My Dear Children follows one woman’s quest to unravel a family mystery, a journey that reveals a little-known anti-Jewish tragedy following WWI.  Scholars today describe what happened as a precursor to the Holocaust.  The consequences of that tragedy continue to reverberate today and serve as a warning for the future.

"Kudos on discovering and making a film about such an amazing story. What courage and life that mother had, and I learned so much from the film. You have uncovered an incredible under known story of our past. Mazel tov."

Aviva Kempner, Director, The Rosenwald Schools, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, and The Partisans of Vilna
Synopsis: 

My Dear Children is a journey that reveals a heartbreaking and little-known humanitarian tragedy.  One hundred years ago, Jews in what today is Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus suffered through what scholars now call “the holocaust of its day.”  Pogroms that swept the region from 1917-1921 killed some 300,000 Jews, perhaps many more. 

Judy Favish, a South African Jew, uses a decades-old letter from her grandmother to trace the events that tore apart her family and tens of thousands of others.  It’s a story unknowingly shared by Jews the world over.

Reviews

"This film is really, really special.  I don’t think I’ve ever cared so much about Jewish history since reading Mila 18.  I can tell, based on being a storyteller myself, that it’s an extraordinarily difficult story to tell.  The archival work they’ve done is astounding.  I genuinely think it’s only slightly hyperbolic to say they’re preventing this history from vanishing."

Jeffrey E. Stern, Author of The Last Thousand and The 15:17 to Paris (Released as a major motion picture directed by Clint Eastwood)

"I’m really excited about My Dear Children and the kind of complex issues that it’s bringing to a very wide audience, and, I think, presenting them in a very sensitive way that people will understand and be touched by."

Natan Meir, Portland State University

"My Dear Children functions as an audio/visual Yizkor (Memorial) Book for events which occurred two decades prior to the Holocaust. Like most Yizkor Books, it contains information many of us might not be familiar with and helps us internalize the challenges faced by our ancestors, along with the values and ideals they held most dear."

Avraham Groll, Director, JewishGen

"This extraordinary testament was named ‘Audience Favorite’ in the documentary category at our festival.  People loved it, were incredibly touched by it, and agreed that it was a very important piece of history that should not be forgotten."

Julie Sherman, Chair, Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival

"This rare testament, also published in book form, in conjunction with the film’s release, is a painful but essential addition to the historical record and must not be missed. My Dear Children left our audience speechless."

Tina Silverman, Director Southampton Jewish Film Festival
Director's Commentary: 

I am not Jewish, but I was surprised to learn how I have been personally impacted by the humanitarian tragedy that led to My Dear Children.

My Dear Children is based on the memoir of Feiga Shamis, a Jewish mother of 12.  Feiga was driven by anti-Jewish massacres in Eastern Europe more than 100 years ago to give up two of her children for adoption.  Her decision to let those children go saved their lives.

Feiga’s great grandson brought me her memoir eight years ago, believing it might be the basis for a documentary.  At the time, I found Feiga’s accounts of post-WWI anti-Jewish violence confusing.  Why had I never heard of this? I set the book aside.

A year later, my husband became ill and suffered a life-threatening stroke.  He ended up in the hospital where Feiga’s great grandson was a doctor.  Over the next two weeks, my friend Steve coordinated my husband’s care, reviewed his charts, and kept me apprised of my husband’s condition.  Steve was my lifeline.

A year after the stroke, Steve told me his cousin Judy was about to travel to Ukraine to trace Feiga’s story and had invited the extended family.  Steve invited me to join her, and luckily Judy agreed.

To prepare, I re-read Feiga’s memoir and was struck by the fact that Steve is alive because of Feiga’s decision to let those two children go.  I have benefitted from Feiga’s pain.  Here I was, a non-Jew in Northern Virginia, impacted by little-known events a continent away and more than 100 years ago.  If I was impacted, then surely many others have been too, and, like me, have no idea.

Many of the people who died in those massacres simply disappeared.  Entire villages were wiped out.  Their memory erased.  At the root of those massacres was anti-Semitism.  It was a problem then; it’s a problem today.  It’s my goal to bring awareness to this forgotten history, its ongoing repercussions, and what we should learn from it.

Postscript – my husband recovered and is fine.