Our Ninth Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival, which featured five of the best contemporary Israeli films and one hit TV show , has concluded for this year. We had record attendance, stimulating conversations with the audiences, and enjoyed expert guest commentators including the film director and Wesleyan Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Aner Preminger. The films explored important themes such as secularism versus religion, women in the Israeli army, the political situation and aging with dignity. Hebrew students wrote papers in Hebrew and met to converse with speakers in Hebrew. Interaction between the town and gown as well as the experience of watching together and learning from each other contributed to richness and the educational quality of this festival. The general mood is waiting with excitement for next year’s Israeli Film Festival.
On Saturday, November 7, the Center for Jewish Studies presented a well attended and engaged conversation about the annual Israeli Film Festival. Here is the description taken from Wesleyan home page
For the eight consecutive year, Wesleyan Jewish and Israel Studies, with the co-sponsoring of the Film Studies Department, offered the annual Israeli Film Festival. This festival has become an extremely successful event which draws its audience from the Wesleyan community, as well as the larger general Connecticut community. Its structure has also become a model for unrelated festivals at Wesleyan and other universities. The festival’s format features a film screening, along with commentary from a speaker who illuminates a particular aspect of the film (based on expertise in film, Judaic Studies or cultural studies). The film festival is also closely integrated into the study of Hebrew at Wesleyan University. In this WESeminar, Dalit Katz, film designer and director, and Wesleyan professor of Religion and Israel studies, will offer a glimpse into this year’s festival as she shares film clips with the audience.
Presenter: Dalit Katz, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies and Adj. Associate Professor of Religion, has been teaching Hebrew and organizing Israeli cultural events since 2000.
(Story by Lily Baggott ’15)
Last spring, filmmaker David Fisher presented his film, Six Million and One, at the Wesleyan Israeli Film festival. After viewing Fisher’s film and presentation, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies Dalit Katz subsequently invited the filmmaker to teach a course as a scholar in residence this spring. Currently the Silverberg Scholar in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies, Fisher teaches When Private Meets Public, a course focusing on Israeli documentaries.
“[In this course,] I’m trying to decipher with my students the development and consequently the success of the Israeli documentary films worldwide,” Fisher noted. “They learn how to interpret documentary genres and place them in their proper cinematic, artistic and political contexts.”
Fisher’s own work provides discussion material for his students.
“I use my own documentaries to help shed light on hidden corners of the Israeli society, such as cattle ranchers in the Golan Heights,” he said. “My critically acclaimed family trilogy, however, I use to discuss the universality of very personal films and how both private stories and autobiographical essays meet the public.”
Fisher’s films have won various awards and include Mostar Round-Trip and Love Inventory, which form a triology together with Six Million and One. He is currently working on two films, a National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored documentary on the revival of Yiddish and another film focusing on the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. The filmmaker served as Director General of the New Israeli Foundation for Cinema and TV and has served on various international film festival juries. Before coming to Wesleyan, he also taught courses at various institutions in America and Israel.
“Truthfully, I have always been more interested in the creation of documentaries than teaching about them,” Fisher noted. “…That being said, teaching at Wesleyan was [a] unique experience for me because, for the first time, I didn’t teach film majors but merely interested students. …The students are coming from a variety of different fields (astronomy being one of them) and enrich the discussion to unprecedented levels. …In the case of screening some of my own films, it is interesting for me—as both a filmmaker and as a scholar—to face questions I’ve never been asked before.”
We have exciting news regarding the latest developments in Jewish Studies at Wesleyan. Just a couple of weeks ago the Administration approved our proposal to create a Center for Jewish Studies at Wesleyan. The Center will administer the current Certificate for Jewish and Israel Studies. It will also be the official home to and sponsor of all the programming we do, including the Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival and the Contemporary Israeli Voices series as well as other lectures. We are delighted with this new chapter of Jewish Studies at Wesleyan and the fact that we have an institutional home. Dalit Katz will be the Center’s first Director, and will be coordinating the transition and keeping the public informed.
Spring semester means the Ring Family Israeli Film Festival, which always happens before the Spring Break and as always was fantastic thanks to Professor Dalit Katz’s curatorship. The festival featured: Fill the Void by Rama Burshstein (2012), Zaytoun byEran Riklis (2012), By Summer’s End by Noa Haroni, a documentary Six Million and One by David Fisher, and two shorts Wherever You Go by by Rony Sasson Angel and Welcome and Our Condolences by Leon Prudovsky.
Since director Haim Tabakman is this year’s Silverberg Distinguished Visiting Scholar, his film Eyes Wide Open was also screened
In the second half of the semester, Jewish and Israel Studies hosts several talks:
Jewish law finds its roots in the Bible and has slowly evolved and adapted to social, cultural and technological realities. The laws of the Sabbath are a wonderful example of this evolution. How have the laws of the Sabbath developed? This lecture will focus on the question how the laws of the Sabbath have adapted to the changing role of women in the last third of the twentieth century. As women gain a greater voice in society, do their concerns impact the evolution of Jewish law?
Monday, April 28, 2014, 8 pm, Russell House: SAMUEL & DOROTHY FRANKEL MEMORIAL LECTURE, Professor Samuel Kassow will deliver the annual Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture on “Time Capsules in the Rubble: the Secret Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto.”
Samuel Kassow is the Charles H. Northam Professor of History at Trinity College and a visiting professor of history at Wesleyan University. He is the author of numerous books and publications on east European Jewish history. Most recently he published the award winning “Who Will Write Our History” Rediscovering a Hidden Archive From the Warsaw Ghetto” (2007).
Monday, May 05, 2014, Noon, Allbritton 311: We will venture into the world of science. Dr. Orna Levran P ’09 ’15, the Rockefeller University in New York, will speak on “Race, ethnicity, and ancestry: a medical genetic perspective”
Interactions between genetic, environmental, and social factors have been proposed to explain the observed differences in disease prevalence and severity among different populations. Populations vary in terms of history (expansion, migration, and natural selection), allele frequencies, and other properties that affect the importance of genetic risk variants. In this talk we will discuss current methods to infer fine personal global ancestry and admixture with examples from several distinctive populations (including Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi Jewish cohort) obtained for the study of the genetics of drug addiction. We will also discuss examples of targeting specific groups for prevention and treatment efforts, as well as the reevaluation of the relevance of racial/ethnic labels in the genomic era of personalized medicine.
The Sixth Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival, 2013
The first film, to be screened on January 31, is My Australia, directed by Ami Drozd. It takes place in Poland in the 1950’s. The film tells the story of a ten year old Tadek and his older brother who are part of an antisemitic gang. Following the arrest of the boys by the local police, their mother, who had been concealing her Jewish identity, tells her younger son that they are about to sail to Australia, the land of his dreams, when in reality they are to sail to Israel. The film is based on the filmmaker’s own experience.
Speaker: Professor Magda Teter, Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, Wesleyan University.
February 7, The Fifth Heaven directed by Dina Zvi Riklis. The Fifth Heaven takes place in British controlled Palestine in 1944. Maya, deserted by her parents, is brought to an orphanage for Jewish girls. The appearance of Maya evokes within the director of the orphanage his past love affair with her mother, while Maya develops affection for one of the anti-British resistance fighters who is a fiancé of anther orphanage worker. The personal dramas occur at the time that the other girls and workers in the orphanage are awaiting a personal and national liberation. The film is based on a novel by Rachel Eytan, a winner of the prestigious Brenner Prize.
Speaker: Professor Sami Berdugo, Schusterman Visiting Professor, Wesleyan University
February 14, Off White Lies directed by Maya Kenig. The film comes hot off its US release–it was just screened at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York. Libby who has been living with her mother in the States for years is sent to live with her dad in Israel. She arrives when the second Lebanon war starts. Libby discovers that her lively and eccentric dad is a homeless man who has devised a plan to pose as a refugee from the bombarded Northern region in order to find a home within a wealthy family in Jerusalem. Now Libby has to deal with her false identity as well as her relation with her father.
Speaker: Marc Longenecker, Visiting Instructor in Film Studies.
February 21, a special screening of Yair Kedar’s The Five Houses of Lea Goldberg .“This is the story of the loves, poems and fears of the woman who chose Hebrew and Hebrew chose her.” The movie uses five acts of animation, interviews and footage as well as original music to tell the story of the beloved and yet very much enigmatic life of the poet, Lea Goldberg.
Speaker: Professor Sami Berdugo, Schusterman Visiting Professor, Wesleyan University
February 28, 2011 academy nominated film, Footnote, written and directed by Joseph Cedar. Set within the academic setting of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the film follows the complicated relation between Eliezer and Uriel, a father and son, who are also rival professors in Talmudic Studies. The relation between them reaches to a new peak when they find out that Eliezer will be lauded for his work.
Speaker: Elisha Russ-Fishbane, Assistant Professor of Religion, Wesleyan University.
March 7, the last screening of the festival: the movie Mabul (Flood) directed by Guy Nativ. The film follows the complicated life of Yoni, a smart but underdeveloped boy, who is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Yoni has to deal with bullying in school, uncommunicative parents and an older autistic brother who comes home right before the ceremony. Yony is left to deal on his own with a brother he has not seen in ten years and who has become obsessed with Yoni’s Torah excerpt about Noah.
Speaker: Laura Blum, Film Critic.
This year the Jewish and Israel Studies with the co- sponsorship of the Film Department is introducing a new event Back by Popular Demand. On April 23, the internationally acclaimed writer and film maker, Etgar Keret will introduce and comment upon his film Jellyfish, winner at the Cannes Film Festival.
Gallim Dance, co-sponsored by the Center For the Arts and the Rosenberg Fund for Jewish Life, Friday, February 8 & Saturday, February 9, at 8pm, CFA Theater, 271 Washington Terrace.
New England Premiere of Mama Call.
Yiddish Cultural Expression in Europe and America
A series of events co-sponsored by Jewish and Israel Studies and the Music Department, Tuesdays, February 12-April 2, 2013
Tuesday, February 12 at 7 pm, “Mameh Mia: Contemporary Yiddish Culture in the Hasidic World.”
Speaker: Asya Vaisman, Yiddish Book Center.
Tuesday, February 26 at 7 pm, “The Philadelphia Klezmer Story.” Speaker: Hankus Netsky, New England Conservatory.
Tuesday, April 2 at 7 pm, “Jewish Cultural Expression under Nazi Occupation: The Case of the Warsaw Ghetto.” Speaker: Samuel Kassow, Trinity College.
The Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture
Wednesday, April 17 at 8 pm at Usdan Room 108.
Professor Edwin Seroussi will speak on “Israeli Musical Paradoxes: The Case of Joe Amar (1930-2009)”
We had our Sixth Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival on January 31. My Australia captured the audience’s attention with the complicated issues it raised concerning post war anti – semitism in Poland, neo – Nazism and cultural identity. Professor Magda Teter commented upon those issues and put them in their historical context. Please join us next Thursday, February 7 at 8 pm at the Goldsmith Cinema for the screening of the movie The Fifth Heaven.
Greetings and Beruchim Habaim to friends of Jewish and Israel studies. I am delighted to serve as the interim chair this year. This is going to be an exciting and rich year full of cultural and intellectual events. Please mark your calendar for Thursday October 25 at noon at 108 Usdan Student Center. The Jewish and Israel studies will hold an open house. Lunch and information will be provided. During this event you will get the chance to meet and socialize with our faculty and students, learn about our exciting cultural series including our annual Israeli Film Festival and the Contemporary Israelis Voices Series, be introduced to new courses taught by our distinguished visitors and more. Please join us and bring friends with you. The next event will take place on October 30. Please check our event calendar for more details.
Another summer is gone and a new academic year has begun. As always, it will be an exciting year, with classes, and events to look forward to.
First some news. Professor Dalit Katz has agreed to serve as the interim director of JIS this year, while Professor Magda Teter on sabbatical working on her next book.
Dalit Katz has been a vital member of the faculty in the Jewish and Israel Studies Certificate, devoting time and energy to the JIS Certificate and the University. She has single-handedly created a highly respected Israeli Film Festival, which is now a mainstay on CT cultural calendar, making Wesleyan a go-to-place for Israeli culture, attracting audiences far beyond Wesleyan, and students to Wesleyan. The Program is thus in excellent hands this year!
We are also excited to welcome to Wesleyan Professor Elisha Russ-Fishbane, who is joining us from Princeton. Professor Elisha Russ-Fishbane teaches courses in Judaism, Hebrew Bible, and Jewish Studies, focusing on questions of Jews in Islamic lands. In the Fall 2012, he will teach the gateway course for the JIS Certificate, RELI233: The People of the Book: Jewish Cultures and Jewish Canons, and and RELI227: The Jews of the Islamic World from Muhammad to Modernity. In the Spring, Professor Russ-Fishbane will teach RELI201: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, and RELI294: Judaism and the Philosophic Path: An Introduction to Maimonides.
In the Spring 2013, Professor Vivian Mann will teach a course in the Art History Department “Jewish Art and Rituals in Context”. This course covers the history of Judaica. The goal of the course is to give students an understanding of the range of ceremonial art used in the practice of Judaism and how individual works were fashioned out of a creative tension between the minimal demands of Jewish law and models in the art of surrounding cultures.
The course will result in an exhibition of Judaica curated at the Congregation Adath Israel, deepening further our collaboration with Adath Israel and its outstanding collection.
Finally, a quick preview of events that we can look forward to:
October 30, Lawrence Baron, Jewish-non-Jewish Romances about Israel: From Ari to Zohan, 8 p.m Russell House
December 3, Ronit Matalon, Reading Memory autobiography, 8 p.m , 108 Usdan.
Also the week of December 3, André Aciman will speak at Wesleyan. Time, topic and venue TBA.
Our annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival will take place in February and March.
A series of talks and lectures on Jewish Music linked to Mark Slobin’s class, MUSC297: Yiddish Cultural Expression: Music, Theater, Literature, Film.
Steven Hochstadt from the University of Shanghai will speak on the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, time and venue TBA. The lecture will be linked to Vera Schwarcz’s class, HIST308: The Jewish Experience in China: From Kaifeng in the Song Dynasty to Shanghai During the Holocaust.
Join us for some exciting upcoming events:
Thursday, March 29: Last film of the Ring Family Film Festival “Je t’aime terminal/I love you terminal,” Goldsmith Family Cinema, 8pm
Je T’aime Terminal ( I Love You Terminal) is a romantic comedy about a young Israeli man on his way to join his American fiancé. During twenty four hour connection delay, he meets an eccentric and charming girl with whom he contemplates love, relationships and life.Speaker: Dani Menkin, the film director.
Thursday, April 5, Professor Joseph Siry will deliver a talk about the Beth Sholom Synagogue near Philadelphia, “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Steel Cathedral Project and Beth Sholom Synagogue” PAC 004, 4:30 pm
In a suburb just north of Philadelphia stands Beth Sholom Synagogue, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only synagogue and among his finest religious buildings. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007, Beth Sholom was one of Wright’s last completed projects, and for years it has been considered one of his greatest masterpieces. The talk is based on Professor Siry’s recently published book “The Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture.”
Thursday, April 19, Professor Elisha Russ-Fishbane will give a talk “Judaism and Islam: Between History and Polemics” in PAC 004 at 4:30 pm
Please join us and bring friends and family!