Monday, October 2, 2023 -
Print Edition

‘Upheaval’ in Aspen

ASPEN — In the mountains of Aspen, a woman from Pittsburgh had tears in her eyes after what she had just witnessed. 
 “I’m too emotional right now,” she said. “It’s hard to talk about it.”

Rob Schwartz speaks in Aspen following a screening of ‘Upheaval,” Aug. 10, 2023.

She had just finished viewing “Upheaval,” the 2020 documentary on the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, shown at the JCC-Chabad of Aspen.

“The film was extraordinary, said Lois Scheiner, a Phoenix resident who with her husband Steven was visiting Aspen for the summer.

“We had been to the Begin Center (in Jerusalem) many years ago and had an idea about Begin’s story,” she said, “but seeing this made you really feel that you knew him.”

“It was extremely moving,” added Lois’ husband Steven, “to show a person of such conviction his whole life, and how he transformed Israel into what it is today.

“He was a man of the people.”

“Upheaval” is the brainchild of Denver’s Rob Schwartz, who had toured the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. In 2016 Schwartz was in a conversation with its CEO, Hertzy Makov, and asked whether a film of Begin had ever been made.

“He told me no,” recalls Schwartz, “so I decided to make one.”

Since the release of “Upheaval,” Schwartz has booked screenings across the globe. The documentary is currently the No. 2 most watched in-flight movie on El Al. Schwartz is in talks with Hollywood distribution companies, with hopes for a wider mass release.

“As I travel the country to talk about Begin and listen to people, I’ve found there is a thirst for honest leadership — leadership with integrity,” says Schwartz.

“Begin never used his office to leverage for his personal gain.”

“It’s a beautiful documentary, and I’m thrilled to support it,” says JNF Mountain States Executive Director Rachael Solomon, who made the trek from Denver to view the documentary in Aspen.

“It’s a love story between Begin and his family who perished in the Holocaust, his love for Israel and Zionism, and of course, his love for his wife,” says Solomon.

“He really believed in bring all sorts of Jews together, and all types of people together.”

One of the initiatives of the Begin Heritage Center is to continue Begin’s work as a collaborator of faiths.

“One thing I was surprised by when I went to the Begin Center was that they’re teaching Arabic,” said Rob Schwartz’s son Simon Schwartz, who is executive director of the Friends of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

“No kidding,” says Simon. “Where it is located in Jerusalem, you have a lot of American people who speak Hebrew fluently, who are now learning Arabic.

Simon’s organization helps support a fellowship program that sends Israeli students to US universities.

“They go through a bootcamp, as I would call it, at the Begin Center. Then we engage them throughout the year to find out how things are going on campus and how they are using the tools there.”

As you may expect, there’s a synergy between the son’s and father’s efforts.

“Simon and his team are going to be looking at using the movie and other programming initiatives,” Rob said.

“We’ve been showing the movie extensively in Latin America, because we subtitled it in Spanish and Portuguese, so we’re going to be penetrating Europe.

“We’ve shown it now close to 55 times in Israel at kibbutzim in major cities, so we’ve penetrated Israel pretty well.

Rob Schwartz, who, in a past life, worked in many roles for former US Sen. Joe Lieberman, is now in the midst of his next documentary project, which focuses on his former boss.

“We’re going to release it in 2024 during the presidential campaign,” says Schwartz, “and let people look at who the candidates are and compare them to Joe Lieberman.

“It’s a story of a young boy from a very lower middle class family. His father owned a tiny liquor store in Stanford, Conn. They were Orthodox and because of his intellect and hard work, was the first Jew to ever be nominated on a presidential ticket from a major party.

“The movie will be about his life, but it’ll be about three other things: sanctity of democracy, the importance of bipartisanship, and how vital it is that we speak to each other in a civil way. That’s the Lieberman brand.”

For the moment, Schwartz continues his evangelistic promotion of “Upheaval.”

“The city of Reno is doing a whole Israel celebration with the film, and it will be shown soon in Pittsburgh,” Schwartz says. “The New York City Federation is going to show it for a second time.

“The more people are hearing about it, the popularity about it has been growing.”

As for the woman from Pittsburgh at the Aspen screening, you may be wondering why she was crying. We won’t spoil the finale of the film, but Schwartz offers a couple of hints.

“When he left the prime minister’s office, he was broke,” says Schwartz. “They had to take up a collection to get him an apartment.

“His wife had died. You’ll see in the movie, it’s a sad ending, but a great life.”

Schwartz said to the audience in Aspen: “I’ve been asked often why I made the movie.

“My answer is, how could I not?”

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Avatar photo

IJN Staff Writer | [email protected]

Leave a Reply