Producer Tova Laiter was a young girl growing up in Israel when she first read about Lena Kuchler-Silberman, the Polish Jew who led nearly 100 abandoned children to Israel from post-World War II Poland.
In fact, Kuchler-Silberman's book, "My Hundred Children"--first published in Hebrew in 1961--was required reading in Israeli schools.
It was after she chanced to meet a nephew of Kuchler-Silberman (who remains a celebrated mother-figure in Israel) that Laiter optioned the book. She took the property to Robert Greenwald Prods. ("The Burning Bed"). The result is "Lena: My 100 Children," an NBC-TV movie that airs Monday at 9 p.m. with Linda Lavin in the title role.
For Laiter, it was a four-year trek from option to screen. With a sad footnote: Kuchler-Silberman, "who never ceased to believe that someday, someone would make her book into a film," died in Israel at age 85 in August, a month before production began. "Ironic--yes?" said Laiter. "It reminded me of two people climbing a mountain--and when they're 100 feet from the top, one of them falls.
"But you know, in some ways it also reminds me of one woman passing the torch to another."
The torch may light the way for a sequel. "If our ratings are good--if audiences respond--I hope to do a sequel. Because Lena wrote another book, 'The Hundred to Their Borders.' " It's about what happened after Kuchler-Silberman and "her" children arrived in their spiritual homeland.