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Arts & Culture: Film

A look at the legendary Jerry Lewis

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The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis, 89, added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters.

Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable philanthropic efforts that have bettered the lives of thousands of children.”

Previous recipients of the NAB award include Jorge Ramos, Bob Schieffer, Michael J. Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, President Ronald Reagan, Edward R. Murrow, Bob Hope, Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey, and Charles Osgood.


Debut documentary on Polish Jewry

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After 70 years, the saga of Polish Jewry will be featured in an exclusive debut screening of an original documentary, “Once Upon a Family,” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Battery Park. The film, produced by Project Witness, will be screened on Tuesday, July 14. The evening, hosted by a group of second-generation Holocaust survivors, begins with a buffet dinner reception at 5:30 p.m. The program follows at 7 and will include reunions between survivors and their liberators and remarks from the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau — the “miracle child of Buchenwald” — who symbolizes the destruction and rebuilding of a world that was. His remarks will be followed by the film premiere.

Representatives of hundreds of New York’s most prominent Jewish families, including elected officials, survivors, liberators, and their children, are expected to attend.

“This is not a dry historical narration; it is an experience that will take you back in time,” Project Witness’s director, Ruth Lichtenstein, said. “It’s about living daily life through the eyes of a Jewish family in Poland — the joy, the holidays, the education, the experiences of rich urban Jewish life — and then the sheer horror.”

Ms. Lichtenstein, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors and publisher of the daily newspaper Hamodia, has made Holocaust remembrance her life’s mission. Project Witness is the nonprofit New York-based Holocaust resource center she founded; it merges research and scholarship with media to provide materials for schools, communities, and lay readers.

Featuring live interviews from survivors conducted in Jewish communities in the United States, Israel, and Poland, “Once Upon a Family” is the latest in a series of documentaries from Project Witness covering little-known or grossly underrepresented facets of the Holocaust.

Seating is limited and pre-assigned. For information, call (718) 305-5244 or book online at


‘A Borrowed Identity’

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In Israel, making films during the early years of the state was a difficult enterprise.

With no government funding, creative movie-makers got minimal investment monies and often knocked out low-budget films to a public generally not interested in seeing them. But by the 1980s funds had been created to assist filmmakers, and seed money to jump-start movie production has become more readily available during the last 15 years. The result has been a growth in the number of film schools in Israel, and increasingly in the production of world-class films that can compete on the world market with films from anywhere.

A few decades ago, a filmmaker often would wait seven or eight years before making the next film; today, many Israeli directors are making films every two or three years, and the movies are getting better and better. The result is that an increasing number of Israeli filmmakers now have a body of work that can be seen, studied, and analyzed. One of these filmmakers is Eran Riklis, whose latest film, “A Borrowed Identity,” opens today in New York.


‘World’s Best Short Films’ in Tenafly

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From “Globe Trot”

The JCC U at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades will present “Asbury Shorts: An Evening of the World’s Best Short Films” on Tuesday, June 30, at 7:30 p.m.

Asbury Shorts, a touring exhibition that presents films around the country, will bring its nationally acclaimed short film exhibition to the Tenafly JCC.

The night will include a screening of award-winning films curated from the top global film festivals. It will feature a mix of Oscar winners and nominees in short film comedy, drama, animation, and documentary.

Films include “A Poet Long Ago,” directed by Bob Giraldi; “In The Dark,” directed by Bettina Bilger; “The Bloody Olive,” directed by Vincent Bal: and “Globe Trot,” directed by Mitchell Rose.

To register call Kathy at (201) 408-1454 or go to


Movies at KulturefestNYC

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It is not every week when you can see 37 films in seven days — all celebrating the renaissance of Yiddish culture.

Starting Sunday, as part of KulturfestNYC, the National Yiddish Theatre — Folksbiene will present the largest festival of Yiddish culture cinema ever presented anywhere. (In full disclosure, I am pleased to have been asked to curate and moderate the film series.)

A century ago, Yiddish cinema began. It was seen as a way to convey Yiddish theater to the far ends of Europe. In Soviet Russia, it became a medium for Jewish expression in a Communist realm that first encouraged it and then later demanded ideological conformity. Throughout the 1930s, it continued as a creative force, both in the United States and in Poland, as a source of entertainment and a bulwark against assimilation. After World War II, Yiddish movies served to provide comfort to those in need of that consolation.

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