Film Premiere: Back to Gombin

Friday, February 1, 2002

Minna Packer, Producer/Director

Thursday, February 28, 2002 at 7:00 pm
Admission free

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
One West 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street)
New York City

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion presents the premiere of an important new documentary film on the Holocaust and its enduring legacy, Back to Gombin, produced and directed by Minna Packer. Packer, the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Gombin, Poland, traces the history of Gombin's pre-war Jewish community, its destruction during the Holocaust, and the transmission of these memories to the descendents of the Gombin survivors. The filmmaker and members of Gombin survivors families will discuss the film, following the screening.

Gombin, a small town in Central Poland, was home to more than 2,000 Jews before the Holocaust. Of these, 212 survived. Having lost most members of their extended families, these "Gombiners," stayed in touch and became family for each other. Through the internet, the next generation has sustained links with 300 Gombin families around the world, forming a Gombin Jewish Historical and Genealogical Society. In 1999, 50 survivors and their progeny returned to Gombin and to Chelmno, the camp where their families were killed, to erect a monument. Minna Packer's film, Back to Gombin, documents their journey.

While many documentaries deal with the tragedy and loss of the Holocaust, Back to Gombin is unique in that it looks at the impact of the Holocaust on the children and grandchildren of survivors. The "next generation" offspring of the survivors tell of the void they felt in their lives when parents were unable to speak to them about their past and relatives did not exist to fill in the blanks. Nineteen year-old, Noam Lupu, a member of the third generation, returned to Gombin with both his grandmother, a survivor, and his mother. He wrote in the Gombin newsletter that the film is intended to show "the forces and passions that drove second- and third- generations to rebuild something they had never experienced, but somehow, nonetheless, needed."

Those who returned to Gombin sought not only to rebuild what they were missing emotionally, but also to rebuild physically. The effort to return began with the realization that the gravestones of Gombin's Jewish cemetery had been dispersed. Some had been used to pave the town's streets, others, they found out, were used in garages and steps to peoples homes. The film documents the re-dedication of Gombin's Jewish cemetery and the dedication of a monument at Chelmno, the nearby concentration camp where so many Gombiner's were murdered.

Jews lived in Gombin and other towns in Poland for hundreds of years before the Holocaust. As one commentator put it "We are more Polish than we like to admit, and they are more Jewish than they like to admit." Back to Gombin documents and celebrates the re-establishment of a connection to the past. By returning to the town where their families had lived for hundreds of years, the Jewish Gombiners re-claimed their legacy in Gombin.

For further information, please contact: Sarah Schriever, 212-824-2293.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu