“Finding Kalman,” a short film by 1975 Baldwin Senior High School graduate Laurie Weisman and Roz Jacobs, a painter and multimedia artist, will air on public television Channel 21 on April 2 at 10:30 p.m. The documentary chronicles the ways in which Anna Jacobs, 88, a Holocaust survivor, encouraged the younger members of her family to connect with relatives they never met, and how the family copes with its history.
Although many members of the Jacobs clan, which lived in the Warsaw ghetto, were killed in the 1940s, Anna held a special place in her heart for the titular Kalman — a mischievous, dark-eyed brother who did not survive a forced labor camp. Weisman’s documentary, which is the focus of much attention during this year’s 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, examines not only Anna’s relationship with Kalman, but also how subsequent generations of the Jacobs family grappled with their past.
Roz, 58, Anna’s daughter and the film’s co-director, finds a connection with her slain uncle by doing a series of paintings based on a photo of Kalman. Maya, Anna’s granddaughter and a violist who performed with Daniel Barenboim’s Arab-Israeli youth orchestra, expresses her passion through music. Roy, Anna’s pre-teen great-grandson, fretfully ponders how his generation will come to understand the Holocaust, and worries that to many of his classmates, one of history’s cruelest episodes has become “just another story.”
Although the film was born of tragedy — Anna was 14 when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and her entire family, save one uncle, was murdered — it resolutely focuses more on the joy of life than the agonies of that terrible time. Anna, who comes across as kind, caring and composed, sums this up best: “I want to remember. And I want to have a good time, too. Pain goes together with happiness.”