Reflections on the Ramah Experience
David Block: Former Tikvah Camper
By David Block, Phil Seager, May 2001
My name is David Block, I'm a partially blind journalist and documentary producer and I made two documentaries on blind athletes, which were on the Philadelphia PBS station WHYY TV 12 in Philadelphia.
When I was young I had some emotional and social problems, partly due to my vision problem and poor environment, but in the summer of 1980, I was a camper in the Tikvah program at Ramah in Palmer and the counselors were great. They convinced my parents to put me in public school, and that decision began a path for me, of later on graduating from college and becoming a reporter and film maker.
I'd like to go to some of the Ramah camps that have a Tikvah program to show my documentaries and to give a Q and A session afterwards. I have so much to offer...
The following article about David, by Phil Seager, appeared in the WHYY TV12 Applause Magazine - Final Frame Personal Goals. It provides a bio of David and one of his projects.
This summer 18 kids from around the Delaware Valley gathered at West Chester University to attend an unusual week-long sports camp. Sure, they ran and swam - but they also played a unique game called Goalball. The rules are simple: Players roll a partially deflated basketball with bells inside across a gym floor toward the other team's goal. What's unique is that all the players are visually impaired and wear eyeshades - that's to prevent those with partial sight from enjoying an unfair advantage over their blind teammates. Camp director Sandy White, of the Pennsylvania Blind Athletics Association, finds it an important way to inspire confidence in kids who are denied activities like Little League, which are part of growing up for most children.
Originally conceived after World War II as a form of rehabilitation for German soldiers blinded in combat, Goalball is now played for competition in 35 countries, from Canada to Kuwait. And local writer David Block, who got turned on to Goalball three years ago, wants to put the game on the map as a legitimate sport in its own right - so it doesn't go down in history as "the sport for blind people."
Visually impaired since birth, Block can testily to White's assertion that physically disabled kids are left out. By the time he graduated from high school in 1983, he'd attended six different schools, where he says he had a tough time connecting with his peers - he got beat up a lot. He began running "as a way of releasing this depression and hostility over being terrorized, over not being happy with myself." At 16 he ran in his first marathon, and he says it was the first time in his life he'd felt any sense of self-esteem. "People would say I was ugly or that I didn't have a girlfriend. I never had a date for the prom. But I felt a little bit better about myself because I could say, "Well, at least I was able to run a full marathon and they weren't."
Now, at 29, Block has channeled his energies into proving himself as a writer and documentarian. Two years ago he covered the world Goalball championships in Calgary, Canada, for The New York Times, The Times of London and The Jerusalem Post. And he's quick to point out, he's also written about the Tel Aviv Marathon for Runner's World and interviewed David Sanborn for Jazz Journal International. "I'm trying to prove I can write about other things than just blind athletes. I don't want to be the blind person's spokesman."
Recently Block produced a documentary about Goalball, which airs on TV12 as part of Independent Images, Friday, October 16, at 11:40 p.m. And last month he traveled to Barcelona to shoot the international Goalball games at the Paralympics for the physically disabled. While he says his intent in making these films is to show the rigors of the sport, he also feels pressure to play up the human drama. He vehemently explains his predicament: "These athletes don't want to be regarded as 'blind athletes.' They want to be regarded for their abilities." Which seems to be the story of his life.
The following article, by Steve Feldman, appeared in the Jewish Exponent on 11/30/00 and details David's next exciting project.
Film to Focus on Vets Helping Vets
Though they may have fought in different wars, in different eras and under different circumstances, most veterans have one thing in common, according to documentary filmmaker David Block. Veterans, Block says, know they can "rely on each other in peacetime as they did on the battlefield." Block is hoping to capture that spirit on videotape by co-producing a film on the efforts of war veterans from World War II through the Persian Gulf w0ar to help other veterans who are having difficulties adjusting to life at home.
"Outside the Trenches: Vets' Journey Home" is the proposed title of Block's latest project, which will be his third film. His previous films have been broadcast on public television. He has developed a proposal, interviewed prospective subjects, and is now at the fundraising stage. Block says this project blossomed "out of the ashes" of a previously planned film about Beit Halochem, an organization that helps Israeli veterans. When Beit Halochem withdrew its cooperation, Block decided to focus on American vets, he says. "Doing documentaries was at the center of my life. I didn't want to just let that go," says Block, who is legally blind.
Block, who is co-producing the film with Frank Minutillo, anticipates the documentary will be an hour long, and estimates that it will cost $100,000 to produce. He plans to film it here; in Washington, D.C.; Massachusetts and Vermont. Thus far, he has raised about $5,000, and says he needs another $5,000 to make a "sample reel."
In the past, Block has funded his films with donations from friends and family. Helping him this time is philanthropist Julian Krinsky, who heads the Time to Share foundation. And, according to Block, the project has been endorsed by veterans groups and lawmakers. Block says his film is not intended to "give a history of the war or retell war stories, but rather to inform people about the compelling stories of these veterans." Block says he hopes other veterans will use the film as a resource. The message, Block says, is "even though they had a tough time readjusting, they were able to get on with their lives and serve as inspiration for others who were not able to readjust."
For information about Block's project, call 610-649-4899, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Our thanks to David Block for contacting us for information on contacting our Tikvah program directors! Good luck David in all your future endeavors.