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Tango, Brothels & Jewish History…


The tango was born in the brothels at the port cities along the rio de la plata and therefore is synonymous with prostitution:

(From an interview with José Judkowski, author of El tango, una historia con judíos. Dance footage courtesy of El Viejo Almacen, Buenos Aires, 2010)

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Trafficking: A Crime So Monstrous


From the Netherlands, Moldova and Romania to Sudan, South Africa and India, award winning investigative journalist and author Benjamin Skinner has been face-to-face with modern-day slavery. A fellow at Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and at Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, he has been a long-time anti-slavery advocate.

Through his work Skinner was able to infiltrate – often undercover – the underworld of global trafficking in order to bear witness and give a voice to the unheard victims of one of the worst crimes against humanity.

In his recent interview, Skinner discussed his book A Crime So Monstrous (Free Press, 2008), providing his unique account and contemporary perspectives on sex trafficking. Here’s an excerpt:

Discussing modern-day trafficking and the millions of sex slaves and others in bondage worldwide (also here on CNN’s Larry King Live, directed for National Geographic by Nico Sabenorio), Skinner emphasizes that “today, slavery is more profligate than ever before in human history.”

In order to turn the corner against trafficking and slavery he suggests greater focus on targeted development program as well as better funding allocation by governments.  But he also strongly believes that true change can come as a result of governments acting together and of the general community “getting involved directly, and there a number of very good organizations that work on this: the Polaris Project here in the US, which seeks to identify and aid trafficking victims across the country, Free the Slaves that work internationally – and these are organizations that can always use help. I think that any time you can transform outrage into action – you are making a change, as a documentarian or as a journalist.”

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Laid to Rest (production assembly)


Buried Stories of the Jewish Sex Trade

Location Producer/Videographer: Gustavo Hazan
Consulting Producer: Jonathan Barkan
Fine cut: Loren Miller
Assistant Editor: Leah Bartels
Composer: Ari Frankel
Sound mix: Bill Cavanaugh
Translation Assistant: Margo Kolenda
Title design: Ronni Komarow 

With generous support from:

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From book to stage


The tragic story of the Jewish white trade have lured the imagination of numerous novelists over the years. One of the most recent attempts to highlight the subject is the stage adaptation of  A Tale of a Ring by Israeli novelist Ilan Sheinfeld who, these days, in collaboration with stage director Dalia Shimko, is once again bringing his fictional characters to life by placing them on the theatrical stage:

The play, scheduled to premiere in Tel Aviv in July, includes Esti Zakhem, Roberto Polak, Shira Eden, Orly Tobaly, Maya Gesner, Libee Tenenboim, Eyal Raz and Michal Politzer, and original music by Issar Shulman.

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In Memoriam: When Lerer Met Witler


As a gifted child-actor in Buenos Aires, Shifra Lerer, known by all as Shifra’le, lived and breathed Yiddish on the Jewish Theater stage since she was nine years old. One of her first roles was in a short lived controversial play about the “Tme’im.” Too young to understand what the play was about, she only remembers that it stirred up a heated public debate.

In this excerpt from a May 2010 filmed interview 95 year old Yiddish actress Shifra Lerer reminisces about her first encounter with stage and later life partner Benzion Witler. Shifra Lerer passed away in NYC on March 12, 2011.

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Production Assembly: Who, What, When and Where


Following the unwinding trail of scarce archival documentation, the documentary Laid to Rest, Buried Stories of Jewish Sex Trade unravels the questions, secrets, myths and mysteries surrounding the topic from the late 19th century until the 1930s. Here is a rough cut of assembled footage filmed and edited between June 2009 – November 2010:

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Shifra’le: Forgotten Memories of Ibergus


Shifra Lerer started her life long acting career in the Yiddish theater in Argentina at the age of five. She was only nine years old when she played in Leib Malach’s controversial play Ibergus about the Jewish sex trade in Latin America. Years later, she recall the play, her role and the controversial circumstances surrounding the month long stage production in Buenos Aires’ Teatro Ideal. She can no longer remember her lines, but still remembers the controversy:

Ibergus?It was a play that made you nervous, made you think about things, made you be concerned abut things…

From an interview with Shifra Lerer, NYC, 2010

It was a shameful episode in the life of Yiddish life in Argentina. I can’t tell you much about it because being at this age, I was too young to understand…

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Coffee with Sheinfeld


It was Las Polacas (2008, working title) meeting A Tale of a Ring (2007, Hebrew) at a Tel Aviv café on a warm spring day in April 2008. Creative writing and documentary filmmaking, Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv, Polacas, Shtetls, Jewish folklore and the Holocaust were among the many topics discussed with Israeli novelist Ilan Sheinfeld.
(to be continued…)

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