Gideon Taylor, president of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, was visiting Holocaust survivors at a nursing home in Ashkelon, some 10 miles from the Gaza border, when he met Yosef Winner.
It was a few weeks after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, and Taylor learned that Winner, 97, had gone on to build a new life in Israel after losing his entire family in the Holocaust.
On Oct. 7, tragedy revisited Winner when Hamas terrorists infiltrated the southern border with Gaza and murdered two of his grandchildren.
His granddaughter, Hadar, and her husband, Itay, managed to protect their 10-month-old twin boys, who were rescued after 14 hours, though Hadar and Itay were killed. Yahav, another of Yosef’s grandchildren, stalled terrorists in his home at Kibbutz Kfar Aza long enough for his wife, Shaylee, to take their newborn daughter Shaya to safety. Mother and daughter were rescued after 24 hours in hiding, but Yahav was killed.
Taylor listened intently to Yosef’s story alongside the survivor’s son Ofer, Yahav’s grieving father.
“It was a range of emotions—something I don’t think I’d experienced,” Taylor told JNS. “It was the depths of pain. It was palpable.”
“But there was also resilience,” Taylor added.
Taylor watched the late Yahav’s last completed film, “The Boy,” which Israeli theaters were screening in November. Edited by Shaylee, whom Yahav met in film school and later married, the movie is a fictionalized kibbutz tragedy, set on the Gaza border.
Not only did the filmmaker suffer a real-life tragedy in just such a circumstance, but Yahav drew in the fictional account from his own experience as a 22-year-old, witnessing the death of his best friend’s father, who was hit by a Hamas rocket.
Taylor knew this presentation of the complexity of kibbutz life in the Gaza Envelope would be welcomed back home.
“I wanted to give a voice to the film and create a little bit of a bridge from people in the south of Israel to New York,” he told JNS.
He approached New York synagogues and other local Jewish groups to sponsor a screening of the film at the Marlene Meyerson JCC’s Carole Zabar Center for Film. A Jan. 16 showing quickly sold out, so a second viewing that day was added.
Ten synagogues, and Jewish organizations and schools, are listed as sponsors, as is The New Yorker. The screenings are raising money for the late filmmaker’s displaced family members, now in temporary housing.
‘Beyond reading the news’
Taylor told JNS that having publicized the film, “there’s been a real desire for people to connect with people in Israel and particularly to people in the south.”
“This is a unique way of doing it—through the lens of film,” he said. “It gives you a narrative. It gives you an image. It communicates in a way that’s beyond discourse and so beyond reading the news.”
Taylor has maintained contact with members of the Winner family after his visit to Israel.
A cousin of the Winners, Dvir Rosenfeld, and Dvir’s wife, Maya, plan to attend the Tuesday screening; other relatives aim to join via video feed.
A recorded interview with the late filmmaker will also play at the screenings, as will footage of his widow Shaylee’s testimony, part of a new project to capture testimonies of those impacted by the Oct. 7 attacks.
Shaylee is editing her late husband’s fifth and final film, “Kibbutz Legend,” which Winner finished shooting right before Oct. 7.
The couple play the lead roles, with the supporting cast filled out by friends and family from Kfar Aza. That movie promises to be a ghost film, as several other cast members were also murdered by Hamas.