JEM Production Team Turns to Kickstarter with a Story Worth Telling

Everyone knows that Chabad and Tefillin go hand in hand. “Excuse me are you Jewish? Would you like to put on tefillin?” are oft heard refrains from young Chabad yeshivah students, Chabad Shluchim, and increasingly, individuals beyond Chabad.  

‘Armed,’ a dramatic  and engaging documentary film being produced on  the history of the Rebbe’s tefillin campaign and its continued impact, turns to Kickstarter to crowdfund the film’s costs.

But what is the story behind this global campaign? Rabbi Yitzchak Tsap, JEM’s director of content relates, “The Tefillin campaign  was initiated by the Rebbe on the eve of the Six Day War of 1967, when Israel was deep in crisis. Surrounded by Arab armies threatening their annihilation, the Jews felt hopeless and abandoned. In this sea of despair, the Rebbe stood up as a voice of calm,  radiating faith and confidence. His voice echoed across the ocean onto Israeli radio and the front pages of newspapers, assuring Israel’s victory, in the merit of the commandment of tefillin.”

Leo Goldberg, a philanthropist from the US, visited Israel only days after end of the war. In a highly emotional scene captured on 16mm film and restored by the Armed team, he puts on Tefillin at the newly liberated Kotel.

Launching a new campaign, the Rebbe  instructed that every Jew, no matter his level of affiliation or professed involvement in Judaism, should be encouraged and helped to put on tefillin. He called on Jews to take to the streets the world over, and specifically in the Holy Land. And so they set out, tefillin in hand.

Sure enough, the miracles of the Six Day War and liberation of Jerusalem will never be forgotten. And the tefillin campaign has only continued to pick up speed. “Now, little more than 50 years later, there is hardly a Jew on the planet who has not been approached to lay tefillin,” says senior researcher Rabbi Choli Mishulovin.

To honor 50 years of the campaign, JEM began to work on ‘Armed,’ a film documenting this story. “The launch of the campaign was a watershed moment in Jewish life in the twentieth century,” explained Eli Sapochkinsky, JEM’s  production director. “In time came to define Chabad in the eyes of the world. We  just had to produce a film on it.”

Shmuli Hurwitz, a member of the Armed team, reviews archival footage for inclusion in the film. Thus far, well over 2,000 hours have been invested into the project.

JEM set out to create   a short video, not unlike many of the  other films and clips they produced in the past. But once the project began, it expanded dramatically. “The stories, the footage of the Six Day War and the liberation of the Western Wall we gathered, and the first hand accounts of the tremendous impact of the campaign were too powerful to ignore,” says Rabbi Shmuli Hurwitz, JEM’s content editor. “This was a as story that deserved exploration, attention, and above all – to be told in its entirety.”

So Armed began to take shape.  A riveting and unprecedented cinematic experience, ‘Armed’ grabs you as it tells the fascinating story of the launch of the international tefillin campaign. Featuring never-before-seen historic film, newly-recorded interviews with those on the front lines during the fateful early days of the project, and newly-discovered and restored scenes of Jerusalem in the days after its liberation. In all, the film is a dramatic,  yet heartwarming blend of the past, present and future.

New interviews recorded especially for the film, as well as first-person testimonies from the My Encounter with the Rebbe archive narrate and illuminate the events.

Currently the film is one- third complete.  Determined that the story see the light of day, the ‘Armed’ team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds to produce the film in all its glory. “We are determined to produce this film. It is emotional, inspiring and dramatic, and we cannot let it go untold,” says Yossi Chayo, who is spearheading the ‘Armed’ Kickstarter campaign. “Its  messages of Jewish unity regardless of affiliation, faith, and love for the Land of Israel, must be shared. That way,  we too will learn and be inspired.”

Partner with the team HERE and make their dream a reality!

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