“Given the rainbow muddle that is Jewish identity today—from born-again to secular and all the way to couldn’t-care-less—what does a Jewish film festival mean? A very big tent is what, to judge by some of the movies previewed in this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival.”
The quote is from a recent review in the Village Voice newspaper, but it could be applied to any number of cities because January seems to be Jewish Film Festival month. Along with New York, four other cities – Las Vegas, Baton Rouge, Atlanta and Jackson, MS – are holding festivals with a lineup of films that run the gamut from screwball comedy to historical documentary. Some festivals are larger than others (the Jackson festival has four movies, the Atlanta festival has 45), but no matter the number of films, each provides a great opportunity for people to come together and explore a variety of issues facing the Jewish Community worldwide.
Film festivals are a great example of what we call Destination Jewish Culture, which is part of our Public Space JudaismSM model. Most festivals are held at secular venues, so people don’t have to belong anywhere to see these films and they are open to anyone who might be interested. Since the barrier to participation has already been lowered, film festivals can become effective outreach tools. With good name collection techniques, such as raffle tickets, and dedicated follow-up, these events could go from a one time interaction to deeper and continuing Jewish engagement.
With such a large number of festivals to choose from, maybe more people will find the time to attend a screening or two. If so, we hope those organizing the events will recognize the outreach opportunity and take advantage. Either way, it’s exciting to see so many communities hold Jewish film festivals and showcase important movies that otherwise would rarely be seen.
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