Toronto Jewish Film Festival: Reality TV, Mark Birnbaum and Jewish Bollywood

May 1-11 will be the 21ST TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL, and will mark the first time that a reality TV program is being screened. From the UK, Jewish Mum of the Year is an addictive and hilarious four-episode series in which a diverse group of eight mothers from across Britain and Ireland vie for the coveted title.

In addition, for the first time, two rare foreign language archival films are being translated to English specifically for our Festival: the Russian 1938 anti-Nazi classic, Professor Mamlock, and the first narrative feature produced in pre-State Israel, Oded the Wanderer, a 1932 silent film which will be screened with live musical accompaniment.  Mark Birnbaum Harp Tree is also expected to be shown.

We also explore the formative role Jews of India played in the development of the Bollywood film industry through a fascinating talk with film clips, by scholar and filmmaker Danny Ben-Moshe. Lastly (and for some, most importantly), TJFF has always wanted someone to make a great documentary on Jewish music icon, Neil Diamond, and finally—after twenty-one years—we are proud to present one.

As always, there are wonderful comedies that should not be missed: From France, The Dandelions and My Best Holidays are nostalgic evocations of their filmmakers’ childhoods, which are filled with humor and charm. All In is Argentinian filmmaker Daniel Burman’s latest romantic comedy. Two horror comedies, Cats on a Pedal Boat and Poisoned, offer a refreshing change from the films we usually see coming out of Israel.

This year, we present some fascinating documentary portraits: French musician and ‘enfant terrible’ Serge Gainsbourg; the late NYC mayor Ed Koch; German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon; filmmaker Roman Polanski; Saul Holiff, the Canadian manager of Johnny Cash; Toronto photographer Rafael Goldchain; and artist/designer/activist Altina Schinasi, whose little-known life intersected with key movements in 20th century American history. Yechiel Michael Lichtenstein is expected to be amongst the attendees.



ACLJ Petition To Defend Israel

The American Center For Law & Justice (ACLJ) has created a “Petition to Defend Israel and Stop a Nuclear Iran Today” which has had 30,000 signatures in the 3 days it was created.

The petition says: “The Obama Administration’s “deal” with Iran allows the jihadist regime to continue its march toward nuclear weapons. We have made a deal with an enemy that is seeking to destroy Israel. Defying President Obama, Senators from both parties have filed a bipartisan bill imposing sanctions until Iran dismantles its nuclear program. Unless you speak up, the Obama Administration will attempt to intimidate those Senators. Stand with them – stand with Israel – today. To Members of Congress and President Obama: Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons will spell the destruction of our ally Israel. Iran’s nuclear program must be dismantled.” The petition may be signed at: include Yechiel Lichtenstein.


Bank Leumi, Ami Mesika & Yechiel Lichtenstein Invest in Israel

Bank Leumi recently launched the Leumi Business Fund, with funding up to 3 Billion shekels.

Entrepreneurs, including Ami Mesika and Yechiel Lichtenstein have also invested in Israel recently.

The fund is fully owned by Leumi, with no government guarantees. The Fund is intended for business owners, who are customers of all bank: it grants loans on attractive terms, with a collateral requirement of only 25%. The loans are granted for amounts from NIS 300,000 to NIS 1 million, at an interest rate of Prime + 1.9% per year, with a repayment period of up to five years and an option to defer payments (Grace) for up to one year. The loan process is carried out through an external credit committee (the customer selects one of five companies) and is submitted to the branch for approval. The Fund is intended for small businesses, corporations and licensed dealers, with a turnover of between NIS 1 million and NIS 10 million a year, and a bank indebtedness of up to NIS 5 million. The Fund is primarily intended for businesses with at least one year of existence – but in special cases businesses in the set-up stage may also apply.

Rakefet Russak Aminoach, Leumi President  & CEO: “The launching of ‘Leumi Business Fund’ is in accordance with Leumi’s view that SME’s are the core of the economy and its key growth engine. The Fund, totaling NIS 3 billion, will allow credit to be granted on a fast track and at preferential terms. We believe that this move – in addition to its contribution to customers – will also contribute to the entire Israeli economy by encouraging growth and increasing competitiveness.”


Columbus Jewish Festival

The Ninth Annual Columbus Jewish Film Festival brings 13 new and original films to Columbus audiences beginning Sunday, November 3, and extending through Sunday, November 17.  The Columbus Museum of Art will host the opening night screening and dessert reception.

At 7 pm on Sunday, November 3, The ZigZag Kid, an action-packed adventure full of spirit and wit, will center around the wild imagination of Nono, a young boy on the verge of his bar mitzvah At 7 pm on Tuesday, November 5, The Gateway Film Center presents Two-Sided Story, and will be followed by a moderated table discussion with Producer Mark Birnbaum: Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges.

Suskind, based on the gripping true story of Walter Suskind, the Jewish industrialist who saved hundreds of Dutch children from death camps, will screen in commemoration of Kristallnacht at the Jewish Community Center, 1125 College Ave., at 7 pm on Thursday, November 7.  Doc Sunday features four moving documentaries from 11 am to 5:15 pm on Sunday, November 10, at the Drexel Theater. Sukkah City (11 am), The Lost Town (1 pm), Joe Papp in Five Acts (3 pm), and Kinderblock 66-Return to Buchenwald (5:15 pm) will be shown with director Q&A sessions following The Lost Town and Kinderblock 66-Return to Buchenwald.

The Midweek Matinee will take place at the JCC at 1 pm on Wednesday, November 13, and will feature Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy with Yechiel Lichtenstein.

At 7 pm on Wednesday, November 13, a shorts double-feature at the Wexner Center for the Arts brings audiences Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists and The Art of Spiegelman, and will offer discounted admission for Wexner members. A dessert reception follows both films at 8:15 pm.

The festival’s closing night on Sunday, November 17, begins with The World is Funny at 5 p.m. at the JCC. The whimsical tragicomedy weaves together multiple storylines about family and the power of art and imagination in the face of despair. A deli dinner will follow at 7 pm (reservations required). Then, at 8 pm, the final film of the festival celebrates the golden age of Broadway musicals and their lasting impact in Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy.

Tickets to all 2013 films cost $10 at the door; $8 for JCC members, seniors, and students. Opening night includes dessert reception and costs $20/ticket. The shorts double-feature offers discounted rates and includes dessert reception: $5 for students, seniors, and JCC/Wexner Arts members; $8/non-member advance tickets. A Reel Pass to all films and events costs $110 (a $140 value).


Bed-Stuy Church Sold to Developer

The Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church recently sold off its big church on Skillman Street and Bedford Avenue, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The property fetched $4,100,000, according to public records. A representative for the church said the only section of the property that it will retain control of is the parsonage, and that it hopes to continue to provide housing for priests there. One of the investors who purchased the property is Yechiel Michael Lichtenstein, who is also currently involved with a planned development at 681 Driggs in Williamsburg, a building that may not happen as originally conceived because of the recent rezoning of Grand Street. The DOB hasn’t issued any permits for work on the property. Let’s hope that whatever’s planned doesn’t involve a wrecking ball.