May 22, 2008

The Survivor Who Made Schindler Film Happen

An April 25 article neglected to mention the person who was the catalyst for getting author Thomas Keneally interested in the story of Oskar Schindler: the late Leopold Pfefferberg, later known as Leopold Page (“Schindler’s 100th Birthday Is Private Affair for Survivors”). A Schindler Jew, Leo urged my husband, Rabbi Jacob Pressman, then the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, to invite Schindler to speak at a Shabbat service.

Pfefferberg rallied Schindler Jews to pay for his trip to Los Angeles. My husband called a press conference at Beth Am and urged the late Herb Brin, the editor and publisher of the Heritage Jewish Press, to do an interview with Schindler. 

Pfefferberg put the article on a bulletin board at the front of his handbag repair shop in Beverly Hills. One day a man came in with a briefcase that needed repair. It was Keneally.

When Pfefferberg found out that Keneally was a writer from Australia, he showed him the clipping and told him Schindler’s story. They became friends and subsequently Pfefferberg and his wife Mira took Keneally and his wife Judy on a tour of Holocaust sites in Europe. This led to Keneally’s book “Schindler’s Ark,” which later became “Schindler’s List.”

Keneally was tenacious, and for 10 years pursued Steven Spielberg to do the movie. When the book was published in the United States, my husband invited Keneally to speak at a Shabbat service, preceded by a press conference.

If it had not been for the determination of this one Schindler Jew and the assistance of a rabbi who was sympathetic to his cause, the Academy Award-winning film might not have become a reality.

Marjorie Pressman
Los Angeles, Calif.
Reprioritize Mitzvot

Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court seems to pick and choose when it comes to deciding which mitzvot must be followed in order to remain a Jew (“Rabbinical Court Puts Thousands of Converts in Legal Limbo,” May 16).

There are 613 commandments — how can the test of being a Jew be reduced to just three or four?

In deciding what constitutes being observant, have the rabbis given priority to eating kosher food, going to the mikveh and donning teffiling? What about the prohibitions against rape, murder and theft? Where are the rabbis on that? What does it say that the Rabbinical Court seems to get involved only when someone wants to get divorced or needs to be buried?

Karen Jordan
Rockport, Maine
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May 22, 2008

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