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Brooklyn, NY - Williamsburg Chasidic Historian Instrumental in Locating Chofetz Chaim Footage

Published on: February 27, 2015 10:07 AM
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Image grab from the video shows the Chofetz Chaim in 1923 (Photo credit courtesy given to VIN News by the University of South Carolina – Moving Image Research CollectionsImage grab from the video shows the Chofetz Chaim in 1923 (Photo credit courtesy given to VIN News by the University of South Carolina – Moving Image Research Collections

Brooklyn, NY - A Williamsburg man with a passion for rabbinic dynasties and old seforim, manuscripts, footage and photographs is being credited with inspiring archivists to locate the Chofetz Chaim film clip that has taken the Jewish world by storm this week.

Yosef March, (Pronounced Ma’arach) a self-professed history buff and an employee in the offices of Monroe Bus Company, first became interested in the footage of the 1923 Knessia Gedola while trying to locate another significant piece of Jewish history:  a video clip of then General Eisenhower with the Klauszenberger Rebbe taken in 1945.

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Searching the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website approximately eight to ten years ago for the word ‘rabbi,’ March found mention of the 1923 Knessia Gedola, labeled by the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive as “World Congress of ‘Agudas Jisroel.’”

The original search result found by March lists a clip that was just under two minutes in length, bearing the description, “Nicely dressed men, delegates from a ‘new organization of Orthodox Jews,’ gather outside the Congress building, chatting, posing, smoking.  Names of rabbis and community leaders are listed on card catalogue but difficult to determine correspondence to footage.”

The footage had been purchased by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from the University of South Carolina Newsfilm Library in April, 1992 but the actual clip was not available for public viewing.

“It came up as ‘copyright, restricted’ and the University of South Carolina held the copyright,” March told VIN News.

March reached out to Benjamin Singleton at the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections in an attempt to find out more about the footage. Convinced that there was likely additional footage of the Knessia Gedola, March kept in touch with Singleton, reaching out to him periodically to find out if anything new had surfaced.

A dope sheet, documenting the particulars of the footage shot by cameraman Hans Von Pebal at the Knessia Gedola, turned out to be a treasure trove of information for March.  The page confirms that Von Pebal shot 101 meters of footage at the Knessia Gedola, filmed on August 15th between 9 and 11 AM under bright conditions and on August 16th between 10 and 12:30 PM under variable skies.  The dope sheet makes mention of the rarity of filming a gathering of this nature.

“EXCLUSIVE for Fox News and obtaint [sic]by dint of much persuasion the venerable orthodox Jews seemingly regarding it as contrary to all custom to allow them to be photographed much less filmed.”

Also listed are several of the people filmed detailed on the dope sheet as “Chief-Rabbi Chaim Schor (Bukarest.Romainia)”, “Rabbi Leo Freschner, Member of Committee of Agudas Jisroel”, “Rabbi Ehrman (Frankfurt) in conversation with Dr. Jacob Rosenheim (Frankfurt) Leader of the new movement”, “Dr. Leo Jung of New York”, “Shelly Guggenheim”, “Chief Rabbi Spitzer, delegate from Czecho-Slovakia”, “Chief Rabbi Lowenstein (Zurich)”, “Delegates from PALESTINE”, and “Dr Kirschbraun of Warsaw, Deputy in Sejm. Polish parliament.”  25 meters of footage shot on August 16th, the second day of the Knessia Gedola, was housed in a second can and is said to contain images of “Chief-Rabbi Perlmutter of Warsaw, Sejm-Deputy” and “The famous 90 year old Rabbi JISROEL MEIR HAKOHEN of Radin, also called CHOFETZ CHAJIM after his great work.”

Despite Von Pebal’s mention of the Chofetz Chaim in his documentation, he was not visible in the Fox News footage, leading March to believe that there had to be additional material from the 1923 Knessia Gedola somewhere in the university’s film vault.  March kept in contact with Singleton for years, prodding him to find the additional footage.

“I kept saying to him, ‘Please don’t stop searching.  You must have it there,’” recalled March.  “I spoke with him many times regarding other Orthodox Jewish clips but I always brought up the question about finding the additional footage with the Chofetz Chaim in it.”

It was six weeks ago that March got the email he had long awaited.

“This extra footage was found in Fox News cans,” read the email from Singleton.  “There is a shot of the interior of the Congress building. More rabbis can be seen outside.”

Singleton sent a disc of the new footage to March who was elated to see the Chofetz Chaim in the clip.

March informed Singleton of the historic find, and Singleton acknowledged that it took years of sifting through thousands of film clips to find the missing Knessia Gedola footage and that he never expected to actually find the clip of the Chofetz Chaim.

“I have been with this collection serving the public since 1989,” said Singleton. “I have identified a lot of unusual footage that hasn’t been touched for eighty years, but nothing has been as providential as the finding of the Chofetz Chaim ... Mr. March had a strong feeling that we would find more footage from this news story. It seemed unlikely to me.”

Singleton credited March for his persistence.

“ Mr. March called me often and encouraged me to keep looking,” said Singleton.  “The search took years, but Mr.  March never gave up hope. I still cannot believe we found this film fragment out of 20,000 feet of other old films. This is a wondrous find.”

 New York Times article dated August 16, 1923 reported the event New York Times article dated August 16, 1923 reported the event

Fox News was not the only media outlet to cover the Knessia Gedola.  A New York Times article dated August 16, 1923 reported that 450 delegates, including 14 American representatives, were present on the first day of the gathering and described the previous day’s sessions.

“Remarkable addresses were made by the venerable Chofese Chaim, 92 years old, greatest authority on Jewish ethics; Chief Rabbi Wilna Oser Grobzenski, Rabbi Leo Jung of New York and Jonas Simon, a delegate from Baltimore.”

Also on the agenda for the first day of the Knessia Gedola, according to the New York Times, was the passage of a resolution “urging the national league to uphold the ideas of pacifism in accordance with President Harding’s endeavors.”

As inquiries have continued to pour into the MIRC regarding the Knessia Gedola clip, staff members have been combing the archives looking for any information regarding the 1923 footage.

A MIRC staff member explained that Fox News had cameramen stationed in most major cities, including Vienna, and would traditionally air two newsreels per week, featuring footage from all over the world.  The Knessia Gedola footage, which never aired as a Fox newsreel, was one of approximately 200 stories filmed by Von Pebal and the MIRC estimated that only ten percent of the films submitted to Fox News in Manhattan were ever aired.

Most of the Knessia Gedola footage was transferred to video in the 1990’s but it wasn’t until over ten years later that the remaining film was found.  The newer longer clip, which incorporates all of the Knessia Gedola footage, including the Chofetz Chaim, is the one that is currently circulating throughout the Jewish community.

March has been inundated with calls from the media asking him to describe how the Chofetz Chaim footage was brought to light 92 years after being filmed.  As an amateur historian, March is grateful to have been able to play a part in bringing Jewish history to life.

“It’s very exciting to finally see footage of this much revered gadol hador and to share it with klal yisroel and, of course, it’s very satisfying that my decade-long efforts have finally borne fruit,” said March.  “It is also very gratifying to have been bezras Hashem instrumental in this historic revelation.”



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Read Comments (21)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Feb 27, 2015 at 10:17 AM neezoogshoin Says:

Kol hakavod I hope the importance of this footage will not be underappreciated in our community.

3

 Feb 27, 2015 at 10:26 AM LkwdGuy Says:

“Remarkable addresses were made by the venerable Chofese Chaim, 92 years old, greatest authority on Jewish ethics

The Chofetz Chaim was born in 1839 and was niftar in 1933. In 1923 he would have been 84, not 92.

4

 Feb 27, 2015 at 10:46 AM Munkatcher Says:

There is the famous video of the minchas elazar munkatcher rebbe Zt"l also a Long story how it was found in archives in hungary, the historian who found the Munkatch film said that at the Museum there was Documents that the Cameraman also filmed the Bobover Wedding of Stempel son-n-law of Kedushas Zion Hy"d of Bobowa, let's hope that film also gets found by the researchers who found the chufetz chaim film.

5

 Feb 27, 2015 at 10:48 AM impressed Says:

Reply to #3  
LkwdGuy Says:

“Remarkable addresses were made by the venerable Chofese Chaim, 92 years old, greatest authority on Jewish ethics

The Chofetz Chaim was born in 1839 and was niftar in 1933. In 1923 he would have been 84, not 92.

The article means the film is 92 yrs old.

This is truly a remakable discovery and has impacted many yidden...its a sneek preview to how excited we will be when moshiach comes....and we see all our great leaders. This has touched my neshama and many others...when we witness great people our inner nesamah becomes alive

6

 Feb 27, 2015 at 11:02 AM Anonymous Says:

It's not Fox news that made this film, It is 20th Century Fox. Fox news was established about 20 years ago, 2 different companies.

7

 Feb 27, 2015 at 11:07 AM Yoely from willi Says:

thsnk you R' Yossel, we truely appreciate your achievement, you are very beneficial for the Tziber.

8

 Feb 27, 2015 at 11:08 AM Brooklyn mom Says:

I think this a sign from hashem to show the kovoid shomayim that will be revealed when moshiach comes may it happen speedily in our days!

9

 Feb 27, 2015 at 11:27 AM Anonymous Says:

I wouldn't start up with his Gabei

10

 Feb 27, 2015 at 11:54 AM LionofZion Says:

450 Gedolim assemble, Daas Torah at its finest.

11

 Feb 27, 2015 at 11:57 AM Yossi Says:

Reply to #8  
Brooklyn mom Says:

I think this a sign from hashem to show the kovoid shomayim that will be revealed when moshiach comes may it happen speedily in our days!

it will look very different when moshiach comes. imagine a scenario as the one we watched of Chufetz Chaim when moshiach comes.
you wont see anyone smoking cigars and pocket watchest in their vest.
you will see every person with a smart phone snapping pictures and loading whatsapp clips..

12

 Feb 27, 2015 at 12:02 PM getitright Says:

#3
regarding accurate age of the cc- you mentioned a year of birth that is unconfirmed. what is confirmed only is year of death. hence your conclusion and statement are not factual.
to Rabbi Marrach and to Mr. singleton - thank you for investing time and effort to bring this treasure to our attention. please continue to search for more footage wherever it may be located.
this has gone viral and jews everywhere as well as magazines and publications are talking about this find. we all thank you profusely.

13

 Feb 27, 2015 at 12:26 PM LionofZion Says:

Too bad the collection of Daas Torah missed the boat completely. They called for pacifism, opposing war, which ultimately led to the rise of Hitler and the third Reich.
The excitement about this video is distasteful. Rabbis should not be treated as rock stars. They are men who study Torah and are competent to speak of Torah. When they move into politics or business or worldly matters they seem to fail more often than not.

14

 Feb 27, 2015 at 12:54 PM yossie Says:

Reply to #13  
LionofZion Says:

Too bad the collection of Daas Torah missed the boat completely. They called for pacifism, opposing war, which ultimately led to the rise of Hitler and the third Reich.
The excitement about this video is distasteful. Rabbis should not be treated as rock stars. They are men who study Torah and are competent to speak of Torah. When they move into politics or business or worldly matters they seem to fail more often than not.

while you are right with the first part
you are absolutley wrong on the second part
daas torah is not limited to "shor shenogach es haporoh"
a true godal batorah knows about everything since torah encompasses everything
its obvious that during the war they were part of the hastoras ponim
and as my father ah used to say "the average person who makes a mistake generally makes a small one
when a rebbe or rav makes one its usually a big one"

15

 Feb 27, 2015 at 01:14 PM allmark Says:

Reply to #13  
LionofZion Says:

Too bad the collection of Daas Torah missed the boat completely. They called for pacifism, opposing war, which ultimately led to the rise of Hitler and the third Reich.
The excitement about this video is distasteful. Rabbis should not be treated as rock stars. They are men who study Torah and are competent to speak of Torah. When they move into politics or business or worldly matters they seem to fail more often than not.

My goodness, relax. It is simply very moving to see the Chofetz Chaim walking around. They are not rock stars but are Gedolim. Furthermore Judaism doesn't recognize a separation between "church" and "state", that is, all of life, including business and politics, are part of Jewish life.

No one is saying the Gedolim are perfect but that is very different from stating, with no proof, that they "...seem to fail more often than not."

17

 Feb 27, 2015 at 02:04 PM STRAIGHT_FACTS Says:

Can anyone help in obtaining this footage on reel form or video tape instead on an internet clip. I'm sure i will be ridiculed by some for asking this but there are many true and honest people that don't touch the internet, computer or eye phone that want to see this enlightening clip via a kosher to all method a it would be a zichui harabim. Many Rabonim as well have expressed great interest in viewing this clip.

Let's not think about later generations saying the same about an internet clip of Gedoilim, since Moshiach is on his way; he won't wait any longer he's comin any day!.

18

 Feb 27, 2015 at 03:43 PM Boochie Says:

Who's the lo yitzlach blocking the camera

19

 Feb 28, 2015 at 08:38 PM Oyvey Says:

Reply to #17  
STRAIGHT_FACTS Says:

Can anyone help in obtaining this footage on reel form or video tape instead on an internet clip. I'm sure i will be ridiculed by some for asking this but there are many true and honest people that don't touch the internet, computer or eye phone that want to see this enlightening clip via a kosher to all method a it would be a zichui harabim. Many Rabonim as well have expressed great interest in viewing this clip.

Let's not think about later generations saying the same about an internet clip of Gedoilim, since Moshiach is on his way; he won't wait any longer he's comin any day!.

The video tape in its day is like the computer today. The video tape is a streif as the computer or any electronic communication device such as the regular telephone when it was invented.
The phone is used for loshon hora all day long as well as other aveiros and the video tape made the othe raveiros more visual. So if you'r going to do tzidkos and keep away from treif cut your telephone service!

20

 Mar 01, 2015 at 12:34 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
STRAIGHT_FACTS Says:

Can anyone help in obtaining this footage on reel form or video tape instead on an internet clip. I'm sure i will be ridiculed by some for asking this but there are many true and honest people that don't touch the internet, computer or eye phone that want to see this enlightening clip via a kosher to all method a it would be a zichui harabim. Many Rabonim as well have expressed great interest in viewing this clip.

Let's not think about later generations saying the same about an internet clip of Gedoilim, since Moshiach is on his way; he won't wait any longer he's comin any day!.

If you as concerned as you claim to be. Go hire professionals who for a nice sum will gladly transfer this clip to video.

21

 Mar 01, 2015 at 04:32 AM joseph Says:

Fox News/Movietone of the early 1900s that produced this reel film has the same parent company as the Fox News of today.

22

 Mar 01, 2015 at 03:10 AM joseph Says:

http://www.ushmm.org/online/film/display/detail.php?file_num=914

http://www.ushmm.org/online/hsv/source_view.php?SourceId=31102

23

 Mar 01, 2015 at 08:16 AM curious Says:

I woke up my son to show him the footage. I wanted to share the excitement with him. He thanked me for it. Nothing can replace the relationship that we have to previous generations. To actually see footage of the CC! It brings the realm if legend to real life. It's anazing!

24

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