The House Built by Hope: A Story of Compassion, Resilience, & Religious Freedom
"The House Built by Hope: A Story of Compassion, Resilience, and Religious Freedom" is a 35-minute film about Temple Beth Israel. The story, told by founders and children of founders of the community, looks at the horrors and loss encountered by each family, many relaying stories of internment in concentration camps, as well as others who fought in the war as Partisans. Some 50 Jewish families were aided in their relocation in part by the Jewish Agricultural Society, helping to secure for these immigrants, farmland for chicken raising and dairy farming.
The story is about survival, adjustment and resettlement but even more about how a Christian community welcomed these families and helped them to start their new lives. It looks at the efforts undertaken to build their house of worship, Temple Beth Israel and the support they were given and how the entire community benefitted from the spirit of generosity.
The documentary was envisioned by Dr. Elsie Fetterman, former Danielson resident and member of the Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society board of directors. Filming of the documentary was by Amherst Media and was made possible by a grant from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). A curriculum guide designed to accompany the film was prepared by Simon Leutz, Department Chair, Social Studies, Amherst Pelham Regional High School and made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Council on the Humanities.
A House Built by Hope
For Temple Beth Israel on its Listing in the National Register of Historic Places August 3, 2013
A building stands Silent, in a small, Yankee town Fine and proud Once home to settlers Proud Americans Who practiced ancient rituals while doing civic duties Danced with scrolls writ in ancient script Followed a lunar calendar And welcomed distant cousins from the war.
Once home to refugees Who came to work on farms And arrived with suitcases filled with memories Of childhoods lost And homes destroyed Memories of meager rations, barbed wire, anguished cries Gunshots in the forests Running down frozen, muddy roads as in a bad dream. But now proud new citizens with children of their own Who represented life renewed And built a house with hope.
Once home to immigrants Who came from many lands Desperate for acceptance Seeking love and kindness and justice Needing a place to mend their broken spirits Looking for a space to hang memorial tablets To remember victims without graves And family members left behind This house was built by Hope.
No one knew but the neighbors These broken souls – with broken hearts and broken dreams Speaking broken English – Whispered among themselves in a foreign tongue Sang melodies in a minor key Told stories of parents, sang songs of their youth Wondered if there could be another chance at life Who knew if they would stay? This house was built by hope.
Rushed from the noise and dust and feathers of the chicken coops To come together to carry timbers, Dig foundations and pour cement. Sweaty backs and muscular arms with tattooed numbers That in another world had carried stones while watched by guards with guns Here gently placed these heavy stones with love. This house was built by hope. Now a building stands Proud and strong Stone and timber and glass Through which the stars could be counted before reciting Mournful ancient prayers Haunting melodies from the old country A sacred space to house a sacred Scroll, a dream, a book, A cup of ritual wine to toast an uncertain future This house was built by hope.
A building filled with scores of stories A minyan gathers to recite the Kaddish Seeking God who mysteriously was absent when He was most needed Nestled among welcoming neighbors Together writing a proud chapter in the story of a tolerant community. And now a generous nation recalls the story And writes the building’s address in a register Among addresses worthy of remembering And proud and grateful children remember their parents and celebrate In this house built by hope.