A half-hour TV documentary
Languages spoken: English, Dutch, Yiddish, Hebrew
Dutch, English and Hebrew versions are now available
The world in the last 100 years or so has gone through tremendous changes. One of them is that most people today no longer believe that they can change the world, though the world is still in a grave need of a change.
This story begins 100 years ago with 13 people who did believe that they can change the condition of Man and to better the world. And they did.
Could they serve as a role model to the culture of change that is sadly lacking today?
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The secret Jewish workers' movement, the Bund, started in November 1897 in a small shack in the Russian Tsarist town of Vilna. From 13 men it had grown within a few years into an open and proud world-wide organization with hundreds of thousands men and women in East and West Europe, including Holland, in Central, South and North America and even in Australia. Together with non-Jewish workers' organizations which were emerging all over the world, they fought for workers' rights and for humane social conditions.
It was a dark period, ruled by corrupt networks of royalty and aristocracy. The workers at that time, mostly illiterate, were nothing more than slaves. For mere survival they had to work 18 hours a day, mostly 7 days a week, from the age of 6 or 7.
Jewish workers shared the same fate of the other workers. But on top of it they got their own share of prejudice and hatred. Periodically, as the rulers were trying to vent the poor peoples' unrest away from themselves, the Jews were killed and expelled. And the Jewish rabbis, the religious leaders, were often siding with the authorities.
Rena Mansfeld-Fuks, the historian who's busy putting into order the massive Bund Archive that has recently came from ex-Soviet Russia to the Amsterdam Library of Social History, tells vividly of the Bund's uprising against the Jewish religious authorities.
The 13 people of the Bund set out to change the unbearable conditions of the poor workers. The Bund movement which held secular ideas was spreading notions of tolerance and equality among all workers, Jews and non-Jews.
86 year-old Mayer Bogdanski, by his own admission the last of the Bundists, is the hero of the documentary.
After the war, having lost his whole family and his young wife in the Nazi camps, he emigrated to England. Born into one of the first Bundist families in Poland, he had experienced political strife, strikes, violent demonstrations and imprisonment.
But not only that.
From its beginning the Bund activities also focused on bringing the world's culture and social ideas to the Jews who till then were living in forced isolation and self imposed aloofness.
Yiddish, the mother tongue of the European Jews, barred them from contemporary ideas and world literature. This led the Bundists to translate many literary works and even Shakespeare into Yiddish. Yiddish Newspapers, weeklies and dailies, were becoming a platform not only for political and social ideas but also for new literary works by young Yiddish writers. Theater groups, music bands, authors and lecturers toured the Jewish communities and brought with them new ideas. Mayer Bogdanski, though by profession a tailor, has professionally composed in the course of his long life some 300 Yiddish songs in the spirit of the Bund.
A Bundist culture was emerging. Bundist songs, Bundist literature and Bundist way of life, of tolerance and freedom. From his London apartment, Mayer Bogdanski still tries to preserve this Bundist culture.
David Rosenberg, the chief editor of "The Jewish Socialist" continues with his movement the work of the Bund and its ideology. An interesting historical aspect is that one hundred years ago two opposing Jewish movements were born out of the same dire situation.
One was the Zionist movement which was struggling for a territorial solution, namely, to get all the Jewish people back to Israel, and the other, the Bund, which was fighting for national and social rights for the Jewish people wherever they lived.
Going in totally different directions, they were both reaching for the same end: a solution to the Jewish problem.World War II, with its Nazi 'Final Solution' marked the turning point for both. From the members of the Israeli Bund club in Tel Aviv we hear of the oppression the Bundists have suffered in Zionist Israel...
Combining many Bundist songs and stories and illustrated with archive material, "THE BUND: UTOPIA FOR REAL" unfolds a saga of 100 years of social struggle which is becoming more and more relevant in today's world that cries for change.
Yiddish songs performed by: The Michal Klepfish Choir of the "Arbeter-Ring", Tel-Aviv and The Yiddish choir "Haimisj Zain" * Amsterdam Dutch Narrator: Tom van Beek * Crew London: Pete Rowe, Matt Lygo * Crew Amsterdam: Roelf-Jan Wentholt, Leandro Bistolfi, Marco Nauta, Ton van der Meulen, Nancy Koops, Jan Oltman * Second Unit Tel Aviv, Cameraman: Daniel Sgnaolin * Assis. Cameraman: Daniel Cohen * Soundman: Boris Nastich * Assis. Soundman: Yoel Levy * Lighting man: Meir Uziel * Assis. lighting man: Zak Ghana * Director: Linda Mischel * Archive Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, Amsterdam * Translations: Tami Ravid * Script: Izzy Abrahami * Off-Line Editor: Erga Netz * D-Vision Editor: Jos Driessen * On-Line Editor: Sebastiaan Matthew * Sound Technician: Jaap Wajer * Facilities: London: Blue Planet Television * Tel-Aviv: The Israeli Educational Television IETV * Amsterdam: Camco * post production facilities: Chee-Ka-Chee bv, NIK, United Valkieser * Co-Producer for the NIK: Anette Betsalel * Associate Producer: Robert Stel * Producer: Erga Netz * Director: Izzy Abrahami
THE BUND: UTOPIA FOR REAL was broadcast in The Netherlands (Channel 1) by the Dutch broadcasting company the NIK, 1998; in Israel (Channel 2) by the Israeli Educational Channel, 1998; in Belgium, by Canvas, national channel 2, 1998; in Italy, Rai Duo, in 1999.
It was part of the Special Screenings at the Jewish Film Festival of Girona, Spain, in September 2003.