“We watched 400 feet of film from 1929”February 6, 2009
This is a story about the films featured in America is No Different (which I botched big time yesterday).
From Rabbi Moshe Groner:
In the month of Elul 5710 (1950), I brought the Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson) photos of the funeral. They were taken by Dr. Red Gershbaum who was becoming close to Chabad in those years. He had taken up photography as a hobby. He stood on top of one of the building near 770, and took the photos. After some time, he gave them to Rabbi Hirsch Kotlarsky, who passed them on to me to give to the Rebbe. (He knew that I deal with these things.)
At the time, I would enter the Rebbe’s holy room every two weeks to give him something special that I had found (manuscripts, photographs, books, etc.). The next time I went, I brought along these photos.
When I handed them to the Rebbe I told the Rebbe Dr. Gershbaum’s name and mother’s name for the Rebbe to bless him. I also handed the Rebbe a written blessing request asking for the Rebbe’s blessing for his medical classes. The Rebbe asked: ‘How does he have it?” and I told the Rebbe. The Rebbe asked, “Why does it take so long? Do we need to pay for it?”
The Rebbe walked over to the window and studied the photos under the sunlight for a while, tears flowing from his eyes. He asked if there were more pictures, and then asked me to find out whether there was a film taken of the funeral. I told the Rebbe I would check. The Rebbe continued, “Is there a photo of the burials?” I answered that I didn’t think the Rebbe would ask for it. The Rebbe said, “Why not? Thank you very much and pass on my thanks to the doctor and to Rabbi Kotlarsky. I do not skimp a blessing, he should have much success in medicine.”
He later became a prominent surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center.
About two years later, around the Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s, yahrzeit in 5 712, (1952) I told the Rebbe that I had just heard that Reb Elye Gross has a short film of the funeral. The Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Hadakov, told me that the Rebbe would see it after receiving people for private audiences, on Shevat 18, 5712. At 12 30 PM, I entered the Rebbe’s room with Reb Elye Gross, Who brought a film projector to show the film.
The Rebbe asked “Who is the film technician?” Elye” I answered. The Rebbe showed him where to place the projector. The Rebbe said “Don’t you know you need to turn the lights off? That’s why I told you to put it here near the night-light. They say it’s not good for the eyes.”
It took about nine minutes, and at the end we wanted to leave the Rebbe’s room. But the Rebbe requested that we move the projector nearer to the wall. The first time it wasn’t very clear. As the Rebbe watched the film, he stood up straight, and tears poured from his eyes.
As a “thank you” for showing him the films the Rebbe said he would show us something interesting. He told me to open a cabinet and take out the film of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s first visit to the United States in 1929.
“Go to the end of the room,” the Rebbe said, “takeout the little box with the film, bring it to Elye gross and he will play it.”
I said, “It is already l2:40, perhaps the Rebbe would like to go home?” The Rebbe did not answer. “Is it already rewound?” the Rebbe asked Reb Elye. He answered affirmatively. I asked where to place the film of the funeral. The Rebbe answered, “Put it on the desk, no difference where [on the desk] you put it.” Then he told Reb Elye, “Put on what Moshe brought.”
Reb Elye protested that because of the two of us, the Rebbe was being held up. The Rebbe said “put on the film,” and asked us to turn off the light.
The Rebbe narrated: “Here’s how the Rebbe, my father-in-law, arrives to America in 1929, here he is getting off the ship.”
As we watched the second part of the film, the Melava Malka at the Kramer’s house, the Rebbe pointed to several of the people and told us their names: This is Chaim Schneur Zalman Kramer, you know him? This is Jacobson, Kazarnovsky.” About one Chossid with a white beard the Rebbe said, “That is Zalman Havlin, he was a happy Jew.”
Before the next part, the Rebbe said with a smile, “What will we see now?! Reb Itche der Masmid… and here you’ll see him dancing.”
At the end the Rebbe asked, “Who paid for the film?” We didn’t answer. “Thank you very much. How much did it cost?” I said we did not want to be paid. The Rebbe said, “go into Rabbi Kvint (one of the Rebbe’s secretaries), and he will reimburse you for the expenses. How do Yeshiva students have money? Especially for such a projector? Especially such an expensive one?”
The Rebbe watched Reb Elye the entire time as he prepared and took apart the projector before we left.
We apologized for having taken the Rebbe’s precious time and the Rebbe said, “Thank you very much and a good night.” By now, we can already say good morning.”
We were in the Rebbe’s room for a little under an hour and saw About 400 feet of film from 1929.