There’s an Ottawa connection to the 2015 documentary film, “Blind Love,” which recounts a March of the Living trip in 2013 by a delegation of six blind Israelis and their guide dogs.
The film will be shown, November 23, at a Holocaust Education Month event organized by the Shoah (Holocaust) Committee of Ottawa. Eli Rubenstein, the film’s director and national director of March of the Living Canada, will be on hand to introduce and discuss the film.
“Auschwitz survivor David Shentow of Ottawa is in the film,” said Rubenstein in a telephone interview with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin. “In the scene is a young woman who is so upset she collapses to her knees because of what she’s hearing, and her dog comes over and licks her tears. That’s where the title of the film came to me – in a beautiful example of blind love in a place of such evil.
“David Shentow watches that scene and recalls watching a dog let loose by the SS kill a man. It’s a central moment in the film.”
Rubenstein is also chair of Canadian Friends of Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind and the centre sponsored the March of the Living trip for the blind Israelis and their guide dogs.
“What I didn’t realize at the time was what the blind participants would feel on the trip,” Rubenstein said. “In some ways, I think they got more out of the trip than people with vision.
“They all realized that you put yourself in the position of the Holocaust where people with disabilities were cursed and punished twice. And the Nazis used dogs to maim and kill people. For these people it was so meaningful. Here they were, marching proudly with their guide dogs that are trained to be gentle and loving to the very people the Nazis set out to destroy.”
The impact of this film has been “phenomenal,” he said. “In Israel, several television stations want to show it, and in Poland the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews has prepared a separate version of the film in Polish, which they are showing at an educational disabilities event.”
The impact of the participation of the blind Israelis and their dogs on the March was profound, Rubenstein noted, on both the blind participants and on those who observed them at the time and those who see the film.
“It was such a positive experience. They are coming back again with March of the Living this coming year,” he said.
“Blind Love” will be shown at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre on Wednesday, November 23, 7 pm. Admission is free of charge, but RSVP is appreciated to Elana Moscoe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-798-4696, ext. 355.