Ghost of Rachel Corrie haunts the SF Jewish Film Festival

Rachel Corrie burns a mock U.S. flag during a rally in the southern Gaza town of Rafah in February 2003. photo/ap/khalil hamra

Rachel Corrie burns a mock U.S. flag during a rally in the southern Gaza town of Rafah in February 2003. photo/ap/khalil hamra

The SF Jewish Film Festival has for years been a source of pride for my mom. She enjoys the great films they screen, buying a pass most years, in addition to volunteering. My mom saves each program guide for me to review, often marking down films that she thinks I would have enjoyed and the films that she enjoyed. I have a pile of those program guides somewhere.

So on account of my mom, I am pretty familiar with the SFJFF. The Festival has screened an incredible selection of Jewish films from around the world, some of them controversial. And they have screened their share of anti-Israel films. (There are lots of Jews and others willing to pay money to watch films about just how terrible those Zionist Jews are.)

However, now even long-time supporters of the Festival are asking questions about the goals of the Festival, and its board of directors, after it was revealed that the Festival is screening Rachel and seems to have been hijacked for use as a political platform.

“Rachel,” a film about the dead American activist Rachel Corrie, and her activist mother, are headlining the SF Jewish Film Festival this year. The Israeli Consulate is furious, as are many local and national Jewish groups.

Peter Stein, the film festival’s executive director said in J Weekly:

“I know there are many members of the community who would prefer if the festival stayed away from programming films on difficult topics or topics of passionate division of opinion

“That being said, if we, as an arts organization, are going to remain relevant in our time, it really is part of our role to catalyze conversation, however uncomfortable it may be.”

Stein argues that he has brought lots of other controversial stuff. However, Mr. Stein, Rachel Corrie is different.

Corrie is a martyred saint to those who chant “Death to Israel” and “Zionism is Racism”. Corrie is a icon of the Palestinian Resistance whose photo hangs along side those of suicide bombers. Corrie is a hero to those who want Israel gone and replaced by a bi-national state without a Jewish character.

Including the film and her mom Cindy, who have appeared at Israel Hate Weeks nationwide, and at UC Irvine’s week-long program, “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust,” is asking for, is planning for, enormous controversy, disunity, and acrimony.

Some might argue that Stein is good at his job. He is keeping the world focused on his film festival. Amid budget cuts, recession, and global troubles, he has gotten the Jewish community up in arms both in support and in disgust. I wonder how the Festival funders feel about the Festival becoming a platform for political turmoil?

Critics are pointing out that this screening is also creating huge publicity for a marginal group Jewish Voice for Peace, whose acting national director Rachell Pfeffer, now sits on the board of the SFJFF. J Weekly writes that, “Local chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace… and the American Friends Service Committee… and others who have taken up the cause of the people of Gaza, signed on to help the festival promote “Rachel” to their constituencies.”

Meanwhile, the Festival board and all of their sponsors have been barraged by emails and criticism. They realize now that they hit THE MOTHER OF ALL FLASH POINTS for the pro-Israel camp – St. Rachel. They are trying to include one of the detractors to deflect some of the criticism and don’t understand why they are being singled out for such scrutiny. After all, in Israel people debate all kinds of things, why not here in America, you can hear supporters of the Festival say. It is true, in Israel, they have all kinds of detrac

tors, and critics. However, the stated goal of those that promote Rachel Corrie and her mother are not benign nor constructive. They seek the dismantling of the Jewish state of Israel. Even Cindy Corrie herself is a pawn in a much larger game of destroying support for Israel among average Americans, liberal Christians, and on college campuses.

This whole episode coincides with the Three Weeks, a time that Jews have been divided by our enemies, and have historically treated each other with scorn and hate. This hatred led to the destruction of the Holy Temple. This hatred tears at the fabric of the Jewish community, and helps alienate already alienated young Jews who don’t know what to think or feel about being Jewish. Israel’s detractors scored a major victory this week.


17 of Tammuz and Healing the Planet

Today is the 17th of Tammuz – historically a Fast Day, and day of introspection and mourning.

“The 17th day in the Jewish month of Tammuz, Jews the world over fast and lament to commemorate the many calamities that have befallen our people on this ominous day.
The purpose of such fasts in the Jewish calendar is, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov’s Book of Our Heritage, “to awaken hearts towards repentance through recalling our ancestors’ misdeeds; misdeeds which led to calamities…” “

Recently – The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on this day in 5704 (1944) and in 5730 (1970) Libya ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.

We have a really hard time imagining that our actions can have such massive consequences in spiritual realms. However, we easily believe that our actions count when it comes to social justice or ecological terms. We recycle, we are turning to green products, we write letters about injustices in the world that we are not committing, but feel obliged to help stop. We are on the forefront of efforts to save, preserve, defend and believe that our actions however small – have an affect.

When it comes to the spiritual realm, we balk. We figure that what they said 2000 years ago about people not caring for one another, or people worshiping idols as causing the destruction of Israel – well they were just trying to pull a lesson from inexplicable tragedy. Really, we have no idea why these terrible things happen, have happened, still happen.

And it is partially true – we do not know the “why” of modern tragedies. However, we do know the “why” of ancient tragedies because our prophets told us so. Today we are poor, without prophets, without vision. However, we can look back to those ancient days, reflect upon the nature of what happened to the Jewish people, the pain they suffered, and seek in our day to fix that which was broken.

The 17 of Tammuz is not a call for everyone to keep the Sabbath – though that would be great to have a day where the world rested. Today we are offered a chance to work on the issues that created the tragedies of old, and renew our effort to change ourselves and the world. Baseless hatred caused the end of the Second Temple – animosity between Jews that was so great it destroyed us.

Showing love for our fellow Jews, and for humanity today – and every day – bring the spiritual balance back to the world that we lost so many generations ago. Kindness, compassion, caring, honoring – if we can infuse our world with more of this spiritual goodness, we will reap the benefits. The spiritual acts that we perform have global impact. An act of compassion for another person will bring peace faster than all the bottles we recycle. Transcending our own selfish needs and recognizing the humanity of the other – the 17th of Tammuz is a call to action in a spiritual campaign to heal the planet.

When Jacko went to shul

Hat tip to Stewart Wax, Happy Minyan, LA

Article taken from the NEW YORK POST, Sat. Oct 02, 1999


Michael Jackson got his wish of attending a joyous synagogue service – thanks to the magic of Uri Geller.

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JtweetLA: LA’s First Jewish Tweet-UP


Join us for LA’s first (that we know of) Jewish Tweet Up. Taking place on Wednesday July 8th at La Gondola at 9025 Wilshire Blvd. between 5:30-7:30 pm in Beverly Hills, it’ll feature some of LA’s most prolific Jewish bloggers as well as a 10% discount on whatever you order. Enjoy this opportunity for face to face interaction with people you may have been following on twitter but never met, or find new and interesting people to follow OR just come out for a good time. I know it sounds kind of geeky, but when the wine starts to flow, the possibilities are endless! this is especially true when you consider the diverse nature of our sponsors, namely JConnectLA, Jumpstart, the LA Jewish Chamber of Commerce, Jewtube and of course, Jewlicious!

Hopefully we’ll see you there. Tell all your friends!