M. Maldwin Fertig, president of the Metropolitan League of Jewish Community Associations of New York and vicinity, yesterday formulated the underlying motive of the new campaign to assure the public of the motion pictures it deserves.
Mr. Fertig, former legal advisor to Governors Roosevelt and Lehman, for many years has been dealing with Jewish problems. He has long been a leader in the Y.M.H.A. movement, and he has been president of the Bronx Y.M.H.A. for the past twenty years.
“The motion picture problem,” Mr. Fertig says, “is a problem in which Jews are vitally concerned. I will not discuss that phase of it which is due to the alleged predominance of Jews among the motion picture ‘magnates.’ It is part of the propaganda of anti-Semitism to attack Jews on every front. The fact that there are some Jews #rominent in the motion picture industry merely gave them another talking point, while the reformers were so urgently demanding decent pictures. The Jews in the industry were portrayed as purveyors of sex and crime and what not, regardless of the fact that some of the finest films ever seen on the screen have consistently come out of Jewish owned studios.
A CONSTRUCTIVE EFFORT
“On the other hand we appreciate the fact that most of the public apprehension and agitation is motivated by concern over the unhealthy influence of certain types of pictures on the minds and characters of our young people, and in this concern thoughtful Jews and non-Jews share. The work that the Metropolitan League has undertaken to do should not, even in the least degree, be construed as an attack on motion pictures. Ours is a purely constructive effort, entered upon only after long and serious deliberations in which we had the benefit of the mature opinion of authoritative bodies, including that of the National Council of Teachers of English, that have made a study of motion pictures from the viewpoint of their place in the education of the young.
“We cannot hope to keep our children out of the cinemas, and as a matter of fact, we don’t wish to. But, taking into consideration the fact that most children do go to the movies, many of them two or three times a week, it becomes a public, indeed a Jewish duty, to make sure that the pictures they see there shall not be of a type that implants false conceptions of social values in our children’s minds. The struggle to keep our children close to our ancient moorings, to hold them safe for Judaism, is difficult enough at best.
HOW JEWS ARE AFFECTED
“Bear in mind that except in heavily congested Jewish neighborhoods, our children are subtly weaned away from us by their environment. There are Jews, of course, who view this estrangement from formal Judaism with a certain amount of complacency. There are even some who encourage it, in one way or another. But no Jewish parent is willing to have his child weaned away from the basic moralities which, after all, are Jewish in conception, formulation and practice.
“That is a major reason why Jews are concerned with the problem, and that again is why the Metropolitan League is concerning itself with it.”
“It is our view that if the gains already achieved in this fight are to be consolidated and an advance made all along the line so that desirable motion pictures shall become a matter of course, constructive action must be taken. There must be social vision and a construction educational and social plan behind the movement to give us motion pictures worthy of civilized society, that will not nullify the efforts of parents and of character building agencies like the Metropolitan League.
GUIDING PUBLIC OPINION
“We can go a step further. We say that producers must not be led to believe that the present demand for the best on the screen is a mere temporary flare-up fanned into fury by reformers, who, having attained their immediate objective (an attainment which may prove temporary), have gone into the correction of other evils. Producers must not be permitted, due to our inertia, to come to the undesirable conclusion that the sensational pictures of yesterday shot through with sex and strident with machine gun fusillades, are those which the public will patronize. The old ‘box office hit’ must not be allowed to come back, no matter how it is dressed up with pageantry and emphasis of the inconsequential.”
“By what means?” he was asked.
“Guided public opinion,” he retorted.
“With the two score community centers in the Metropolitan area, and the hundreds of clubs for young people they house, and the large number of men and women who lead these clubs, we are in a favorable position to accelerate this process of public education. Otherwise, it would be a long-drawn-out, and possibly hopeless process.
“In planning our program of action, we have consulted outstanding educators, such as Robert B. Brodie, Dr. William Lewin, author of ‘Photoplay Appreciation in American High Schools’; Dr. Elias Lieberman and Alexander S. Massell; lay leaders in communal affairs, such as David Berman, Leon Mann, Mrs. Alexander J. Marcuse and David S. Mosesson; and representatives of the Metropolitan Association of Jewish Center Workers, such as William Kolodney, Dr. Mordecai Soltes, Mrs. Ray Wechsler, Miss Janet G. Weisman, and E. J. Londow, our executive secretary.
“We shall begin, first, by interesting all of our affiliated institutions in the subject. House organs and bulletin boards are supplied with lists of approved pictures. Our club leaders need training in all the ramifications of the problem. Courses will be established for them and they, in turn will make motion pictures a topic of discussion by the clubs they lead. The courses will not be limited to the picture as the public sees it, merely, but as the writer, the producer, the actor see it; as the professional critic, as the screen magazine writers see it. Also, and more importantly, as the child and the child educator see it. The course will, too, study the motion picture as a social instrument, from the standpoint of international relations; religious tolerance; crime and punishment, character development and the like.”