

      i understand what you are telling us and we are not rewriting history .
      this was also my feeling most of my life till i had a life changing wisdom
      and till i was invited to sing Yiddish by a young group of Polish people who could be my children
      who are now the care takers of Jewish cemetery’s and history .
      i cant give away the story of the film but it was cathartic for me .
      our film is all about truth .it dos not hide the fact of antisemitism .
      i don’t know anyplace in the world that people are all of the same mind .
      you tell me were in the world you will not fiend antisemitism including Poland .
      but in Poland you will fiend much much more positive feeling towards our people then any other place in Europe .
      i think that when we acknowledge the Goodwill of people who are doing good you encourage more good .
      i think it is dangerous to stereotype a full nation .isen’t this what was always done to us ?
      our film is about the Pockets of Hope about music of my people that was born in Poland
      about balancing the scales of justice today .with TIKUN OLAM

      • fay sussman says:

        John sussman wrote
        I also experienced anti semitism when I visited my parents village ,south of Krakow,which was directly related to property rights,however i also experienced in Krakow,wonderful support for my culture .During WW2 there were many Poles who at enormous risk to themseves and their family gave refuge and comfort to jews;we refer to them as the righteous among the nations.In a similiar way this film pays tribute to a young generation of Poles,who also have been subjected to taunts by other Poles,but who also are sincere in their attempt to reconcilliate with the culture and history of the jews of pre war Poland.They are the future and represent pockets of hope which need to be recognised and supported for failing to do this will only encourage the anti semites

        • Schneur Naji says:

          John, in an ideal world your words and dreams would hold true, unfortunately, the historic Jew hatred is rearing its ugly head again.
          We dare not adopt a kumbaya view of the world, we are not at summer camp.
          Anti-Semitism is not of our making, it is a disease of gentile making, let them take ownership and clean-up their act.
          Pleas do not be so naïve, the acts of a few good Poles is not a game changer.
          If you want to make film so be it.
          Thank G-d we have a strong Israel, a strong IDF and a loving G-d.

      • Schneur Naji says:

        Fay,I have travelled extensively in Europe, Poland and other Slavic states have endemic Jew hatred in their DNA.As mentioned previously there are people of good will, but unfortunately they are a minority.
        Today Jews are also the victims of racism in those European countries with large Moslem minorities.
        Your film may be a cathartic experience for you and your compatriots but will have little effect on the racists.
        The Tikun Haolam. has to be undertaken by the evil doers or their descendants not the victims or their descendants

        • john sussman says:

          Hi Schneur Naji
          i am a Zionist but also realistic !

          it was a handful of people who saved a nation that was meant to become extinct .
          it is that handful we aim to reach with this film .it is very well understood we will never change the mind set of anti Semitic people .
          but the majority are bystanders and they are the most important in this .
          the scales of justice will only be balanced with people bringing hope to this world
          it is a very difficult task for those scales !!

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