After making the film Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent, Rachel Fisher and Rachel Pasternak told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the film shows how strongly Rabbi Prinz felt about the Civil Rights Movement.
Pasternak said that the idea for the film came when Pasternak was doing graduate work in Jewish history and she uncovered Rabbi Prinz’s unpublished papers. She read his papers in one sitting and said that she had to share his story.
Fisher said that Prinz spoke at synagogues in Berlin and gave sermons to warn the Jews of what was coming and encouraged people to leave and go to Palestine and he was arrested many times for doing so.
“Eventually he had to speak in code so he would use the prayer book instead of giving a sermon. He would use the prayers but everybody knew what he was really saying which was, it’s time for us to leave Germany,” Fisher said.
Rabbi Prinz came to America and ended up in Newark because when they needed a new rabbi, he was sought out, Pasternak said.
“In 1958 Prinz was elected president of the American Jewish Congress and it was through his work and leadership there that he met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and began a relationship,” said Pasternak.
Prinz was corresponding with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as early as 1958, Fisher said. Prinz spoke at the March on Washington and what many people don’t know is he was writing letters, sending telegrams, participating in petitions, and corresponding with all of the civil rights leaders in the 1950’s, Fisher said.
“His heart was really in the Civil Rights struggle,” Fisher said.
“He was determined to fight to great lengths to uphold the precepts on democracy and anything that threatened it,” Pasternak said.
After the march, Fisher said that Prinz said, “We are here as religious leaders because we are concerned about the soul of this democracy.” Fisher said that Prinz saw himself as a Jewish leader but also in a partnership with other religious leaders.
Fisher said that Prinz said,” Even if our participation is not requested, we will always and I will always stand for the things that I spoke out about at the March on Washington.”
Pasternak said that it was inspiring to take what was the writing word and make it into a film. “We knew for sure that we wanted audiences and people to really hear him since he is the star of the film,” Pasternak said.