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When accessing our news or social media resources in the year 2020, it often felt that there was no end to the daily happenings of a politicized pandemic, economic downturns, or even violence-driven desperations. In light of the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic, virtual events have become convenient and often essential to societies’ communal reciprocities. Now more than ever, we see a need to build connections to find inspiration and hope in a world that is well-versed in brokenness.
The largest annual Jewish cultural event that is open to the public in the Spokane area, called the Spokane Jewish Cultural Film Festival, has been hosting beautifully inspired and culturally enriching films for 17 years. In previous years, auditorium halls hosted the film festival within the Gonzaga University campus, but due to social distancing requirements in 2020, the event was held virtually.
We interviewed Neal Schindler, who has been the Director of Spokane Area Jewish Family Services for over six years. When asking him about the festival’s main goals this year, he shared that they hope this particular year of virtual showings will allow for more diverse viewing capability. “We are hoping to find more interest from local viewers outside the Jewish community,” states Schindler.
Because of the unique lineup of virtual film streaming, the SJCFF can provide filmmaker introductions and post-film Q&As through Zoom. The introductions are a special and significant addition to the viewing experience of these culturally diverse films.
In light of the recent anti-Semitic vandalism on Temple Beth Shalom on Monday, February 8th, 2021, creating a space where non-Jewish folks can interact with the Jewish community is a unifying opportunity. This year’s film festival aims to do just that. As local communities support this festival, the filmmakers, and the local Jewish community when they engage with this virtual viewing experience, they play a part in bringing “Hope in a Broken World,” as this year’s festival theme would suggest.
Film Highlights for the SJCFF – 2021
“The Crossing tells the story of the adventurous 10-year-old Gerda and her brother, Otto, whose parents are in the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II. One day, just before Christmas in 1942, Gerda and Otto’s parents are arrested, leaving the siblings on their own. Following the arrest, they discover two Jewish children, Sarah and Daniel, hidden in a secret cupboard in their basement at home. It is now up to Gerda and Otto to finish what their parents started: to help Sarah and Daniel flee from the Nazis across the border into neutral Sweden and reunite them with their parents. The Crossing is a film about the confidence, uncompromising loyalty, and great courage you can find in even the youngest of children.”
This film is produced primarily from a child’s perspective while following along the tragic setting of such historical events—a must-see for finding extravagant hope in those presumed unlikely and sometimes unseen vessels.
“Incitement – In September of 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin announces the Oslo Accords, aiming to achieve a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians after decades of violence. Yigal Amir, a law student and a devoted Orthodox Jew cannot believe that his country’s leader will cede territory that he and many others believe is rightfully — by the word of God — theirs. As the prospect of a peaceful compromise approaches, Amir turns from a hot-headed political activist to a dangerous extremist. Consumed by anger and delusions of grandeur, he recruits fighters and steals weapons to form an underground militia intent on killing Palestinians. He soon learns of an ancient Jewish law, the Law of the Pursuer, that he believes gives him the right to murder Rabin. Convinced he must stop the signing of the peace treaty in order to fulfill his destiny and bring salvation to his people, Amir’s warped mind sees only one way forward.”
This film showcases an extremist living day by day in tumultuous events and feeling pushed to radicalize. Incitement contrasts societal brokenness with the rhetoric of a peace movement fueled by hope.
How can you participate?
Please note: Due to distributor requirements, most of the films are restricted to Washington and Idaho viewers; some are limited to viewers in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
*If you live outside these areas but would like to attend the festival, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 509-747-7394.