Film Screening & Discussion: Wrestling Jerusalem

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War is an occasion to both celebrate and to reflect on how we move forward. As a result of this victory, Jews were once again — after 2,000 years — able to pray at the Western Wall, their most holy site. However, the Six-Day war also left Israel in control over millions of Palestinians, while stalled efforts at peace have caused trauma and suffering on both sides.

In light of this anniversary and the complex issues that surround it, we invite you to join us for a screening of the critically acclaimed film, “Wrestling Jerusalem,” starring writer-actor Aaron Davidian. The movie takes viewers on a multi-dimensional journey into the heart of the Middle East, and the intersection of politics, identity and spiritual yearning. Davidman, the sole actor, gives voice to 17 different characters on all sides of the existential divide — moving between male and female, Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Arab — modeling what it takes to bear witness through the eyes of the other. Following the film, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), will moderate a discussion with the actor.

Ticket Prices
$36 (adult)
$18 (student with ID)

Get your tickets here.

“Denial” Puts Holocaust Denial on Trial

Movie review by Deborah Baer Mozes

There can come a time in life when a person must take a stand, be a leader, or as in Deborah Lipstadt’s case, become Boadicea, the Warrior Queen from British history. This is the core of “Denial,” David Hare’s riveting courtroom drama and screenplay adaptation of Deborah Lipstadt’s book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. [Read more…]

PJFF Film: “Shalom Italia”

Directed by Tamar Tal Anati (the award-winning director of “Life in Stills”), “Shalom Italia” is filled with humor, food and Tuscan landscapes. This charming and poignant documentary, in Hebrew and Italian with English subtitles, straddles the boundary between history and myth — both equally pivotal in forming our individual and collective identities.

During World War II, Emmanuel, Andrea and Bubi, three Italian Jewish brothers, spent several of their formative years hiding in a man-made cave built by their father in the Tuscan mountains while the Nazis occupied Italy. Seventy years later, Bubi, the youngest of the trio, gathers his brothers for an unforgettable family reunion in the hopes of rediscovering the mysterious cave that saved their family from being deported to the camps.

Retracing their steps and their intimate experiences during the war, the brothers, now as different as can be, bond and deliberate over the veracity of their memories, sharing hearty conversations and equally robust Italian meals along the way. From early morning breakfasts to a late night Shabbas feast, the food of their homeland evolves into the centerpiece of Bubi, Andrea and Emmanuel’s adventures through Tuscany. Facing the limitations of their imperfect memories and the physical setbacks of their aging bodies, the brothers resolve to accomplish their goal, come mozzarella or prosciutto! Joking and arguing aside, these kindred spirits spend countless hours trekking through the thick Tuscan forest to create a new memory, one that will serve as the basis for a brotherly bond that will remain for the rest of their lives.

Guest Speakers: Post-film Skype interview with Andreas Anati and Ruben Anati, two actors in the film, as well as with Tamar Tal Anati, the film’s director

Special Event: Film followed by discussion, as well as by an Italian brunch organized by Gran Caffe L’Aquila and inspired by the cuisine featured in the film (dessert and wine included with ticket)

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PJFF Double Feature: “The Kozalchic Affair” and “And Then, Violence”

Two films for the price of one: a documentary feature and a narrative short. In one, an Israeli learns of his father’s unexpected heroic past during the Holocaust; in the other, a young Jewish woman — a law student who lives with her parents — depicts the fear Jews live with in Paris in the current climate of terrorism and increased anti-Semitism.

Buy tickets to these films here.

The Kozalchic Affair
Itzak Shaked, the son of two Holocaust survivors, lived an average life in Israel as an industrialist, until learning the true identity of his father, Yakov Kozalchic.

Known as “The Warden of the Death Block,” Yakov was a Jewish Kapo in Auschwitz who sacrificed his life to save as many of his fellow brethren as he could. His story begins in Poland, but truly takes off in the 1920s when Yakov is found working alongside Al Capone and the infamous German heavyweight Max Schmeling in New York City. From joining the circus as a musician to returning home to start a family in Poland, Yakov seemed to have lived an outrageously full life before seeing it torn apart by the Nazis. Separated from his wife and children, who were imprisoned in Treblinka, Yakov was sent to Auschwitz, where he managed to save himself from the gas chambers through his connections. However, he was unable to escape his placement as Jewish Kapo of Block 11. While carrying out Nazi orders, that if defied were punishable by death, Yakov used the little bit of independence and access he had to benefit his fellow prisoners and save as many Jews and Poles as possible.

Now 68-year-old Itzak embarks on an unforgettable journey to recover his father’s past and meet the people whose lives Yakov changed forever. In Hebrew with English subtitles, “The Kozalchic Affair” tells their stories.

And Then, Violence
Rebecca, a French law student living with her parents in the heart of Paris, runs out to the kosher supermarket to buy wine for a dinner party. However, after the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the recent anti-Semitic attacks occurring in her own neighborhood, Rebecca is far from at ease navigating the streets surrounding her home.

Official selection of the San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle Jewish Film Festivals, “And Then, Violence” — in French with English subtitles — paints a vivid picture of the complicated reality of anti-Semitism and the subsequent fear Jews experience in Paris every day.

PJFF Film: “Germans & Jews”

Considered among the most democratic societies in the world, Germany is home to Europe’s fastest growing Jewish population. In fact, about half of the 200,000 Jews who reside in Germany today — making up .2% of its total population — are Israelis who have obtained German passports or work visas. So what’s it like being Jewish in a country with such a harrowing Jewish past? That’s exactly what filmmaker Janina Quint and producer Tal Recanati set out to discover.

Amassing personal stories from German Jews, non-Jewish Germans, Israelis and German-Jewish Americans, Quint and Recanati offer viewers a nonjudgmental window into modern-day Germany and uncover a broad spectrum of perspectives. Touching on the effects of post-Holocaust guilt in East and West Germany, the film reveals Germany’s multifaceted social structure and its efforts against anti-Semitism and antisocialist sentiment. Quint and Recanati have a stake in their story and recognize the need to bring these uncomfortable yet necessary conversations out from the privacy of German living rooms and offices into the public sphere. What begins as a dialogue between two friends quickly grows into an insightful and evocative documentary that beautifully captures Germany’s attempts toward reconciliation and transformation.

This film — in English and German with English subtitles — was an official selection of the Greenwich International Film Festival and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

The guest speakers at this screening of the film are Noah Isenberg (moderator), professor of Culture and Media at New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts; Nitzan Lebovic, associate professor of history and Apter Chair of Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values at Lehigh University; and Tal Recanati, the film’s producer.

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PJFF Film: “Every Face Has a Name”

A refugee boat docks in the harbor of Malmöš, Sweden, on April 28, 1945. Swedish newspaper photographers are on the scene to document the influx of its diverse group of German concentration camp survivors. The faces among the crowd belong to Jewish refugees from all over Europe: Polish mothers and children, Norwegian prisoners of war, members of the French Resistance, British spies, and perhaps the most unique among them, an Italian-American who was visiting her grandparents in Italy when the Nazis mistook her for an espionage agent and deported her to Auschwitz.

In “Every Face Has a Name,” director Magnus Gertten tracks down many of the previously anonymous individuals featured in Gustaf Boge Claredio’s black-and-white film reel (originally shot for broadcast on Swedish National Television) and asks them to discover themselves anew via the archival footage captured of their extraordinary entry into Sweden. Their profound recollections of being ferried to liberation are not only miraculous and moving, but offer a poignant window into the experiences of current refugees seeking asylum in Europe and around the world. This fascinating documentary, which was awarded the Church of Sweden’s significant cash prize at Gothenburg Film Festival, interweaves present-day images of war evacuees from Africa and the Middle East to remind us of our collective responsibility toward sheltering displaced persons regardless of homeland.

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PJFF Film: “The Freedom to Marry”

For Evan Wolfson, it has always been about standing on the right side of history. Having begun advocating for LGBT rights at Harvard Law School, where he wrote his thesis on the subject of marriage equality, Wolfson has devoted his entire career to serving the LGBT community and its collective aspiration to legally wed. In 2003, he created the Freedom to Marry Foundation, where he and his team of activist pioneers have spent over a decade fighting to eradicate the traditional model for marital union state by state.

In this profoundly moving film, director Eddie Rosenstein traces the history of the marriage equality movement to the peak moment when Mary Bonauto, an American lawyer and civil rights advocate, stood before the Supreme Court and fought on behalf of every person’s right to love whom he or she chooses. Charged with emotion, these firsthand accounts of Bonauto and Wolfson learning of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in June of 2015 remain just as poignant a year later.

The screening of the film will also include a panel discussion moderated by Tiffany L. Palmer, founder and shareholder of Jerner & Palmer. The speakers on the panel will be Helen E. Casale, vice-chair of the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness; Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum; and Eddie Rosenstein, the film’s director (with his Philadelphia filmmaking team, Stephen Gifford and Rick Sebeck).

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PJFF Film: “Song of Songs”

Rooted in the Yiddish folklore of Sholem Aleichem’s short stories, Eva Neymann’s tender third feature is a delicate and affecting coming-of-age story set at the turn of the 20th century.

Growing up in the beautiful but insular world of his close-knit Ukrainian shtetl, guided and nurtured by tradition, the elf-like Shimek (Yevheniy Kogan) endearingly acquiesces to his conservative parents’ rearing. However, neither Shimek’s parents nor his school’s stern rabbi are able to deflate this precocious child’s uncanny imagination. Cultivating a friendship with local girl Buzya (Milena Tsibulskaya), Shimek finds himself more than a confidant — he finds a “home” for all of his otherworldly thoughts and meanderings.

In another time and place, Shimek and Buzya would be together, but in their archaic shtetl, any demonstration of affection is restrained by the village’s Orthodox customs. It is only after fate sends Shimek away from his village that he realizes the true depth of his feelings for Buzya. When he finally returns, it will be a homecoming with a palette tinted gray with regret, but redeemed by faith that the old world can be born anew.

With beautiful scenery worthy of the Flemish masters, Neymann constructs a remarkably detailed tone poem. The film’s magical, ephemeral aura is enhanced by its soundtrack, vinyl recordings by Jewish singers and musicians, as well as its impeccable lighting and production design. Supported by the nuanced debut performances from its lead actors, “Song of Songs” is a cinematic triumph, a measured and lyrical representation of youthful devotion in a time of great change. This film, in Russian with English subtitles, was an official selection of the New York Jewish Film Festival, the Washington Jewish Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.

The guest speaker at this screening of the film is Sonia Gollance, a Yiddish literature and dance scholar and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania.

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PJFF Film: “Havana Curveball”

In this crowd-pleasing documentary that has screened in over 40 film festivals around the world, Mica Jarmel-Schneider, a 13-year-old baseball addict and die-hard San Francisco Giants fan, takes his rabbi’s directive to “help heal the world” to heart while preparing his bar mitzvah project.

The film documents Mica’s desire to connect with his European refugee grandfather via his grandfather’s Cuban roots and their mutual love of baseball. Obliging himself to collect and deliver bats, balls and mitts to kids in Cuba who love baseball as much as he does, but who lack the means to play with real equipment, he dedicates his bar mitzvah project to turning his dream into a reality. With the help of his filmmaker parents, some supportive Cuban activists and an attorney, Mica learns to navigate the U.S. foreign policy threatening his project and eventually lands on Cuban soil with the last 300 pounds of gear in tow.

“Havana Curveball” won “Best Documentary” at the Boston International Kids Festival, and it was an official selection of the Docaviv International Film Festival, the Other Israel Film Festival and the Washington Jewish Film Festival.

The guest speaker for this film showing is Rebecca Alpert, senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of religion at Temple University.