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“The City without Jews” – Facebook without Jews? Personal Reflections from Mexican Exile

Time to get serious, folks, and not num things down so much. I feel blessed to be writing this from Mexico where Yiddishland in exile is enjoying a relatively peaceful existence… Yiddishland’s friends and Jewish institutions back in the United States report to us countless incidents of antisemitism. People involved in arts and culture are over the edge, exhausted from making themselves heard and seen in the growing pile of nonsense content on social media, which many in the general public follow as “news”. The content is supposed to be short to meet a shortened attention span, but how can we talk about the history in such a manner and not create gibberish?

What is the role of Yiddishland California in exile right at this moment, in these meshugene times? Of course, it would be naive to think that anything we do could magically solve the world’s problems. 

I think a lot of young people, especially young ones, simply lack historical knowledge about antisemitism that Jewish people have been previously building and sharing, with great perseverance, for centuries. We have Hebrew schools that teach the basics, but thay do not teach the causes of rising antisemitism in Europe that occurred a hundred of years ago, and is repeating itself now. 

One role of Yiddishland California right now is to fill in those gaps in historical knowledge. We are planning on having one educational event per month in San Diego and one such event in Baja California. We are open to collaborating with other non-profit organizations regarding organizing similar events in other locations as well. As our societies fall apart, it is more important than ever to build strong local communities, and help each other as much as possible. 

Such an educational event will take place on Wednesday, May 22 at 6.30 p.m., in Balboa Park in San Diego and will be broadcast on Zoom for international audiences. We certainly did not expect this event to be so relevant in the 21st century. As we are learning, peace and love moments in history are exceptions, not the rule. 

“The City without Jews”, a historic movie from 1924, expertly restored in 2018, talks exactly about that. There were times when the movie was banned in the country of its origin, Austria. I had the honor to watch it back when I was a student at the University of Vienna, and learned a lot about it, including its historical context.

“The City Without Jews” is a silent film directed by H. K. Breslauer, released in 1924 and based on the novel by Hugo Bettauer. Only a few of such rare Expressionistic movies have survived until our time. Shortly after the premiere of the film, Hugo Bettauer was murdered by the Nazist Otto Rothstock, who was hailed as a hero and as such avoided being imprisoned for murder. Some screenings of the movie were disturbed by National Socialists throwing stink bombs into the cinemas; in Linz the film was banned.

The story is set in the fictional city of Utopia (representing Vienna), where economic hardship leads to rising antisemitism and the blaming of Jews for societal problems. The government, influenced by a populist antagonist, passes a law to expel all Jews.

The Jews leave Utopia, taking their businesses and culture with them, which leads to a rapid decline in the city’s economy and vibrancy. Art and commerce suffer greatly, impacting everyone in Utopia, regardless of their religion. Meanwhile, the expelled Jewish community begins to thrive in a new location, establishing a prosperous and vibrant society.


We should not disclose the ending of this powerful movie. I certainly hope that our local and international audiences will get together and support the cause. While promoting the movie screening, Yiddishland California and YAAANA encountered various problems including the post and all related content getting removed from social media, especially Facebook. Facebook used to be our main promotion platform. We would like to, therefore, ask our audience to help us spread the word about the movie and about the event.


San Diego screening will be accompanied by live original music composed and performed by world-renowned Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and celebrated silent-film pianist Donald Sosin, both coming all the way from the East Coast. It is a rare opportunity for the local audiences to meet them and ask questions related to their experiences showing the movie around the world.

I also wanted to personally thank our supporters, The Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts, The House of Israel, and L’Chaim Magazine, represented, respectively, by Professor Cynthia Walk, Ruth Mastron, and Diane Benaroya. We definitely would not be able to bring these wonderful artists and organize this movie screening without them. 

It is very important to bring young people to this movie screening. If you have any family members who might be interested, please shlep them along! Support the arts, resent them to your children and grandchildren, before they disappear, just like “The City without the Jews” disappeared from Facebook. 

You can register for the event at https://yiddishlandcalifornia.org/activities

I am looking forward to seeing you in San Diego during our short visit (May 22 to 24), or here in our peaceful part of Baja California.

Jana Mazurkiewicz Meisarosh

Additional historical references regarding the movie can be found below