International Survey of Jewish Monuments
International Survey of Jewish Monuments
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Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. II, Nos. 3-4 / 1998 - 1999
New Documentary
New Documentary Evokes Destroyed Central European Jewry

Independent American photographer and film maker Zvi Rosenfeld has recently screened his new short documentary “Sanctuary” at the 1998 Annual South Bronx Film and Video Festival in New York.  The 21-minute film, is a poetic journey through the sacred landscape of Jewish settlement in Central Europe.  Rosenfeld’s camera takes the viewer on a trip from Prague to Terezin – with evocative footage of abandoned synagogues in several towns.  The quietness of the film, the delicate appropriateness of the musical score, and the effective insertion of translations of many of the Hebrew inscriptions viewed, establish a poignant contrast between the past and present, and serve to create a heightened sense of loss.  The film concludes with extensive footage of the recently discovered prayer-house at Terezin, described as the “waiting room of Auschwitz” by the curator of the Terezin Museum, the only person to speak in the film.  The prayer house was designed and painted by Jewish inmates at Terezin.  Scriptural verses are entreaties to God  – they express hope, expectations and anguish, and offer a counterpoint to the known fate of the congregants.  There were no known survivors of the prayer house, and it is assumed that its creators all perished at Auschwitz.
Rosenfeld is now seeking funds for a longer version of “Sanctuary” to include additional footage.  For information on screening “Sanctuary” contact Zvi Rosenfeld at (212) 769-1944/ e-mail:

Synagogue at Terezin, Czech Republic.  Photo: Zvi Rosenfeld

The remnants of a secret prayer room were recently uncovered in a small ground floor storage room in Terezin.  Almost everything about this tiny ‘shul’ is a mystery.  From floor to ceiling, the walls appear to have once been covered with decorative paintings, scripture and original prayers.  One prayer that remains begs God to return from his anger; another, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem,” a blood oath of remembrance, has faded, leaving only, “If I forget thee…”

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last update: 8/04/99