Bundaiim

Eran Torbiner

Brief synopsis

The socialist and anti-Zionist Bund movement was a political and cultural home for many Polish Jews the eve of WWII. The film is the personal journey of the Israeli director who examines through encounters with Israel’s surviving members and archival research, the Bund alternative, why was it forgotten and how necessary it is today.

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Synopsis

In an old gray building in the southern part of Tel Aviv, in a club open daily from 10am to 2pm, there is a gathering of a group of people who look and sound exactly like my grandparents. They speak only Yiddish. The club houses a huge library that contains political, classic and professional literature in Yiddish. The Bund, a Jewish-socialist labor movement, was established 110 years ago, at the same time as Zionism, its archrival. The Bund assembly was clandestine and took place in the attic of a small hut near the municipal jail of Vilna. The founding committee of the Zionist movement assembled in a luxurious hall in Basel’s casino. It seems the different venues for the founding conventions accompanies the two movements to this day.

The Bund’s central principles are socialism and the right of Jews to preserve and nurture their Jewish identity, the Yiddish language in particular, anywhere in the world and with equal rights. Zionism, on the other hand, struggled to establish a home for Jews in Israel, to create a new Jewish image and revive the Hebrew language.

The Bund and its leaders and activists were almost totally wiped out during WWII and their remnants were scattered to all corners of the world. The Zionist movement established the State of Israel where wars routinely take place and in which the largest number of Jews were killed and are being killed since the Holocaust. Israel has ruled another nation for most of its existence and its poverty rate and social gaps are among the highest in the West.

During the 1950s, following the rise of anti-Semitism in Poland and the wave of Jewish immigration to Israel, the Bund administered relatively widespread activities in Israel and its members even tried to run for a seat in the Knesset. They tried, and failed.

Today, the last of Israel’s Bund members gather once every two weeks, on Wednesdays, around tables set with white bread, herring and cheesecake. The gathering is open to the public and there are lectures on political or cultural topics, in Yiddish of course. Sometimes there is even a small musical performance. The two central and largest annual gatherings that the Bund members conduct to this day are on the 19th of April, the day of the Warsaw ghetto revolt, in which Bund activists played a major role and the 1st of May – the laborers holiday.


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Treatment

“My friends were no longer. My people were murdered. My party was wiped out. My people were destroyed”. Mark Edelman, a commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The film opens with Michael Weinappel launching a 1st of May, 2006 gathering with the Internacional anthem. It ends with my pursuit of Haim Avimor (known to his movement members as Pakage) after a different event at the Bund House, having suddenly realized I had not said goodbye to him and being afraid I would not have another opportunity.

“Bundaiim” tells the story of the Bund movement, from its inception in 1897 in Vilna, through its heyday in Poland, the eve of WWII, the history of the Bund members and its leaders during the war, up until 1957 when most Jews of Poland leave the country. The movement was officially established in Israel in 1951. The height of its activities began in the late 1950s and the movement had 3000 members who took part in a wide variety of activities. In addition, several members tried (unsuccessfully) to run for a seat in the Knesset. In the early 70s, Isaschar Artuski, a major movement leader, passed away. Subsequently, movement activities gradually decreased. Today, there are less than 10 active members and 20 or 30 supporters who attend the events.

The film is comprised of interviews that were conducted in various rooms and halls in the Bund House, segments from the movement’s past and present political and cultural events, a cache of photographs and archive material from the movement’s local and foreign archives.

The film will be narrated by the filmmaker (in Hebrew), a narration with a personal tone. In addition, various narrators will read Yiddish quotes from diaries, letters, newspapers and books of Bund members and leaders of the last hundred years.


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Director’s Declaration of Intent

Almost two years ago I was invited by a friend to an event commemorating the 1st of May that took place at the Bund House in Tel Aviv. Before I arrived, I knew very little about them but the moment I walked in I felt that had gotten to see, politically speaking, an opposition nest extremely unique in terms of the consensus of the Jewish majority who wants to adamantly maintain its special rights. I was personally excited by the encounter with a group that appears to be and sounds like my grandparents’ warm group of friends who immigrated to Israel in the late 50s, most of them from Poland. A group I remember as a child in the 70s. Most of them have been dead for a very long time. Today I know how much these people suffered as immigrants who survived the war and in Israel were totally robbed of their political and cultural life.

The remaining members of the Bund in Tel Aviv, less than 10 people whose average age is 85, are the final witnesses to a Jewish life and a political movement that no longer exist. I feel I must hasten to document the last activists before only old photographs and newspaper clippings remain and a sense of loneliness comes over me.