Breaking Home Ties


USA, 1922, 78 minutes, B&W
Silent with new English intertitles
Directed by Frank N. Seltzer &
George K. Rowlands

with New English Intertitles by
The National Center for Jewish Film

Arrange a Screening

Contact us at jewishfilm(at)brandeis(dot)edu
or call 781-736-8600 to book now

Public Exhibition Formats: Beta, DVD

Selected Screenings

Cleveland Jewish Film Festival 2015
Washington Jewish Film Festival 2015 - Live original soundtrack performed by pianist Donald Sosin and accompanied by violinist Joseph Morag
Special Event screening honoring NCJF Co-founder/ Co-director Sharon Pucker Rivo
Canada Premiere - Toronto Jewish Film Society
American Museum of American Jewish History with live music
Tel-Aviv Cinematheque with live music
Asia Premiere - Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival with live music
North American Premiere - New York Jewish Film Festival with live music
Europe Premiere - Amsterdam Jewish Film Festival with live music
World Premiere - Jerusalem International Film Festival with live music


Cleveland Plain Dealer by Joanna Connors | Cleveland Jewish FilmFest features historic silent film with live music
Washington Post by Julie Zauzmer | Jewish archivist honored for using new technology to revive old films
Haaretz by Neta Alexander | "Best pick of the (New York Jewish FIlm) Festival... lovely black-and-white photography"
Jewish Forward by Jerome A. Chanes | Long Lost Jewish Film to Play in Jerusalem
Brandeis Now by Debra Filcman | Center for Jewish Film takes rare find to festival


Press Release (PDF)
Essay on Breaking Home Ties by Joseph Eckhardt (PDF)


Thinking he has killed his friend Paul in a jealous rage, David Bergmann flees pre-revolutionary Russia for America. In New York he becomes a successful lawyer and woos smart, independent Rose. Meanwhile the wealthy Bergmann parents sell their well-appointed home in St. Petersburg and emigrate to New York.

Unable to locate their son who is hiding from his past, immigrant life takes its toll and the parents fall into poverty. Will David marry Rose? Will the Bergmanns be reunited? And what about Paul, the friend David thought he killed back in Russia?

In the early 1920s American Jews looked to undo the damage of the anti-semitic campaigns of the Ku Klux Klan and Henry Ford. Several feature length films with Jewish themes were produced and released for general audiences during this period, including Hungry Hearts and His People (both films restored by The National Center for Jewish Film), and The Jazz Singer. The film’s Jewish producers wished to present “the everyday life of the Jew, with emphasis on that human and sympathetic element in his nature too often overlooked.” Breaking Home Ties was the last film shot at the Betzwood Motion Picture Studio in Philadelphia, PA. The film premiered in New York City in November 1922.

NCJF 2012 HD Digital Film Restoration

Long thought lost, the world’s only existing print of Breaking Home Ties was discovered by Sharon Pucker Rivo of The National Center for Jewish Film in a Berlin archive in 1984. That distribution print with German intertitles had been erroneously produced under a different title. NCJF’s film restoration included 35mm film-to-film restoration, additional digital restoration, and translating (and shooting in 35mm) the intertitles back into English. Only 20% of U.S. feature films from the 1910s & 1920s survive. For independently produced works, the percentage is dramatically lower still. As for silent films with Jewish content, only a tiny handful survive.

Restoration was completed with funding from a gift from the Everett Family Foundation and The National Center for Jewish Film Reel Funders.

Special thanks to Joseph P. Eckhardt, Montgomery County Community College, Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek, Walther Seidler, Brandeis University and The Massachusetts Cultural Council.

2011 Restoration © The National Center for Jewish Film
Producer Sharon Pucker Rivo
Associate Producer Lisa E. Rivo
English Titles Joseph P. Eckhardt
Technical Director Rich Pontius

Title Animation Frame Shop
Film Restoration Cinema Arts, Inc.
Digital Restoration PostWorks NY


Written, Produced and Directed by
Frank N. Seltzer & George K. Rowlands
Filmed at the Betzwood Studios - Betzwood, PA, 1922

Lee Kohlmar (The elder Bergmann)
Rebecca Weintraub (His wife)
Richard Farrell (David, their son)
Betty Howe (Esther, a foster child)
Arthur Ashley (Paul Zeidmann, David's friend)
Jane Thomas (Rose Newman)
Henry B. Schaffer (J.B. Martin)
Maude Hill (Mrs. Martin)
Robert Maxmillan (Moskowitz)

Video Clip

Outdoor opening night event screening at the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival 2012. Live music by Amit Weiner.


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