We all know the questions:
- Where was G-d?
- How was this possible?
- Why didn’t the Jews resist?
- How did they survive?
My own Mother, who herself survived the war in Budapest, by working with fake papers, in a small Hungarian beauty shop, used to say that every single person who survived was a total miracle.
In 2015 while I was screening my documentary film “Yiddish: A Tale of Survival” in Ottawa, I happened to meet Chazzan Moshe Kraus and his wife Rivka.
I noticed, in their home, a framed Black and White photograph of a handsome man in a long black coat, black hat, and long side curls. And standing next to him was a little boy dressed in exactly the same way.
Tucked into the side of the frame was a small picture of the long deceased miracle worker, Reb Shayele of Keresztur.
Reb Shayele was part of my Mother’s memories of her home town of Tokay. Everyone in Hungary knew about Reb Shayele because he was such a legendary force for caring, feeding, sheltering, and advising, anyone who came to his door, Jew or gentile. When I inquired as to why the picture was there, Moshe explained that the figures in the photograph were of himself and his Father taken before the war, and that Reb Shayele was his grandfather. Reading Moshe’s memoir “The Life of Moshele Der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life” and other historic testimonies, I realized that Moshe’s life is emblematic of a much larger story which has just begun to be told – The story of spiritual resistance which survived the horrors and was able to rebuild after them. This is the story I want to tell.
The Moshe Kraus narrative follows the life of a clever and resourceful young man, born into a European Hassidic environment: He was a musical child prodigy hired to perform at Hassidic courts from the age of nine, and hired as a musical communal prayer leader, from the age of thirteen.
Moshe’s life from birth to the present, is one of attacking all challenges including 1. survival of Hungarian slave labour and a Nazi death camp, 2. serving the Rabbinate and officiating at many marriages in DP camps, 3. serving as Cantor in the first Israeli army, and later doing concerts and speaking engagements all over the world.
I am thinking of several potential projects that could grow out of this:
1. A simple documentary focusing on Moshe Kraus and his music which forms the backdrop to his life:
2. A Musical theater production relating his story within the historical context:
3. A tv series – 1 hour episodic historical drama i.e. his music and life in the context of history.
I will be at the AFM American Film market in California Nov. 6 – 12.
Please contact me if you would like to join me in this venture
Abigail Hirsch, founder AskAbigail Productions