‘The Jewish Experience’: Films find multiplicity of cultures – Rutland Herald

Posted By on July 10, 2022

Resilient Ethiopian Jews and their immigration journey to Israel; the mystery of whether Pancho Villas famed raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916 targeted a Jewish shopkeeper; dynamics between two small Jewish communities in Cochin, India; the Cuba to Catskills Mambo dance craze of the 1950s, and a Mambo party the 2022 Stowe Jewish Film Festival takes viewers around the world in stories of Jewish communities.

This seventh festival, a project of the Jewish Community of Greater Stowe (JCOGS), features four recently released documentaries. Three films are screened in Stowe Yerusalem and The Missing Tale at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, The Mamboniks at JCOGS with a tent for the finale dance party with mambo and dance instruction. The fourth, UnRaveling, is at the Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield.

Interviews with filmmakers and others follow most of the films. Online viewing is available. The festival runs July 13-31.

The festivals theme is The Jewish Experience: a multiplicity of cultures, languages, countries, traditions and colors. Patterns of immigration have taken Jews all over the world, melding and merging, creating hybrid cultures and complex identities.

Jews live around the world, and not everybody understands what Judaism is. The festival is an opportunity to build greater understanding of Jewish culture and traditions as well as the religion, said Bobbi Rood, of Waitsfield, a member of the Festival organizing committee.

The films introduce audiences to Jewish communities on three continents and across more than a century. In telling the diverse stories, they also shed light on these communities histories Jewish immigration to the American Southwest through the port of Galveston, Texas; Jews from Spain to India more than 500 years ago; and the more than 2,000-year-old Beta Israel in Ethiopia.

These films show us how Jews live, who are Jewish people, said Rood.

In Yerusalem: The Incredible Story of Ethiopian Jewry, 2021 documentary by Israeli filmmaker Levi Zini, audiences meet descendants of an ancient and isolated Jewish tribe in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israel, house of Israel. Widely considered exiles in Ethiopia, they persevered in their traditions and religion, holding a deep yearning to emigrate to Israel.

In 1985, a clandestine airlift known as Operation Moses, transported thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. With the geographical journey achieved, in their new home they found that they needed to prove their Jewishness and find their place in society.

Did Pancho Villa really try to kill my grandfather? And if so, why? is the question that led filmmaker Stacey Ravel Abarbanel to embark on her exploration in her 2021 film UnRaveling. Ravel family lore and longstanding local rumor recounts that Mexican General Pancho Villa targeted her grandfather and his brothers when he raided their hometown on the Mexican border in the 1916 Battle of Columbus, New Mexico.

The rumor claimed that Villa was angry with Sam Ravel a Jewish immigrant and local merchant over an arms deal gone wrong. Ravel and Brothers, a Columbus all-purpose store, sold everything from bananas to bullets, grapefruits to guns.

Villa led the attack on Columbus on March 9, 1916, capturing arms, horses and equipment looting houses and businesses, but were pushed back by the 13th Cavalry Regiment.

The filmmaker considers her family history, but also a much broader picture of Jewish immigration and the border region.

Filmmaker Klra Trencsnyis just-released 2022 film The Missing Tale considers two small Jewish communities in Cochin, India, Paradesi Jews and Malabar Jews. The communities arrived in India several centuries apart and have remained distinct.

The film includes an interview with Sarah Cohen, proprietress of Sarahs Hand, a shop with yarmulkes, prayer shawls and other Jewish necessities. Cohen, who died at age 96 in 2019, was descended from Jewish refugees who arrived in India from Spain five centuries ago. She was one of seven surviving Jews in the Paradesi community.

Among the Malabar Jews is Elias Babu Josephai, owner of a pet shop, who is trying to renovate his communitys synagogue.

The Mamboniks, a 2019 documentary by producer Lex Gillespie, looks at the mambo and how this hot dance from Havana became a craze in New York City and the Catskills in the 1950s and 1960s, bringing Jewish and Latin cultures together on the dance floor.

Gillespie brings together archival film and interviews with dancers many still on the dance floor today. Marvin Marvano Jaye returned to Cuba with the filmmaker his previous visit to the island was in 1959. Mambo Judy Friend was introduced to the mambo in the Catskills in her youth. The film exuberantly shows the power of dance to bring people together.

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'The Jewish Experience': Films find multiplicity of cultures - Rutland Herald

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