🤠 The Jews of the Wild West
Two films I saw at the New York Jewish Film Festival and a Deborah Lipstadt sighting.
Before we dive in, here’s a neat Shabbat story:
Last Friday, I was on the Upper West Side viewing the New-York Historical Society’s Jewish deli exhibit (more on that in a future post!). It was a weird time of day - just a few hours before Shabbos - where it was too early to dress in nice Shabbat clothes, but too late to go home before sundown. I was in a pickle (pun intended): I wanted to go to services after the exhibit but didn’t want to show up to my usual religious service in jeans, even though they wouldn’t have cared and would have been happy to have me. So I chose a shul in the neighborhood at random (anyone ever shul hop?) which describes itself as non-denominational.
The services didn’t stray too much from tradition which I appreciated, unlike that one Yom Kippur service I wrote about. Beautiful space, and it was the first time I had seen signers translating a service into sign language. But it felt too familial so I felt out of place and missed my community of young professionals.
However, it just so happens I was praying that night under the same ceiling as Deborah Lipstadt: historian, author, educator, and every Holocaust denier’s worst nightmare! A force to be reckoned with, she once took a Holocaust denier to court, portrayed by Rachel Weisz in the 2006 movie Denial. Currently serving as the US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Antisemitism, she was in town to give a speech at the UN. You never know what famous Jew will drop in on your Shabbos! Maybe next time I’ll see Natalie Portman davening in the pews.
Which brings us to this week’s drop. I went to last month’s New York Jewish Film Festival and sadly only previewed two films, but they were incredible and vastly different from each other and I want to tell you about them!
“Jews of the Wild West”
This was a documentary by non-Jewish filmmaker Amanda Kinsey covering the migration of 100,000 Jews to the Wild West between 1840-1920. It was so fascinating that I wrote a piece on it for Jewish Unpacked. Check it out!
One of the exciting tidbits of news I teased last week is that I am now a contributing writer for this informative and educational Jewish website, so expect more articles from me there. Yeehaw!
“Jews of the Wild West” begins streaming on Amazon March 3rd so be sure to check it out!
“Where Life Begins”
This fictional drama follows an Orthodox family who travels from France to the Calabrian countryside to help with the annual etrog harvest for Sukkot. The plot gets juicy when the daughter of the family, Esther, grows jaded with the idea of an arranged marriage and her religion in general, and falls in love with the farm’s owner, a darkly handsome Catholic divorcé, Elio, who feels just as conflicted as Esther.
The plot isn’t original, and stories of leaving the faith have grown all too popular in the media for my taste. But what makes this film stand out is its script with powerful dialogue of doubt and identity, sweeping scenes of Italian farm life that make you want to book a flight there immediately, and the calming soundtrack that I can’t find anywhere on the Internet except for this song from the trailer below. Also… that mechitza scene. #iykyk
I’m not sure where you can see this movie, but if you ever get the chance, it’s worth a watch if anything for the music and scenery and Elio’s eyes.
Jewish Americana, anyone? Texas native Joe Buchanan is a country rock musician who converted to Judaism when he found out his wife was Jewish 13 years into their marriage. Converting to Judaism helped answer all his questions about his faith, and more. Now he blends his passions of music and Torah. Check out his country twang version of the Shabbat song, Hine Ma Tov:
Jewish Texas cowboy Kinky Friedman is a satirical country star that gave us hits like “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore” with his band, Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys.
Composer Oscar Weil of German-Jewish parents moved to San Francisco in 1868. He co-founded the San Francisco Institute of Music. Below is the only ditty of his I could find. Shabbat Drop field trip to the Jewish Museum of the American West, anyone?!
That’s all, folks! Shabbat Shalom!