I Was There In Color

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Monosson/Rabinowitz Family, 1903, Novogrudok, Belarus
Fred Monosson seated far right
(Courtesy Museum of Family History)

Cinematography is a wonderful thing and Jews have always been in the forefront of the new and exciting in this field. However, let us not forget the amateur cinematographers who are everywhere, not the least of which was a gentleman by the name of Efraim Monosson, from Novogrudok, Belarus, who came to be known in Brookline, MA, as Fred Monosson.

The Monosson family, whilst originating in Novogrudok, Belarus, moved to Moscow at some point and then moved back to Novogrudok, Belarus. They are featured at the Museum of Family History.

Fred came to America with his mother, Bathesheba Rabinowitz Monosson and siblings in 1906. This occurred subsequent to the murder, by a customer, of his father, Abraham Monosson, a money changer.

He took advantage of the opportunities afforded him in America, learned manufacturing and was a union leader. Later, he became a wealthy entrepreneur and industrialist. He owned the Cosmopolitan Manufacturing Company in Cambridge, MA, which allowed him to indulge in his very special and remarkable hobby of 16mm color cinematography.

The Kodak Company introduced the first 16mm CINE-KODAK Motion Picture Camera in 1923 along with the KODASCOPE Projector. This was the start of the popularity of amateur 16mm cinematography which was given a real boost with the introduction of 16mm KODACOLOR Film in 1928. By 1936, sound was added to the mix and continued improvements followed.

For those who could afford these special cameras along with all the film needed, the projector and cost of processing, the world became their oyster. In the case of Fred Monosson, the outcome of his obsession with cinematography was a series of wonderful color films taken at some of the most historical events to occur in the 20th Century in Jewish history, especially the creation of the State of Israel. He traveled far and wide to capture events of note in the Jewish world.

The reams of films which were stored in Fred’s basement became known to the outside world when he passed away in 1972. A fifty-five minute documentary film entitled “I Was There In Color” has since been prepared by Avishay Kfir,Director, and Itzhak Rubin, Producer.

A report on his films was shown on November 1, 2009, on Channel 1, Israel Public Television.

The 16mm films encompass a wide variety of countries and places and provide a vivid memoir of those exciting times when Israel found its footing as a nation amongst other nations in the world. It brings to life, so many events which are truly enhanced by being taken in color.

The use of film to capture both family and other events is an important aspect of genealogical research. Many of you may have reams of old film in your attics or basements or tucked away in closets. Now is the time to perhaps drag them out and find just what you have. Labeling the canisters or reels or negatives will help you as well as your descendants to be enriched by these images of the past as Fred Monosson’s film legacy has enriched ours.

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