From Philadelphia
to the Front

2005, USA, 37 minutes
Produced & Directed by Judy Gelles & Marianne Bernstein

Buy Now

Public Exhibition Formats: Beta, DVD

"... A real rarity. I don’t find it at all ironic that the single best film in this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival is one of the shorter ones. Judy Gelles and Marianne Bernstein, the directors of From Philadelphia to the Front, knew exactly what they wanted to say, said it and got out."
-George Robinson, The Jewish Week

"Deeply moving, elegantly edited."
-Rhode Island Arts and Culture

"Spectacularly relevant archival photos and footage."
-Philadelphia Inquirer


One of the few documentaries to explore the stories of Jewish-American World War II soldiers, this film focuses on six Philadelphia veterans in their 80’s, and their individual experiences during the war and a bittersweet reunion they share in their old age. For Jews, the war to defeat Hitler had deeply personal significance. Combined with photographs from the men’s personal collections, the film includes rare archival footage, stills, and newsreels including Jewish soldiers celebrating Shabbat and Passover during wartime and the first Jewish service at Dachau after it was liberated. Milton Dank, a noted physicist and historian who flew glider planes in Word War II, contributed hundreds of photographs he took on the front lines.

Photographer Judy Gelles, who was very close to her father-in-law Sidney Gelles until his death in 1986, discovered a box of his World War II artifacts. In this box were Sidney's helmet, spats, tallis, dog tag, War Department manuals, photos, telegrams, and hundreds of letters to his future bride Clara. In these letters were hints of anti-semitism that he experienced during the five years that he served. He never talked about those years in the Army. This lack of information prompted Judy and her partner in the project photographer Marianne Bernstein to investigate the experiences of Jews who served in World War II. The film premiered at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as part of A Soldier's Story: Intimate Artifacts of World War II, an exhibition of still photographs and letters.


Best Documentary, Second Place Aarhus Film Festival, Denmark
Audience Award Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival
New Filmmakers Award Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival
Best Documentary, Second Place Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films
Audience Award - Documentary, Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films
Best Documentary, Second Place Warsaw Jewish Film Festival

Selected Screenings

Kehillah of Chester County Summer Shorts Film Festival
Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Bowdoin College, Maine
Globians Film Festival, Germany
Krakow Festival of Arts and Culture
Aarhus Film Festival, Denmark
Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival
Palm Beach International Film Festival
Shreveport Jewish Film Festival
San Diego Jewish Film Festival
International Conference on Jewish Genealogy
Jewish Museum of Maryland
National Yiddish Book Center
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Fall Series)
Vilna Shul, Boston
Maine Jewish Film Festival
National Museum of American Jewish History
Vancouver Jewish Film Festival
NCJF Jewishfilm.2006
Sarasota Film Festival
Miami Jewish Film Festival
Delray Beach Film Festival
New York Jewish Film Festival
Washington Jewish Film Festival
Warsaw International Jewish Film Festival
Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films
Rhode Island International Film Festival
Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival


Produced and Directed by Judy Gelles and Marianne Bernstein
Editors Julie Goldstein and Sharon Mullally
Camera Erika Mijlin
Original score John Avarese
Narrator Barbara Moskow
Historical Consultant Deborah Dash Moore
Second Camera Julie Goldstein


B The Jewish Advocate | Read Article

Home Use DVD: $29.95

Does not include Classroom or Library Use Rights or Public Performance Rights. More Information


Classroom/Library Use DVD: $95

Does not include Public Performance Rights. More Information


Back to Top








Join our mailing list!