It’s a year of anniversary celebrations at JCC Rockland’s International Jewish Film Festival. The focus this year — the festival’s 10th — is on Israel as the nation celebrates the 65th anniversary of its independence.
A number of the films, however will offer a different look at the lives of modern Jews, from the late Ed Koch to those who have struggled to make peace with the turbulent past of the Jewish people.
“We had multiple missions with this year’s festival,” said Micki Leader, who is co-chairing the event with Evan Kuperman. “This is the 65th anniversary of Israel’s independence, so we have quite a few films on Israel, and of course, we have films on the Holocaust. Sometimes people ask me why we always have so many films on the Holocaust, and the simple answer is that there are more than six million stories out there.”
When you walk out of the film “Hava Nagila,” showing at the Lafayette Theater at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 21, you’ll have a detailed understanding of the history of the iconic Jewish song.
You’ll also have it stuck in your head.
Directed by Roberta Grossman, “Hava Nagila” made its debut as the opening night film of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in July 2012. Since then, it has played to Jewish film festival audiences across the country. Its hora-antic appearance at JCC Rockland’s 10th International Jewish Film Festival is sponsored by the Rockland Jewish Standard and the Crowne Plaza hotel, Suffern.
It was a trip to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic in the early 1980s that sent Rabbi David Berkman on a road he never quite set out to take. But it is one that led him to become a rabbi, and to a Shabbat fete held by the New City Jewish Center, the Conservative congregation he has served for more than two decades. The special Shabbat celebration will be held on Friday, April 26.
Berkman and his friend, Larry Diamond, with whom he shared a blacktop business in Glencoe, Ill., were sent by the Chicago Action Committee for Soviet Jewry on a mission to visit Soviet refusniks — those Jews who sought to leave their country, but whom were denied exit by the government. They brought with them some siddurim, copies of the 1939 novel, “A Driven Leaf” by Milton Steinberg, and expensive cameras they could “lose,” and which were clearly valuable to those who “found” them.
They may not know the Sermon on the Mount by heart, or even how to turn the other cheek, but the “Rockin’ Rabbis,” will hold their own on this season of “The American Bible Challenge.”
“I’m not allowed to reveal the questions,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham of the Conservative Sons of Israel in Nyack, as he danced lightly around the specifics of the show. “But it was a fair split between” the Hebrew Bible (the Tanach) and its Christian counterpart.
The show’s second season debuts on Thursday, March 21, at 9 p.m. on the Game Show Network. The rabbis are the first Jewish team to tackle Bible thumping study groups from the south and Midwest on the program. This episode will air on Thursday, March 28 at 9 p.m.
More than 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: “Why, the Jews, your Majesty — the Jews.”
How can the Jewish people survive so much adversity for so long? Pascal continued. “It must be from the help of God. It is beyond human comprehension.”
Fast forward into the 21st century and Nazi Germany. Even after unthinkable persecution in a killing machine of unthinkable proportions, so many Jews across Europe managed to survive, eventually fleeing to Israel and America.
JCC Rockland, looking for ways to ensure its future stability, is exploring the possibility of offering a full-day child care. The move has drawn mixed reactions among other Jewish organizations currently offering preschool programs.
The JCC distributed a survey to its membership through email in late January aimed at gauging interest in such a program, which would run from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. There would be an educational component, and it would reflect Jewish values, yet would be open to all, according to Josh Krakoff, JCC Rockland’s chief operating officer.
Growing up in suburban Detroit, Rabbi Daniel Pernick belonged to a temple with more than 3,500 families and six rabbis. Yet something one of the rabbis said to Pernick about all that grandness really stuck with him.
“He told me that while he was thrilled the temple, Temple Israel, had so many families, he thought [the] days he was the rabbi at a much smaller temple in Butler, Pennsylvania, were some of his favorite days as a rabbi,” Pernick said.
“He said that belonging to a temple where you know everyone is not something to take for granted.”
I was half listening to the announcements at the end of the Saturday morning service when something the rabbi was saying broke through the noise in my head. I was pretty sure I heard him announce that we could sell our chametz online.
Immediately, I pictured a sort of eBay marketplace, where I could auction off boxes of Ronzoni penne, Cheerios and unopened bags of chickpeas after frenzied bidding to a winner offering big bucks for the privilege. Of course, since I’m not supposed to receive benefit from my chametz, perhaps I’d have to donate the funds to some worthy charity, but hey, so much the better. Doing good and ridding my kitchen of the things I’m not supposed to eat during Pesach all at the same time? Does it get any better?