Thursday, July 02, 2020

Despite our love for medinat Yisrael and its prominence in our homes and schools, demonstrated by the fact that it is often the destination for our vacations, the venue for our children’s gap years, the target of our philanthropies and, for the fortunate among us, the location of our second homes, Israeli politics and the sociology behind it may be an enigma. As we watch the gathering storms surrounding the upcoming unprecedented third elections, we are often unaware of the underlying currents and motivations causing such dissention.

On Motzei Shabbat, January 11, at Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Hedva and Gilad Goldschmidt of Jerusalem will address the community after a screening of “The Unorthodox,” by prize-winning Israeli filmmaker Eliran Malka. The film addresses some of the sociological issues and questions surrounding the elections.

The film takes place in Jerusalem in the 1980s and portrays an Orthodox single father, Yaakov Cohen, of Middle Eastern descent, whose daughter is expelled from her school for suspected ethnic reasons. With no money, connections or knowledge of how to spread his message, Cohen undertakes a campaign to restore pride to the Sephardic Jewish community in Israel. Together with two like-minded friends, armed only with determination and willpower, they set out on one of the oddest, most surprising and captivating election campaigns in modern-day Israel. Through their fiery efforts, the Sfarad’s Guards political party, known to us as Shas, was created and is currently one of the most influential parties in Israeli politics. After his historical and groundbreaking feat, Yaakov Cohen unobtrusively returned to work in his printing shop in the Bukharan section of Jerusalem.

Accompanying the showing of the film will be a discussion led by the Goldschmidts. Known as a “zug me’haseratim” which can be loosely translated as a “Hollywood couple,” these parents of five are totally committed to contemporary Israeli film, which is fast becoming one of the most touted film industries in the world. Gilad is a graduate of the Ma’ale School of Television, Film and Arts in Jerusalem. For the past 25 years, he has worked as an independent filmmaker, director and producer of films and advertisements for the Israeli government and a screenplay consultant and editor of TV programs for Israel’s Channel 2. Among his films is the TV drama “The Green Chariot,” which explores the life of a Russian immigrant ba’al teshuva and was aired in Teaneck through Lamdeinu last Yom HaAtzmaut.

Hedva served as the distribution consultant for the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund and is a regular speaker at major international film festivals worldwide. In 2005, she established her film distribution company GO2Films for which she serves as CEO. Hedva is the co-founder of Women of Faith for Peace, which was recently awarded the Venice Golden Lion Award for Peace for promoting special projects for the empowerment of Israeli women of all religions.

The Goldschmidts’ self-described mission is to widen the lens on Israeli society. “A mere 20 years ago, Israeli society was dominated by the suit-wearing Ashkenazic leaders, and it was their image which dominated Israeli films. In the late 1970s and 1980s the ‘revolution’ within Israeli society began with the dominance and establishment of political parties representing the ‘Second Israel,’ the Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews who had been largely undervalued until that point. Enter the filmmaking industry, which was able to promote this new population through tearing down stereotypes that had been created by white, Tel Aviv-based secular filmmakers. We want to represent the minorities in Israeli society to the general Israeli and international communities. We hope to highlight their special talents, skills, humor and worldviews. We are not promoting a perfect image but a realistic one.”

In the US, the Goldschmidts have addressed audiences in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Manhattan. During this trip they will be speaking in Teaneck and at Denver University.

“The Unorthodox” is Malka’s first feature film and to date has been shown to great acclaim at more than 60 national and international film festivals, garnering awards and accolades for this 2010 graduate of the Ma’ale School of Film.

“The Unorthodox,” featuring observant characters of Sephardic background, conveys a religious message through its warmth and sincerity. Having the opportunity to view this film against the backdrop of a discussion led by the Modern Orthodox Goldschmidts helps drive home the important message of this film.

“The Unorthodox,” followed by a Q & A, will be screened at Congregation Rinat Yisrael on Saturday night, January 11, at 8 p.m. The entry fee is $10 at the door.

By Pearl Markovitz