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Debra Kaufman and Alan Snitow
Debra Kaufman and Alan Snitow

Film Sparks Dialogue About American-Jewish Identity

The Fourth Annual Week of Jewish Culture, presented by CU’s Program in Jewish Studies, begins February 27. This year’s series is presented in conjunction with the community collaborative: Movers: Art and Conscience (www.jewishmovers.org) and examines visual culture with a focus on Italian Jewish culture.

As part of this series, we are excited to welcome directors and producers, Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman for the screening and after-film discussion of their recent film “Between Two Worlds” on Tuesday, February 28 at 7:00 pm in ATLAS 100 on the CU Boulder Campus.

Who speaks for a divided community at the crossroads? “Between Two Worlds” is a groundbreaking personal exploration of the community and family divisions that are redefining American Jewish identity and politics. The filmmakers’ own families are battlegrounds over loyalty to Israel, interpretations of the Holocaust, intermarriage, and a secret communist past. Filmed in the United States and Israel, this first person documentary begins with a near riot at the Jewish Film Festival in San Francisco, reveals the agonizing battle over divestment from Israel on a university campus, and shows the crackdown on dissent in Israel itself.

Castro Theater Protesters at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Using five unique stories, this film goes beyond the superficial to reveal the passionate debates over identity and generational change that are taking place within today’s American Jewish community. Powerful and divergent feelings about Israel, issues involving ethnic and religious continuity, and the growth of the neo-conservative movement are just some of the provocative issues being addressed. Once seen as a voting block, American Jews no longer seem to be speaking in a singular voice. Clearly intended to spark dialogue, “Between Two Worlds” has already sparked a stimulating dialogue about today’s American Jewish community.

Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow

Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman are award-winning documentary filmmakers whose films include “Blacks and Jews,” “Secrets of Silicon Valley,” and “Thirst.” Kaufman founded and was the director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the first and largest independent Jewish film showcase in the world. Their work has been featured at the Sundance Film Festival, the Jerusalem International Film Festival, and aired on public television’s acclaimed “P.O.V.” and “Independent Lens” series. Their films have been used by activists and opinion leaders around the world and have been translated into over fifteen languages and broadcast internationally. The New Yorker magazine has said “Snitow and Kaufman bring a fair-minded skepticism to everything they film.”

This film is free and open to the public but as seating is limited, RSVPs are required.  Please email Nicholas.Underwood@colorado.edu or call CU’s Program in Jewish Studies at 303.492.7143.

CU’s  Week of Jewish Culture continues through Thursday, March 8.  The series kicks off Monday, February 27 at 7:00 PM with the world premier of the Ginzburg Geography with artist Jewlia Eisenberg. This interactive video project and art installation traces the life and work of Leone and Natalia Ginzburg whose journeys of love, resistance, exile, liberation, life and death during WWII and the Holocaust provide the back drop for others to “map” their life journeys. A complete list of programs and details can be found at jewishstudies.colorado.edu or by calling 303.492.7143. The series concludes on March 8 with Purim concerts by the “nerdy, sexy, commie, girly” performances of Charming Hostess.

CU’s Week of Jewish Culture is an annual series produced and presented by the Program in Jewish Studies at CU-Boulder and generously supported by the Program’s donors. This year’s series is also supported by the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project, directed by the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Support of the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project is generously provided by the Legacy Heritage Fund Limited.

About Jamie Polliard

Assistant Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder

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3 comments

  1. Stan Kreis

    I have not seen the movie, yet, but I am interested in the subject matter, that is, that area of life where ideologies tend to meet and collide: culture wars. But I have read that it covers the film "Rachel" at the San Francisco Film Festival, of which the directors were an intimate part.

    I constantly see in the media references to the Rachel Corrie story that say Corrie was killed by Israeli bulldozers while protesting their demolition of Palestinian houses in the Gaza Strip ("Between Two Worlds': Jewish identity turf wars," San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 2011) . They say this as though settled fact and without specifically including the Israeli Army's investigation and findings. According to them, bulldozers were working to demolish homes used as points of intersection for illegal underground tunnels where weapons and explosives were being ferried into Gaza. Additionally, there is video available online of the field of vision of a giant D9 bulldozer that demonstrates the difficulties of seeing the entire field directly underneath their huge blade. The IDF says Corrie fell into a hole when she remained too close to an operating D9, probably on her own stumble, and the operator did not see her in the instance it took to cover the hole. The IDF did not have personnel to keep Corrie away because of the threat of Palestinian sniper fire. These were the tactics of the Palestinian fighters: to use Westerners as shields, hoping to either stop bulldozers or invite disaster for propaganda purposes. Corrie remained alive immediately after the incident, but was whisked away by the Palestinian side, refusing Israeli offers to provide medical help.

    Another example, is how the media portrays the Israeli Settlers, and is perfectly willing to easily accept the Palestinian side of the story, but ignore the Settlers side. Note: Israeli Settlers have a perfectly legal right, under international law, to be in the West Bank as things stand today. If not, the world community, I assure you, would be down Israel's throat on this tomorrow. But all the international court's advisories and so forth cannot wipe away the simple fact that Israel and the Palestinians are simply in dispute on the West Bank. To toy with that principle is to open a can of worms regarding minority rights in sovereign states all over the globe.

    The point here being that Western media (including documentaries) are rife with examples of one-sided portrayals of the justice of the Palestinian cause. And they are filled with writers and directors who build straw men that they can then knock down, because it is easy to do that when YOU get to define the arguments of the "other" side.

    Debate is good; all for that. But without debate, "Rachel" amounts to deception to the Jewish community. And without allowance for right-wing response, including their entries into the documentaries shown, then the debate is one-sided.

    Showing "propaganda" films at Jewish film festivals is in no way a healing endeavor. Why not show Israeli propaganda films, instead. Wait, I can't think of any such documentaries. Hmmm….why is that?

  2. Stan,
    Your "facts" concerning Rachel Corrie are false. There were no tunnels to the house that Corrie was trying to protect. If there were, the IDF would have said so, but they haven't. Not only that, but Israel allowed the Palestinians who lived there to travel to Israel to obtain visas to visit the USA on a speaking tour which they (the Nasrallahs) did about 5 years ago. If they were connected to illegal activities in any way, do you really think Israel would have allowed that? The reason Israel bulldozed the Nasrallah home was because they wanted a 400 meter buffer between Rafah and the Egyptian border and the Nasrallah home was about 300 meters from it. That would be like Mexico demolishing all the American homes within 400 meters of the US-Canadian border for Mexico's security. Illegal and absurd! Also, the whole point of the "Rachel" movie was to show how Israel's "investigation" was a sham. "Rachel" director Simone Bitton (herself an Israeli-French Jew) actually did the definitive investigation herself in the movie. All the negativity surrounding Rachel Corrie is just false propaganda meant to distract from the Israeli violations of international law which Ms. Corrie descriptively highlighted. Rather than "kill the messenger" which Israel literally did, Israel should amend its behavior so that more Rachel Corries won't be needed. Alas, the power, influence and money of the Israel lobby (which in Israel is called the "Jewish lobby") will make sure that that doesn't happen, which is a slap in the face to all those Jews who put justice ahead of ethnic/religious allegiance. Palestinian civilians like the Nasrallahs will continue to suffer gross violations of their human rights as a result.

  3. Stan Kreis

    By your logic, why can I not just call your investigation a sham. For you call Israel's investigation a sham and filmmaker Simone Britton's OK. Are you telling me that if Israel can lie, then Britton cannot lie?

    You also just make one canard about Jews after another: that there is a somehow subversive Israel Lobby, but no Arab Lobby. That Rachel Corrie was correct in her "insight" into politics, but mine is not. That Israel's activities in trying to defend itself is illegal under international law, but Rachel Corrie's activities or her Palestinian backers is not.

    Please source your accusations, give me their origin, then your grievances, if proven, will be for the good of the Palestinians, and not, as it stands with you, a one-sided lashan hora against Israel (and Jews) and a slap at true justice for the Palestinian people.

    I am sure you are a sincere person, and probably seek after the best for everyone. I can assume that you think you are protecting the soul of the Jewish people, and I can celebrate that, but you have to do better at backing up your admonitions with sourced facts. Otherwise, you simply make things worse.