Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Film Explores 21st-Century Judaism

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Film Explores 21st-Century Judaism

Article excerpt

Is your culture something that you are born into? Is it something your family and society pass along to you?

And to what extent can you impact your culture? Does changing it destroy it?

You can explore these questions tonight at the showing of "Punk Jews: Create YOUR Culture," an hourlong film presented by JFilm at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Melwood Screening Room in Oakland. After the documentary, there will be a question-and-answer session with producers Evan Kleinman and Saul Sudin, followed by a full-blown reception.

Here's a blurb from the movie website:

"Profiling Hassidic punk rockers, Yiddish street performers, African-American Jewish activists and more. ... Jewish artists, activists and musicians from diverse backgrounds and communities are defying norms and expressing their Jewish identities in unconventional ways."

They had me at "Hassidic punk rockers."

"Tonight's film is wonderful because it really pushes the boundary of what people think Jews, being Jewish and Judiasm are," said Kathryn Spitz Cohan, executive director of JFilm, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. "It's a film about young Jews and what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. But it's a universal message, and that plays into what our mission is. I asked the filmmakers on the way Downtown today what is the message of the film. They said, 'Freedom.'"

That bit about JFilm's "mission" is important. As Ms. Spitz Cohan said, "JFilm, which is the Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum, presents movies and guest artists from around the world on a year-round schedule for the purpose of exploring and celebrating Jewish culture. A broad range of offerings is designed to reach people of all races, religions, ages and abilities, and collaboration with other organizations brings in new audiences and expands JFilm's reach."

Based in Oakland, the group uses the medium of motion pictures to create a movement of information and understanding.

"We used to just be the annual film festival when I came on board in 2001," Ms. Spitz Cohan said, "but slowly and surely we've grown into a year-round programming organization. It became official in 2009, when we changed our name. …

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