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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘film’

Remembering Jackie Robinson’s Fight Against Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Moviegoers heading to see the new film “42” will see the story of how Jackie Robinson displayed legendary courage, class and talent in the face of immense pressure and racial hatred as he broke down baseball’s color barrier.

Less well known is Robinson’s commitment to fighting all bigotry, including prejudice emanating from his own community.

It was 1962, a decade and a half after Robinson first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and just a few years after he retired. Day after day, an angry crowd marched outside Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater protesting against its Jewish owner, Frank Schiffman, and his plan to open a low-cost restaurant with prices that potentially would threaten the business of a more expensive black-owned eatery.

The demonstrators carried anti-Semitic posters and hurled racial epithets, reportedly denouncing Schiffman as a Shylock who wanted to extract a pound of flesh from the black community.

Schiffman turned to several black leaders for help, but despite the increasingly hostile acts of anti-Semitism that were taking place, they all remained silent – except for Robinson.

“I was ashamed to see community leaders who were afraid to speak out when blacks were guilty of anti-Semitism,” Robinson wrote in his 1972 autobiography, I Never Had It Made. “How could we stand against anti-black prejudice if we were willing to practice or condone a similar intolerance?”

Never one to back down from a cause he believed in, Robinson used his syndicated newspaper column to condemn the protesters’ blatant use of anti-Semitism and compared their actions to events that had occurred in Nazi Germany, drawing the ire of many black nationalists in the process.

The nationalists, who had adopted a separatist agenda, retaliated by protesting in front of a nearby Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee shop – Robinson had worked for the chain after his 1957 retirement from baseball– and outside a dinner honoring Robinson’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In turn, several mainstream black leaders, including Roy Wilkins, the longtime leader of the NAACP, quickly came to the defense of Robinson and Schiffman.

“In their fight for equal opportunity, Negroes cannot use the slimy tools of anti-Semitism or indulge in racism, the very tactics against which we cry out,” Wilkins wrote in a telegram to Robinson. “We join you in your straight statement that this is a matter of principle from which there can be no retreat.”

Other leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Philadelphia Tribune publisher Dr. E. Washington Rhodes, also offered their support, according to Robinson.

Major League Baseball’s first black player also managed to pry a condemnation of anti-Semitism from Lewis Micheaux, the owner of Harlem’s National Memorial African Book Store, though Micheaux had sympathized with the marchers and denounced Robinson’s initial criticisms.

Soon after, the protests ceased.

Some Jewish communal officials have noted that Robinson’s strong stance during the 1962 Apollo incident stood in stark contrast to the silence from black leaders during the 1995 protests outside Freddy’s Fashion Mart on 125th Street.

For months, large crowds gathered in front of the Harlem store to protest the efforts of its Jewish owner, Fred Harari, to expand into an adjacent storefront that was occupied by a black-owned business.

The condemnations came only after one protester, Roland Smith Jr., shot and killed seven store employees before burning down the building and taking his own life.

Robinson was always quick to criticize anti-Semitism in the black community, according to Stephen Norwood, a professor at the University of Oklahoma who co-wrote a scholarly article on Robinson’s relationship with Jews.

In a 1997 interview timed to the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s integration of baseball, Norwood pointed out that Robinson was the first to condemn and call for the removal of a Congress of Racial Equality official in 1966 after the official shouted at a group of Jews, “Hitler made a mistake when he didn’t kill enough of you.”

While raising funds for the NAACP and bail money for imprisoned civil-rights marchers, Norwood said, Robinson witnessed the valuable contributions that Jews were making to the black community’s struggle. When Robinson took part in the legendary march on Washington and stood by King in Birmingham, Ala., he saw that some Jews also were placing their bodies on the line for civil-rights causes.

The Sexualization of Our Teens is Becoming Endemic

Monday, April 8th, 2013

It speaks volumes about a culture when a president, whom by all accounts is personally honorable, is forced to apologize to an attorney general for commenting favorably on her physical appearance, while, in the same week that same culture defends lace trim thongs for teen girls with “Call Me” on the front and lace back underwear with the word “Wild” on the back.

Welcome to America and it’s increasingly bizarre relationship with women’s sexuality.

Did President Obama mean anything nefarious when he praised California Attorney General Kamala Harris as “by far, the best-looking attorney general … It’s true! C’mon.” I doubt it. Still, he apologized because, however innocent, it wrongly sexualized a woman who ought be judged entirely by her professional performance. Too many women are hired based on their capacity for window dressing with places like Wall Street apparently being some of the worst offenders.

But what is a more harmful transgression in the ongoing sexualization of women? A comment about a mature, brilliant, and fully grown female as also being attractive, or one of the America’s most famous undergarment companies targeting teens with green-and-white polka-dot hipsters reading ‘Feeling Lucky?’

Recently a teen girl came to see me. She had been sexually violated by a boy her own age whom she had considered a friend. After reporting the incident to the authorities, she wished to discover how she could recapture her innocence. “The world I inhabit is all about me and my friends being as sexually alluring as possible for the boys in our class. It felt good to get attention. I never believed it could end in something like this. Now I’ll never trust a man again.”

Now, granted, sexual assault is an extreme manifestation of the increasing sexual exploitation of young girls and, ultimately, regardless of the cultural factors, a man must never harm a woman, failing which he must face severe punishment. But have we no responsibility as a culture for the portrayal of girls as a boy’s play thing from an increasingly young age, and do we really believe that the growing degradation of women has no consequences?

Victoria’s Secret PINK label, with its new Bright Young Things Campaign, is a particularly egregious offender. Now, I am no prude and I welcome beautiful and sexy lingerie for women. I want to live in a world where a wife is always attractive to her husband and vice versa (although men wearing lingerie is probably a step too far).

But for goodness sake, do fifteen year olds need thongs with the words “Call me” on the front? Do they need the words “I dare you” printed on their backsides? Or “Let’s make out” printed on the most private parts of their bodies? Does any of this square with the message we’re trying to send to teen girls that they should be valued for their minds before their bodies?

And lest the argument be made that the PINK line is only for college-aged girls, Victoria’s SecretChief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer made it clear that the PINK lingerie line seeks to reach a teen audience. “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK,” he said.

As a father raising six daughters, I know that young girls are very attuned to the messages that surround them. My missive to my daughters is that I, their father and not some boy, is the one to love and validate them through their teen years. To seek approval and popularity from young men during their development years would only exploit their insecurities and vulnerabilities. But if they wait until there are adults they will have the inner strength to choose a man based on virtue rather than desperation. They will find a soul mate who respects them rather than a man who takes advantage (as if their father would ever allow that in the first place).

But it’s everywhere. James Franco’s new film Spring Breakers which I have not seen, is apparently so exploitive of teen girls, depicting them in the most debauched and degrading light, that even mainstream reviewers, not easily shockable, are shocked. Writing in Cinemablend.com, Sean O’Connell said, “Spring Breakers feels like the floor of a Tampa Bay strip club. It’s sticky, slimy, dirty and has seen far more depravity and corruption than one should handle.”

French Arabs Beat Up Israel Director Critical of ‘Occupation’

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Arab men assaulted an Israeli film director in southern France following the screening of his film criticizing Israeli occupation.

Yariv Horowitz was rendered unconscious as a result of the beating Monday by several men after a screening of “Rock the Casbah” at a film festival in Aubin, Army Radio reported Thursday.

He was treated at the scene and returned later that day to the festival. The report said it was unclear whether his attackers knew Horowitz was Israeli.

The film is set in 1989 during the first intifada and focuses on 18-year-old Tomer, a soldier stationed in Gaza, who is sent to avenge the death of his fellow soldier and comes to some new realizations about the political situation in Judea and Samaria.

 

How Old Movies Show What New Movies Say Are Lies

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Many young people nowadays are indoctrinated to believe that American culture has always been dominated by conservative, racist, and other nasty influences. Understanding of the complex history has not been balanced by this new indoctrination and distortion. It’s merely been made biased in the opposite direction far more systematically than it ever was before.

Racism against African-Americans and many other things in American history are undeniable–and shouldn’t be. Consequently there was plenty of room for improvement. But that same history also shows there is no need for endless self-flagellation.

I’ve often noticed this but it came to my attention again in rewatching the film that brought John Wayne to stardom. What better way to learn about the true and dominant themes of democracy, equality, and real anti-elitism than that classical Western directed by John Ford, “Stagecoach” (1939)?

As a traditional Western, the film depicts the Americans—not whites, Americans—as good guys in a battle with the Apaches. The legitimacy of Americans being in the southwest is not questioned.Aside from this are the following plot points:

–The stagecoach driver is married to a Mexican-American woman. No negative aspersions are cast at all. This is totally accepted. Incidentally, all three of John Wayne’s wives were “Hispanic.”

–The heroes of the film are an outlaw, whose motives for killing a man are portrayed sympathetically, and a prostitute.

–One theme that runs through the film is how the “respectable” people are mean to the prostitute and that’s a terrible thing.

–Although the women are treated by the male characters as delicate, etc., their behavior shows them to be courageous, clear-headed, and as tough as circumstances require.

–The main villains are a banker and an ex-Confederate officer who has turned gambler, shot men in the back, and is a social snob.

–The banker, who is absconding with his bank’s embezzled funds, is a super-patriotic hypocrite. For example, he says, “And remember this — what’s good business for the banks is good for the country” and, “It always gives me great pride in my country when I see such fine young men in the U.S. Army.”

Another line from the banker is, “America for Americans! Don’t let the government meddle with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is shocking, over a billion dollars! What the country needs is a businessman for president!”

That’s not in 2012 but 1939. And remember that as he is the bad guy so the audience is expected to groan and think that such a person is horrible and disgusting. When the mass media in 2013 portray a group like the Tea Party as racist–reduce taxes; high national debt–or in 2012 portray Mitch Romney unfavorably–a businessman for president?–the ground was well-prepared. In what film was a community organizer a villain?

Other plot points include:

–The moralistic, deliberately uglified—respectable women of the town are presented as narrow-minded prigs.

–One of the stations the stage coach visits is run by a Mexican-American team, including the manager, who are portrayed sympathetically.

–When one of the passengers makes a racist remark about the Apache wife of the Mexican-American manager, he’s made fun of. And note that the man’s statements are made in the context of fear that she might somehow be a spy for the Apache forces whose imminent attack they fear. And on top of that he’s not from the West and unused to seeing Native Americans. The other man who distrusts her is, of course, the evil banker. While she might actually be helping the Apaches, the banker is wrong when he accuses her of being a thief of his stolen loot, which he soon finds.

–In an early scene, the cavalry scout has reported that the Apaches have gone to war. Asked how do they know he’s telling the truth, an officer replies, “He’s a Cheyenne. They hate Apaches worse than we do.” So all Native Americans are not portrayed as the same; some are allies. Today, the fact that some tribes were aggressive and “imperialistic,” engaging in massacres and tortures of others—motivating the latter to side with the U.S. army–is hidden, since that would distract from the narrative that only whites are racist and aggressive.

Heeb Magazine Gets Serious

Friday, December 7th, 2012

In a departure from their usual irreverence and not so kosher antics,  Heeb Magazine, the infamous humor magazine for unaffiliated Jews,  has appealed to the wider Jewish community to support former Heeb publisher Joshua Neuman’s short indie film, Johnny Physical Lives. The film is about his younger brother Jonathan, and his fight with leukemia.

Neuman explains the goal of his film as follows:

 “In the U.S. alone, more than 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. While overall survival rates have improved during the past 25 years, for those between the ages of 15 and 29, survival rates have worsened. In addition, young adults with cancer face their own distinct set of emotional challenges, finding themselves utterly dependent at a time in their lives when they’re supposed to be asserting their independence. I want to shine a light on this demographic (young adults with cancer) while creating a tribute to my late brother’s courage and creativity.”

This project is in the running for a consultation with the Tribeca Film Institute, and if they win, it will add weight to Neuman’s goals for the project.

If you’re interested, you can vote for Johnny Physical Lives on the IndieWire site. Voting ends on Friday, December 8th.

Rama Burshtein: A Window Into Her World

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

“Fill the Void” is the title of Rama Burshtein’s film that played to critical acclaim at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and earned seven Ophir Awards — the Israeli Oscars — including one for best film and best director, and has become Israel’s entry into the 2012 Oscars’ foreign language category.

What is this film that has generated so much professional interest?

Amazingly, it’s the story of an average family in a strictly religious, charedi, community in Tel Aviv. It focuses on the family’s 18 year-old-daughter Shira who is in the throws of her first attempts at arranged dating. In the process, unbeknownst to him, Shira spots her intended in the dairy section of the supermarket and a spark is ignited, setting off preparations for the wedding. Then tragedy strikes: Shira’s older sister Esther dies in childbirth, and the family, crushed by grief, delays the wedding. As Esther’s husband, Yochai, is encouraged to remarry a widow living in Belgium, Shira’s mother, desperate to keep her only grandchild in the country, pleads with Shira to marry Yochai instead, and become mother to her older sister’s child.

It is a moving but simple story whose uniqueness lies in that it is a film about charedi life directed by a charedi woman, exposing the true nature of that world for a secular audience. “I felt it was time to tell a story from within, and say something that comes from really living the life,” Rama Burshtein, member of the Tel Aviv charedi community, said. “That’s what I felt was important: to just tell a story that has no connection with the regular subjects that you deal with when you talk about the Orthodox world. People don’t know much about this world, so it’s not a question of celebration or criticism, it’s a window into this world.”

The film offers a rare glimpse into the Orthodox way of life, its customs and traditions, but also deals with the wider themes of relationships and family pressures.

Mrs. Burshtein, a native New Yorker who grew up in Tel Aviv, became religious

at age 25, shortly after graduating from Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film and Television School.

“I love this world, I chose it, I was not born in it,” she told reporters.

In preparation for the filming, she spoke with members of her own community – women who had married their sisters’ widowers – and found a surprising phenomenon: the marriages contracted for the sake of fulfilling religious and family obligations evolved into relationships of love.

“At the beginning of the research, it sounded like it was impossible to understand how it works,” Burshtein said. “And then at the end of it, it was like the natural thing to do, to marry within the family.”

With the backing of her rabbi, Ms.Burshtein began production in January 2011 in a tiny Tel Aviv apartment, not far from the home she shares with her husband and four children. Her three sons and daughter, all in their teens, are enthusiastic supporters of her work. On all occasions Rama takes time to express her thanks to them and to her loyal husband, a highly respected public figure in the charedi world.

By opening a window to the charedi world I believe Rama Burshtein, even without the predicted Academic Award, has done a great benefit for Jewish life in Israel which is in dire need in improvement.

Times Square Screening of New Documentary on Theresienstadt

Friday, November 30th, 2012

The premier screening of the new documentary, “The Resort,” hosted by the World Forum of Russian Jewry (WFRJ) took place Wednesday evening, November 28, at a screening room in New York’s Times Square. The audience included Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, Dr. Igor Branovan, Vice President of the American Forum of Russian Jewry, Mr. Ron Meier, Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – New York Region, and Mrs. Svetlana Portnyansky, Producer of “The Resort.”

“The Resort” is an award-winning film about the Theresienstadt internment camp during World War II. Theresienstadt was used by the Nazis as a propaganda tool to dispel rumors of extermination camps by giving the false impression that Jews were being held in resort-like conditions. The representation of Theresienstadt as a resort couldn’t be further from the truth. By the end of the war only 19,000 of the camp Jews survived, out of 160,000.

“The Resort is a very important film that tells the unique story of the exceptional Jews of Theresienstadt who refused to allow the Nazis to break their communal spirit,” said Alexander Levin, President of the World Forum of Russian Jewry (WFRJ). “This is a story everyone should know about, and WFRJ is proud to sponsor this important event to help share the story of these special Jews, who even when facing Nazi atrocities, maintained their hope and courage.”

The movie reveals an unexpected story of a congregation of the brightest minds, and the most well-regarded intellectuals and artists of the European Jewish World. Collectively refusing to accept their likely tragic fate, and collaborating even under the harshest of circumstances, these artists, poets, writers, philosophers and composers left behind colossal evidence of the cultural grandeur experienced at Theresienstadt.

“The Resort” has already received its first award at the Houston International Film Festival, and has been chosen to show at the Montreal World Film Festival. Click to watch the trailer.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/times-square-screening-of-new-documentary-on-theresienstadt/2012/11/30/

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