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University of Colorado Boulder Program in Jewish Studies

Opinion: Is the Jewish Film Festival a Deliberate Response to Hate?

Celebrate diversity and foster understanding

Boulder Weekly writer Michael Casey called me with an interesting question. He wanted to talk about the Boulder Jewish Film Festival in relationship to the rash of anti-Semitic acts currently taking place. In particular, he wondered about the rash of bomb threats that have disrupted JCCs across the country, including our own JCC.

In fact, this was a topic I have been thinking about a lot and was therefore pleased to be answering the question.

I started with an anecdote. The day of our first bomb threat, in which we smoothly evacuated the building including the entire preschool, was a upsetting and disruptive. In the evening we had already scheduled a concert in Levin Hall, a tribute to the late Leonard Cohen performed by numerous members of the community. The concert was moving and profound, and all the performances were terrific. The audience loved it and told me so. I could not have programmed a more perfect evening in response to the dramatic reminder of hate. The answer to hate, of course, is always love and understanding, and our focus on the wisdom and words of Leonard Cohen put events in perspective, gave solace, and allowed us to come together as a community. Our ability to experience pleasure and to advance our understanding and appreciation of the world is not deterred by anti-Semitic threats. Quite the contrary.

Be inspired by a survivor who continues to make a difference

So the very next morning at our JCC early breakfast meeting to discuss our bomb threat, I shared with my colleagues that I came away at the end of the concert with a very strong feeling that our programs have great value in the community. They are healing, therapeutic, defiant; they strengthen us in our convictions and underscore our values. I am so pleased that ACE can be part of the positive response to hate.

I shared this with the Weekly reporter, and went on to talk about the film festival specifically – how I select the films, discuss them, and how they also underscore Jewish values. Many films present us with situations either historic or fictionalized that allow us to contemplate our own lives, society and relationships. They might be personally empowering, they may elicit empathy, they may offer a glimmer of hope or an insight that keeps us thinking for days.

Acts of kindness change lives for the better

I look forward to coming together over the next 11 days as we view and discuss films from around the world, and create a collective response to the threats we face as a community. The power of cinema is not be underestimated.

The outpouring of support from the Boulder community has been amazing. We are all deeply gratified to have friends standing with us. I hope to make more friends at the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, a place for open conversation and open hearts.

See the Boulder Weekly piece, “Better Living Through Cinema,” here.

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About Kathryn Bernheimer

Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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