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.

How Shall We React to the Terror in Paris?

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World Trade Center’s spire lit in France’s colors: blue, white and red.

Our prayers are with the victims of the horrible terrorist attacks across Paris. Now is the time to grieve.

The natural reaction is to strike back and avenge the carnage. But before we do, let us pause and consider our actions, making them deliberate and thoughtful, to do more than lash out and punish: Who is the enemy and how do we best work to defeat them in the long-term war of ideologies in which we are engaged?  We are compelled to answer this question before we can take the next step.

It is enticing to react and retaliate, but violence untargeted or mistargeted will serve to create more victims and foment more hatred. The threats are real, but we need to know who the adversary is and the most effective ways to combat the enemy. Precipitous action will do far more harm than good.

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Walls of the Old City Jerusalem lit with image of French flag.

Sadly, some struggle to support the French, seeing this tragedy as an opportunity to say “turnabout is fair play” due to perceived and real anti-Semitism in France. We are better than that. The Jewish values of chesed (kindness) and rachamim (mercy) compel us to reach out and provide comfort and support. Our compassion helps us to rise above all kinds of hatred and Judaism becomes a beacon of light to the nations.  We reach out to the people of France with a unique understanding of the pain and suffering they endure, uniting with them in a battle against the darkness.  We need to declare the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité belong to all of us.  By doing so, we demonstrate that our values give us strength, the strength to love others and the strength to fight when we must against those who would eradicate us.

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The French Jewish Community’s Future

French-American Jew Helen Loeb was invited to speak at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Penn. on the terrorist attacks last week in Paris and the state of the France’s Jewish community.

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Many have come to me in the past few days to express their sympathy and ask about the well-being of my family. Many have also come to me to inquire and reflect about the future of the French Jewish community. So where do I start?

I am appalled by the current developments in France, of course, but also in Brussels and other places in Europe.

I grew up in Toulouse, infamous for the murder of one rabbi and 3 children just about two years ago. The Ozar Hatorah school is just 2 miles from where I grew up, where my mother and sister still live. Used to be known for its aeronautical industry and opera singing, Toulouse has become a symbol of antisemitism and homegrown terrorism.

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