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From Berlin to Washington

Iconic photo caps film about famed Newark rabbi

As they neared the finish line of their documentary on the iconic Rabbi Joachim Prinz, filmmakers Rachel Pasternak and Rachel Fisher had one big editorial gap to fill.

In order to finish the film — Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent — before its world premiere on May 9 at the Berlin Jewish Film Festival, they needed one particular iconic photograph: a picture taken by a New Jersey Jewish News photographer of the rabbi with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

So the two women from Maplewood turned, as they often had before, to Linda Forgosh, executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey.

In the JHS archives on the Aidekman campus in Whippany, Forgosh and JHS archivist Jill Hershorin located a high-quality copy of the photo, which was taken at Temple B’nai Abraham in Newark when the civil rights leader spoke there on Jan. 17, 1963.

Assistance from the JHS, along with some major donations and smaller contributions from supporters on kickstarter.com, enabled R Squared Productions — Fisher and Pasternak’s company — to purchase rights to visuals they needed to complete their work.

Their film tells the story of the German-born rabbi who resisted the Nazis in his native land, then battled racism after fleeing to America.

From his pulpit at B’nai Abraham — first in Newark and then, after 1973, in Livingston, Prinz spoke out against racial discrimination and invited King to address his congregation on several occasions.

“Dr. King was not received well at all by the Jewish community when he came to Newark,” said Deborah Prinz of South Orange, the youngest of the rabbi’s five children. “Some people in the community were not happy. A lot of tensions were building. There were people in the synagogue who were never happy with the things my father did.”

On Aug. 28, 1963, Prinz stood on the podium with King at the March on Washington. “He told the crowd that as a Jew he had a deep sense of what African-Americans were experiencing,” said Fisher. “It was almost a visceral experience when he came here and saw the racism and heard white people use the kind of language they used. It brought back what he had experienced in Germany.”

“The film is everything we wanted it to be,” said Pasternak. “It is an honor to share Rabbi Prinz’s story with a wide audience.”

Although it was shown at the Berlin festival, the documentarians have not yet scheduled any public screenings in the United States. But, said Pasternak, “we are very interested in showing it in Rabbi Prinz’s home area.”

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