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Before it’s too late: Group aims to make film on local Jewish life in 20th century

By Ian Shulkin/ Correspondent
Friday, May 26, 2006 - Updated: 10:53 AM EST

'Ghetto Memories Revisited' explores Jewish community in Boston

Diners at Maxie’s Deli in Cobb’s Corner may have noticed a new attraction while they wait to be seated.

The deli is showing a four and a half minute preview of a documentary called Sidewalk Memories, which deli owner Steve Robbins, Ken Schlossberg, and their nonprofit group, Ghetto Memories Associates, hope to make into a full length film.

Although only a short preview at the moment, the film in its entirety will trace the roots of modern suburban Jewish communities back through the 20th century and bring the audience into the streets of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

This area, referred to nowadays as DRM, was once home to the second largest Jewish population in the United States. The urban Jewish experience no longer exists like it used to, and the majority of Jews have moved into suburbs.

"This video is really meant for our kids and grandchildren," said Schlossberg, who owns the Schlossberg Solomon Chapel funeral home in Canton, "I don’t really know much about the childhood of my parents and grandparents, I’d hate for my children and grandchildren to be in the same position as I was."

Robbins explained that many of his customers came from urban Jewish communities, and that even the short preview had brought back so many memories in guests that some began to cry.

Daniel Cohen, a Maxie’s customer who grew up in Roxbury, described life back in the DRM area.

"There were drug stores on every street corner and four delis to a street: whole extended families lived together in on apartment complex," Cohen said. "Your cousins would be in the apartment below you, and your grandparents in the room above you. It was a Jewish ghetto, but I always enjoyed it."

The "Ghetto Memories" books, written by Norm Morris, inspired Schlossberg to get involved in preserving a record of Jewish origins in America.

Morris and Schlossberg began the motions to create a 501c nonprofit corporation called Ghetto Memories Associates, doing all the paperwork and opening an account at the Sharon Credit Union. From there, Schlossberg, Morris, and other members of the nonprofit began seeking a film production company Eventually, they settled on Dream Alley Pictures production company, who made the preview through volunteer work.

The film is estimated to cost about $200,000. So far, the nonprofit has around $10,000 invested into the project and is now looking to raise funds from nearby communities. Donations at the deli so far have amounted to around $450, with more money coming in.

"The deli is fundraising central right now, and also the place where we recruit board members for the nonprofit," said Robbins, "we’re looking for small and large contributions."

Schlossberg hopes that when the film is completed, it will be picked up by television channels or distributed to film companies. "We’re hoping we can get it distributed, maybe to PBS or the History channel, or even Sundance," said Schlossberg, "it’s a real slice of American history, especially American Jewish history, and the story of these communities that existed from the 1920s up to the 1960s and 70s."

Elaine Silver, who saw the video while she was waiting to be seated at the deli, said, "I really liked it. It was from our time, and brought back a lot of memories."

For more information on the project, visit www.sidewalkmemories.org. Checks can be mailed to Sidewalk Memories, 824 Washington St., Canton, MA 02021, payable to Ghetto Memories Associates Inc.

Group hopes to produce a one-hour documentary on Jewish life in the 20th century

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