Never mind Judge Judy. You should know about Miss Judy. Over a period of 28 years, this Toronto mother and musicologist secretly smuggled 3,228 Jews out of Syria. Judy Feld Carr’s James Bond-worthy exploits are the subject of a documentary that opened the annual
Toronto Jewish Film Festival on Monday. (
Miss Judy will screen again on May 10 at 6 p.m. at the TIFF Lightbox.) So, who is Miss Judy? Until 1972, she was a dedicated mom and musician, but then she and her then husband, Dr. Ronald Feld, heard about 12 Jewish men who had been killed while trying to escape from Syria. (Jews were denied the right to emigrate.) At first, Judy and Feld started sending religious books to a rabbi, but within a year they were negotiating the release of Jews who had expressed a desire to escape. Using the money raised through the Dr. Ronald Feld Fund for Jews in Arab Lands, Judy negotiated ransoms or hired people to clandestinely escort Jews out of the country and continued doing so for 28 years. The last family she rescued landed in New York just hours before the attack on the World Trade Centre. Today, there are 22 elderly Jews who have chosen to stay in Damascus. Feld Carr, who took the stage with the film’s Israeli director, Eyal Tavor, after the screening, said that it was “disgusting to have to buy another human being, but that was what we had to do.” While she can’t go into detail about how she established her international network, Feld Carr says that she managed to bring together a cabal of secret agents who helped her, as well as key government officials and judges she could bribe. “I knew everything about them—who their mistresses were, who they had babies out of wedlock with—everything.” While she has never met most of the people she helped, Feld Carr has kept in contact with some of the ones she rescued from prisons. In the documentary, one family recounts the harrowing experience and how Miss Judy’s intervention changed their lives. As the credits rolled, my seat mate turned to me and said: "Wow, I haven’t done anything with my life. She’s an inspiration." Indeed. Who are the people who are inspiring you right now?