Move over Rachel — there is a new member of the Weisz family finding success in the film business.
The actress’s 84-year-old father George has made his debut as a producer with a documentary telling the little-known story — set in Nazi Germany — of the first ever female rabbi.
Regina Jonas was a revered figure for her pastoral work in 1930s Berlin before she was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and then, in 1944, to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.
George Weisz, a Hungarian-born engineer who escaped to Britain before the Second World War, has arranged for his documentary, called simply Regina, to be shown at the UK Jewish Film Festival in the autumn. It has already been screened to a positive reception in Budapest.
Regina is Mr Weisz’s first foray into producing. He says he wanted to make the film — which is directed by highly rated young Hungarian film-maker, Diana Groo — to promote awareness of Rabbi Jonas’s work. She is regarded as an icon by Liberal Jews but is less well known among the wider Jewish community. “She was not accepted by Orthodox congregations and she was not allowed to preach from the pulpit,” Mr Weisz says. “So she went on to work in hospitals and old-age homes and to teach. She ministered to the poor, to the sick, to the elderly.” And, he stresses, “this is not a Shoah film — this is about a woman with a calling.”
This is not a Shoah film — this is about a woman with a calling
The documentary follows her struggle to be ordained as a rabbi, and also her romance with Hamburg rabbi, Josef Norden.
Mr Weisz also holds the rights to make a feature film of Rabbi Jonas’s life story. His daughter Rachel would, he suggests, be right for the role. “But she’s extremely busy,” he adds. “It would be her choice to take the part. I have an email from her saying this is a wonderful film.”
Mr Weisz is now hoping to work with Ms Groo on another project of Jewish interest — a documentary about the Tiszaeszlár Affair, a notorious blood libel case in 1882 in Hungary.
For now, despite studiously avoiding the red carpet in the past — “I think I’d be in Rachel’s way” — George Weisz is concentrating on raising awareness of Regina. “It’s an inspiring story,” he says, “a story that should be told.”