Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
The Schmooze

Long Lost Jewish Film To Play in Jerusalem

The discovery and restoration of the long-forgotten film “Breaking Home Ties” is the latest revelatory moment in classic American Jewish cinema. The Boston-based National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF) reported this week that the 1922 silent film will be available for screening for general audiences.

The only surviving print of “Breaking Home Ties” was discovered by Center exec Sharon Pucker Rivo in 1984 in a Berlin archive, where it had lain, seemingly lost, for decades, with German intertitles and mistitled in German and Hebrew. Rivo brought the film back to the United States, where the NCJF translated and shot the film’s intertitles back into its original English, and restored the film. But, even restored and preserved, “Breaking Home Ties” was not suitable for viewing.

The NCJF therefore undertook a complete digital restoration of the film. Using new techniques, the NCJF was able to stabilize the image enough to make a version that can be projected and made widely accessible to new audiences for the first time in 80 years.

“Breaking Home Ties” is one of the very few surviving silent films with a Jewish theme and with Jewish content accurately portrayed. In the early 1920s American Jews, stung by the anti-Semitic campaigns of the Ku Klux Klan and Henry Ford, looked to the new medium of the “photoplay” — motion pictures — to portray Jewish life and thereby counter anti-Semitism. Several feature films with Jewish themes were produced during the 1920s and released for general audiences — “The Jazz Singer” is the most notable; 1922’s “Breaking Home Ties” was amongst the early efforts. The film, directed by Frank Seltzer and George Rowlands, was the last film shot at the Betzwood Motion Picture Studios in Philadelphia, which had been founded by Siegmund Lubin, one of the very first of the Jewish filmmakers.

“Breaking Home Ties” is a family drama set in pre-revolutionary Russia and New York. The story is a familiar one: two Jewish immigrant generations discard their Russian past and, after numerous hardships, find success in the new land. The film, interweaving American ideals of hard work and acculturation and Jewish life and values, was an important American Jewish cultural expression of that era.

The newly-restored “Breaking Home Ties,” presented by the National Center for Jewish Film, will have its world premiere at the Jerusalem International Film Festival on July 12 at the Begin Heritage Center.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.