In a celebration of their parents, brothers Mark and Bernard Ravina along with Montclair State University hosted a special screening of the award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Time, that captures their mother Ruth’s remarkable story in surviving the Holocaust. The April 10 event in the School of Communication and Media’s Presentation Hall drew close to 100 attendees.
Ruth, who was two years old when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, says she was born in “an inconvenient time.” Living through three concentration camps by the age of seven, Ruth was the only survivor of her kindergarten class. In the compelling documentary, Ruth shares her story of survival and triumph, recalling the resilient people and surreal twists of fate that enabled her to survive.
“We had heard this story throughout our life, but the approach of the film is a true accomplishment in capturing the truth and bringing it to life,” says Mark Ravina, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.
“In the face of adversity, our parents, Ruth and Oscar, surrounded themselves with music and used music as a way to inspire and help,” says Bernard Ravina, MD, who serves as chief medical officer at Praxis Medicines.
“Our parents were a team, and in this year of our mother’s 85th birthday, we wanted to honor her strength and all the love and support she brought to our family.”
Music as inspiration
Oscar Ravina was a renowned violinist and beloved professor at Montclair, whose stellar career spanned four decades as a member of the New York Philharmonic, concertmaster of the Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York and performing with other prestigious chamber music ensembles. His passion for music drove his desire to inspire young musicians and he taught at Montclair for more than 25 years where he was named professor emeritus. After his passing in 2010, students and colleagues honored his memory by establishing the Ruth and Oscar Ravina Talent Award at Montclair State University, which provides scholarship support for talented student musicians, some of whom are the first in their families to attend college.
Thanks to generous support of friends, family, colleagues and event attendees, the scholarship fund has grown to more than $100,000 and will ensure that future generations of music students can develop their talent and carry on the “gorgeous sound” that defined Oscar Ravina.
Freshman Denton Moreland, a violist and scholarship recipient, articulated the impact of support: “On behalf of all the scholarship recipients, I thank you for the spirit of benevolence that is changing our lives. I am majoring in Music Education, so everything I’ve learned and Ruth’s life story will live on in me and all my students going forward.” Moreland has received generous scholarship support through the Ravina Talent Award, along with others including the Reps-Freeman Scholarship in Music and Equity, established by Tamara Reps Freeman DMA, a Holocaust ethnomusicologist and adjunct faculty coaching the graduate resident quartet at the John J. Cali School of Music.
A student of Oscar Ravina’s, Freeman ’91 MA, is a concert violinist and violist and was part of the evening’s program, playing the children’s song Oifn Pripitchik (By the Fireplace) on her 1935 Joseph Bausch viola, a Holocaust relic.
Telling the story
An Inconvenient Time was directed and produced by Denny Klein, who was inspired by Ruth to return to his avocation as a filmmaker. Klein and his wife, Cathy, met Ruth when their daughters participated in the “Twin with a Survivor” program at the Holocaust Council and were paired with her.
“I am so fortunate to have been able to meet Ruth Ravina and her family. She has changed my life in a profound way,” says Klein.
The documentary to capture Ruth’s odyssey and “hero’s journey” through the Holocaust, was recorded over five years and features Ruth in her own words.
Morgan Taylor ’17, who started working on the project while completing her degree at Montclair, served as associate producer and editor.
“I’m in awe of the international recognition and reception of the film by people from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Ruth’s story is a story of humanity,” says Taylor. “Ruth inspires me…. As filmmakers, we’ve taken on the mantle to share Ruth’s story with the world for generations to come. May we all continue to tell the stories of the Holocaust and ‘never forget.’”
The program included a question-and-answer session with Mark and Bernard Ravina, along with Klein, Taylor and Benjamin Lapp, PhD, associate professor at Montclair who specializes in modern European history.
“What we are doing and the world we create is very much to honor the people who came before us and had their family lines cut short,” shared Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell. “I’m very excited to be part of this event… to honor the Ravina family’s powerful legacy … and I thank you for supporting this scholarship and sharing this movie.”
To close the evening, guests honored Ruth by singing “Happy Birthday,” and celebrating with coffee and birthday cake.
“I have waited for years for someone who was willing to tell the story, without embellishing…just the way it was,” says Ruth. “Please remember, sometimes, it only takes a tiny thing to make a difference…so be kind, even when it’s not comfortable to be kind.”
Visit the Ruth and Oscar Ravina Talent Award to donate to the scholarship fund.
An Inconvenient Time is achieving awards and accolades across the United States and internationally at film festivals. To find out more about the documentary, visit the documentary’s website.
Story by Director of Development Communications Laura Iandiorio. Photos by Roy Groething.