N. CALDWELL, NJ - Long-time North Calldwell resident, Fairfield businessman and filmmaker Denny Klein is hosting the virtual West Coast debut of his film “An Inconvenient Time: The Ruth Ravina Story” on August 28th. It is a 2020 Official Selection at the Dances with Films Film Festival.
The documentary has already garnered a slew of accolades: Best Documentary, Treasure Coast International 2020; Best Documentary, Bedford International Film Festival, 2020; Nominee, Jersey Shore Film Festival, 2020; Finalist, New York Cinematography Award; Official Selection, Dancing With Films Los Angeles 2020 and Official Selection, Los Angeles Film Festival.
Ruth Ravina, an Upper Montclair resident, survived three concentration camps by the time she was seven years. Now 83, she is a brilliant woman who is multilingual and has an astounding memory. Ravina is warm and vivacious and never allowed her horrific experience define her or make her bitter.
Klein, who’s been a North Caldwell resident since 2001, explained that there are very few children’s accounts of the Holocaust because “the young and elderly were the first to be killed, since they weren’t strong enough to be good laborers.”
“The Diary of Anne Frank and stories of the Kindertransport children, who were sent to England just before the war, are the only well-known personal accounts of Jewish children during the Holocaust.” Klein commented.
Ravina was two years old when Nazis invaded her hometown of Kozienice, Poland in 1939. The film begins with Ravina saying, “My name is Ruth, and I was born at a very inconvenient time. I was born exactly two years before the Germans invaded Poland.”
Her parents were sent to a labor camp, and she hid at a nearby farm. When the family that owned the farm became afraid they would be caught harboring her, Ravina snuck into the labor camp, where her mother hid her in a backpack.
At one point, Ravina and other children were loaded onto a truck to be killed. She jumped off the truck and ran. Miraculously, a woman wearing a cape was able to hide Ravina in her bulky outfit. Ravina and her mother were moved to two other camps before the war ended.
Ravina recalls her grandmother hiding her in an unlit oven when Nazis banged on their door. Another time, she hid under a camp’s barracks floorboards with rats scurrying around nearby.
When Ravina was eight years old, Russians liberated the third camp that she and her mother were in. Her father had died, and she was the only child from Kozienice who survived.
She and her mother moved to Manhattan where Ravina later attended City College and married Oscar Ravina, a Montclair State University professor who was also a violinist with the New York Philharmonic.
Ravina, the consummate homemaker, loved nurturing others. She enjoyed having Oscar’s students visit their home and healed from her experiences by helping others who were going through difficulties.
She also planned concert tours for Oscar, and they traveled all over the world.
When Oscar passed away in 2010, Ravina decided it was time to share her experiences. She spoke at synagogues, churches, mosques, schools and other institutions.
Ravina’s sons participated in the film. Dr. Mark Ravina, a renown scholar of modern Japanese history, wrote “The Last Samurai.” His brother, Dr. Bernard Ravina, is a world-famous Parkinson’s researcher and Vice President of Clinical Development at Voyager Therapeutics.
Klein met Ravina in 2013 when his twin daughters were studying for their Bat Mitzvahs. Their temple has a Twin-With-A-Survivor program in which students preparing for their Bat Mitzvahs are matched with Holocaust survivors. The pre-teens spent time with them and planned to bear witness for them in 2045, the 100th Anniversary of the Holocaust.
Klein had worked in the insurance company in Fairfield that his grandfather opened in 1927. He started his own insurance company, RFK, 15 years ago and truly enjoys helping his clients. Klein also spearheads and host the annual Essex County Meet the Mayors event, something he's done for more than a decade.
Years ago, Klein was featured in commercials, acted and studied film and music in college. When he met Ravina he “had a vision as a filmmaker” and knew that he had to document her life. “Ruth’s story is more poignant now than ever,” Klein noted. “It’s a tale of triumph!”
Ravina became a second mother to Klein, and his daughters call her grandmother. They have enjoyed many Sunday family dinners with her because, says Klein, “she’s a member of our family.”
Klein began filming the documentary with a video camera he bought at Costco, but realized he needed to hire professionals. Klein noted that his last venture in filmmaking was in college when “editing was done with razor blades.”
Klein also hired two historians to ensure accuracy. He hopes that Ravina’s story, what he refers to as “an odyssey told from a child’s point of view,” will give several segments of the population a better understanding of the Holocaust.
He shared, “I’m concerned about the rise of antisemitism, Holocaust deniers and young Jews who don’t remember what happened.”
Klein created, directed, produced and scored the film (he plays multiple musical instruments). He worked painstakingly for seven years on the documentary which was filmed at Klein’s house, at schools where Ravina gave lectures, in a studio and during their Sunday family dinners. His wife, Cathy, and daughters, Evie and Rebecca, interviewed Ravina many times.
An Inconvenient Time will be screened virtually on August 28th at 4:05 pm PDT and August 31st at 3:30 pm PDT. Tickets can be purchased on https://dwfla.com/ for $11. Ticket holders will be able to view a question and answer session afterward.