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Keeping tradition alive in today’s virtual world: Jewish Cultural Film Festival

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Keeping tradition alive in today’s virtual world: Jewish Cultural Film Festival

By Emma Craven

This year marks the 17th annual Jewish Cultural Film Festival in Spokane. While this festival has previously been held at Gonzaga University, this year it will be held virtually.

The Director of Spokane Area Jewish Family Services Neal Schindler said, “It’s currently our region’s biggest annual Jewish cultural event that is fully open to the general public, and as such it presents a unique opportunity for non-Jews to learn about the Jewish community not only by attending films and programs but also by interacting with members of the Jewish community.”

Some challenges Schindler has faced with moving the festival online has been regarding the technical aspect.

“Learning how to set up and run a virtual festival through a ticketing and screening platform is a learning curve,” Schindler said.

While hosting a film festival virtually brings unique challenges, it also has positive outcomes, that may not have happened if the festival was held in-person.

“I am extremely excited about being able to show many more films than usual — it’s usually a three-film festival over one weekend, whereas this is a fest with seven features and two shorts over 10 days — and also having so many filmmakers and other cool people signed on to do live Zoom Q&As and other programming that I hope will enrich people’s experience of the films,” Schindler said.

Schindler added that the sponsors have been positive about the changes.

While this is a Jewish Cultural film festival, Schindler shared his excitement about having sponsors from outside the Jewish community.

 “We have sponsors from within and outside the Jewish community, and I suspect we’ll add even more before the festival begins. So that’s been extremely rewarding and a clear sign that this event is appreciated in Spokane, and not just by the Jewish community,” he said.

A variety of films are being shown this year, many which talk about current issues. Schindler talked about one of the shorts titled “Reawakening.”

Schindler said “Reawakening,” is about how Charlottesville’s synagogue has responded in the wake of the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017, which in many ways foretold things like the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt.

This short talks about hatred that’s been evident  in the U.S., and is relatable due to the recent desecration at Temple Beth Shalom.

Schindler went on to talk about another film titled, “They Ain’t Ready For Me,” which talks about race, religion, and identity.

Schindler said, “’They Ain’t Ready For Me’ explores both anti-violence activism and Black Jewish identity, which is still understood much too little in the U.S.”

The film also has a focus on intersectionality.

“Intersectionality is extremely au courant at the moment, whether one appreciates or dislikes it. As the Feb. 8 desecration of TBS with swastikas indicates, though, even the Holocaust films remain sadly relevant today in terms of our understanding of where hate, white supremacy, and antisemitism in particular come from and how they manifest,” he said.

These are just two of the many films that will be shown at this years festival.

Other films include:

  • “Breaking Bread”
  • “Crescendo”
  • “The Crossing”
  • “Incitement”
  • “My Name is Sara”
  • “Space Torah”
  • “Those Who Remained”

The ticket prices for the festival are $8 for general admission or $5 for students and seniors. To view all films, one can purchase a festival pass. For general admission the festival pass is $50 and for students and seniors, $30.

All funds raised support Spokane Area Jewish Family Services’ human services work in the Spokane area, serving Jews and non-Jews alike through its food bank, rent and energy assistance program, advocacy, and consultations via phone or Zoom with clients from diverse backgrounds.

For more information on the Jewish Cultural Film Festival visit https://sjcff.eventive.org/.

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About Emma Craven

Emma Craven is an undergraduate student at Gonzaga University majoring in English and Psychology. She is originally from Leavenworth and currently lives in Spokane with her family. She grew up in a half Jewish and half Catholic household. She has a writing background in news writing, poetry, and fiction pieces. She has previously been published in two of Gonzaga’s writing journals. Outside of school and work, you can find her swimming, reading, spending time with family, or watching Grey's Anatomy.

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