Sometimes we have to state the obvious: It matters who we have for parents. It matters who we choose for friends. It matters who we are thrown together with out of necessity or lack of control to change the situation at the time (such as who we go to school with or have for neighbors or such). It matters what we see on television over and over. What we stumble upon online, or deliberately check out because someone — a friend? — told us to check it out, matters. There is hardly anything that doesn’t matter during one’s early and formative years today, and such influence hardly stops in one’s teenage years and early twenties, if even then.
I was watching a movie on TCM the other day entitled, “Hand in Hand,” about a little Catholic boy and a little Jewish girl defying prejudice to become friends. It kind of reminded me of my own childhood in some ways because of the amazingly unkind and harmful kinds of things both sets of parents had apparently told their children (in uneducated ignorance), in their misguided attempt to raise them up in the family religion and/or set them onto the right track as they go through life.
The children were young, maybe about 7 or so, with the girl being a bit younger than the boy, and they really liked each other, as many children often do without any outside influence — one way or the other — from their parents. Yet because the children were of different religions, the parents confused the children in regard to those so-called differences by telling them why it was wrong to be friends with someone of that “other” religion.” In fact, the children were very frightened by what they were told and yet were determined to prove that their friendship could survive going into each other’s place of worship on their respective days of worship — against everything their parents wanted them to believe — and this one act of loving bravery set the tone for their defiance of the “standard ban” on mixing Catholics with Jews.
This was the first time I knew this movie even existed, so I looked it up by name to see what the reviews said about it. They were amazing! The first one I read was from the little girl herself — now all grown up of course — who played the child in the movie. Here are her comments:
I am so thrilled to read the lovely comments on this little film. the reason being, I was the little girl who played Rachel all those years ago. I am now a middle aged lady with three grown children of my own. I live quietly, but busily. My children may be grown, but they always seem to need me. I am very lucky. What a privilege to have read such heartwarming comments, I didn’t think anyone remembered. My family have seen stills of various films I was in, but have never been able to show them Hand in Hand, which I have to admit, was my favourite. I would love them to see it, it could still be relevant today. THANK YOU SO MUCH. Your kind words really mean a lot to me.
Another random reviewer said the following:
I am 45 years old, and I have NEVER been able to get this film out of my mind! I was a child of 10 when I’d first watched it, on a Saturday morning..and I am thinking it was on a morning children’s film festival. Like a previous comment stated, this film HAS AN IMPACT on those who view it. I would love to find it on video and enjoy it over and over again. I recall feeling touched- very moved, and for a child of that age, for a television film to do such a thing, I believe is pretty much a rare occurrence. All this time and for a movie to remain in my mind? You tell me how great it must be!! It was wonderful to have the experience of seeing interaction between 2 children of the opposite sex and opposed religions. I cannot believe I found this site, and info about the film that has stayed in my heart for 35 years. Amazing!!!
And one more review:
The acting of the children who play Michael and Rachel really make this 1960 British film work. Other characters appear to be stereotypical (i.e. the parents, the rabbi and priest) to a large extent, but the children’s’ performances are outstanding. It’s a wonder they didn’t do more with their careers after this film, particularly Phillip Needs, who played Michael. Watch his face early on, when he realizes that taunting the little girl at school is wrong. He backs away from the group, then grabs her and rescues her. And later, when he confronts Rachel angrily and yells “Why did you kill Christ?” She answers: “I didn’t! I didn’t kill anyone!” And it’s true. The Romans executed Christ, not the Jews. Pontius Pilate could have always said “no”, and left it at that. But of course, the scripture had to be fulfilled.
This is a film I love to show to my own children on a regular basis, to help them understand that God is love, not hate. I have wonderful memories of my parents renting this 16 mm film again and again from the local library in the 960’s when I was growing up. They would show it for the children in the neighborhood, who all came from different religious backgrounds. It was always a favorite and now is a favorite in my own library of films.
The reason I was inspired to write about this little film is because in today’s world there is still so much hatred toward Jews based on their religion, and I wanted to make this film known to all who are raising children and are still inadvertently or deliberately forcing their outdated and inaccurate religious views onto their children. Parents may prefer their little Johnny make friends with and marry a Catholic Mary or Jane; and parents on the other side may prefer their little Shiela make friends with and marry a Jewish Robert or Simon.
But preferences ought to remain inside one’s mind and not cause stress and confusion to the innocent children wondering why God would possibly not only hold it against them for going into the opposing places of worship, but perhaps have that act fall upon them in some horrible way that might even put their very life, if not even their soul, in jeopardy.
Yes, I heard just such things in my own family. I was forbidden to go into any opposing place of worship. Fortunately, I could not believe that the God I wanted to know and love would ever take sides like that and condemn anyone for checking out another religion, or for sharing one’s own beliefs and traditions with someone not of that faith. Children take these things to heart. Then they grow up and act upon such sentiments from their childhood. Do we really want to be responsible for one of our children believing that there is something horrible about Jews and their places of worship based on something we might have told them when they were very young and they took it to heart and added to it to the point that they felt they were doing a good thing to physically hurt Jewish centers, or even “just” instill fear of things to come by using words to harm instead of actually planting those bombs?
Children are not born hating Jews — or anyone for that matter. We, the adults, teach them how to do that.