Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone is a moving documentary about a passionate principal in Newark, New Jersey, who inspires dueling gang members to put down their weapons and come together for education’s sake. Before 1960, Weequahic High School was one of the most prestigious in the country. The predominantly Jewish student body went on to become doctors, lawyers and public figures (like novelist Philip Roth, Rabbi Michael Lerner, NBA star Al Attles); then, like many urban achievers, they took their success to the suburbs. Fast-forward to 2000, and the school has devolved into a breeding ground for gang violence in one of the nation’s most dangerous cities. But all that changes when Ron Stone becomes principal. Stone develops a conflict resolution program for rival gangs and gains the respect of teenagers dismissed as criminals by local police. He partners with the old Jewish leadership of the school’s alumni association to create a college scholarship fund. As they reminisce about the old days of Yiddish football cheers and kosher franks, they raise money to help return their alma mater to its former glory. What starts as one man’s fight to save a troubled school becomes a story about a community reaching across ethnic and generational lines to preserve a historic neighborhood in a city that author Roth once portrayed as a turn-of-the-century Camelot. –Leah Wolchok
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