“Forgotten Jewels, A Haven in Havana” Awarded First JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant

Forgotten Jewels, A Haven in Havana, directed by Judy Kreith and Robin Truesdale, was awarded the inaugural JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant. The film recounts the story of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe for a safe haven in Cuba and ultimately, creating a diamond polishing industry in Havana that enabled thousands of Cubans and refugees to survive during World War II. The two finalist films selected were GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II, directed by Lisa Ades, and Who Will Write Our History, directed by Roberta Grossman and based on a book by historian Samuel Kassow of Trinity College.

Forgotten Jewels is a collaboration of Judy Kreith and Robin Truesdale. Ms. Kreith, based in Colorado with a background in dance and choreography, has a personal connection to Cuba as her mother was a Jewish refugee in the country and appears in the film. Ms. Truesdale is an independent documentary filmmaker, director, freelance editor, and producer who has worked with major clients such as ABC, NBC, and FOX.

“Since I was a child, my mother has told me stories of her almost miraculous escape from Nazi-occupied Europe to the Island of Cuba. I felt that stories of Jewish refugees who escaped to Cuba should be documented for the future. Her experience and those of other refugees who polished diamonds in Havana – as a means of economic survival – is a little-known but essential part of Jewish history. This film represents years of passion and dedication that Robin and I shared as we gathered testimonials, precious archival materials, and colorful aspects of Cuban life through music, video, and photos of the past and present,” said Kreith.

GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II depicts the story of the Jewish men and women who fought for the U.S., and their people, as they struggled with anti-Semitism, emerging from their wartime experiences more connected to their American and Jewish identities. The ninety-minute documentary Who Will Write Our History highlights Emanuel Ringelblum, an important Warsaw ghetto resistance leader and JDC representative in that city, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, the secret archive collection he created in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Thirty films were submitted for consideration for the JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant from talented filmmakers representing six countries around the world, including the U.S., Israel, France, Canada, Germany and Hungary.

The JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant funds $10,000 towards post-production and/or distribution costs of a documentary which utilizes JDC’s archival collections for a film which focuses on 20th century Jewish history including issues, events, and personalities related to overseas Jewish communities, international humanitarian assistance, and more.