The Toronto Jewish Film Festival, screening online October 22 – November 1
The Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) is one of the best attended Jewish film festivals in the world. With 85 films featured in a typical year, it is also one of the festivals showing the most features—including narrative, documentaries, shorts, and archival screenings.
This past spring the festival went completely online and approximately 40 films were screened. The October online festival will also feature 40 films , and with some improvements. Films will now be available for 48 hours rather than just 24, and accessible across Ontario rather than Toronto (click here to see the lineup and here for the programme guide).
There’s a number of free offerings —check out the short Absolutely No Spitting— and a refreshing number of queer films (Sublet; Minyan; Army of Lovers; Shiva Baby) as well as Mizrahim representation, which is lacking in Jewish films (Ma’abarot: The Israeli Transit Camps; Labor, Rebellion, Upheaval), and even a special programme of Yiddish shorts. Add the festival to your calendar and follow TJFF on Instagram and Facebook. And be sure to catch the Zoom Q & As with directors on the TJFF website—these can all be viewed even without purchasing tickets.
I’m a programmer for the festival, so you may even see me!
My favourites so far:
Army of Lovers in the Holy Land by Asaf Galay
Shiva Baby by Emma Seligman (also screened at TIFF and Inside Out LGBT Film Festival)
Breaking Bread by Beth Elise Hawk
Films I’m most looking forward to watching:
Love & Stuff by Judith Helfand (also screened at Hot Docs Festival)
Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance by Shari Rogers
Picture of His Life by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir
J-Flix is the best-kept Canadian Jewish secret Created by TJFF in 2017 to commemorate its twenty-fifth anniversary, the recently revamped J-Flix is a free online streaming platform exclusively featuring Jewish content.
What constitutes Jewish content is fairly subjective, but selections generally feature Jewish characters or Jewish themes. Arts & Culture, Women Front and Centre, LGBTQ2, Middle East Relations, and World War II are just some of the topics the films on the website explore. With over 100 films—including, of course, Canadian content—there is something for everyone!
Doing Jewish on Social Media
If you’re a Jewish millennial, chances are you have seen hey alma on social media. Their Instagram account is my all in one daily dose of Jewish humour, insight and news.
As a self-proclaimed “Jewish feminist publication, full of chutzpah”, their intentional intersectionality is a welcome resource.
Their Tuesday “Jew or no Jew” is my absolute favourite and I never improve at it! I love finding out about celebrities’ Jewish background; not being able to tell if someone is Jewish by their appearance is absolutely worth reinforcing.
For more long-form articles, check out its website for pieces as wide-ranging as “I Threw My Cat a Cat Mitzvah” to “How a Holocaust Survivor’s Book Helped This Rohingyan Refugee Survive Brutal Detention”.
Trying to learn Hebrew for what feels like the 100th time? Same!
Has watching Shtisel got you itching to touch up your Hebrew? I don’t know about you, but my Hebrew language skills have definitely declined since my Sunday school days. In the past few years, I dabbled in language apps to try to touch up on my French (somewhat rusty) and pick up some Hebrew (so rusty I think it corroded).
I tried out Duolingo and Memrise (both free apps) but found that I liked Mango Languages best (free with a public library card). You likely have more free time than you used to, so why not spend a couple minutes a day learning some new vocab? If you’ve enjoyed Unorthodox, Mango also has Yiddish, but if you’re more interested in learning Ladino (which is unfortunately nearly extinct) there are other resources as well.
Visual Arts meets Virtual Arts
Art and Scroll Studio was born out of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. It is a Zoominar series featuring interviews with creators and makers of Judaica. This project comes from Calgary’s Temple B’nai Tikvah Adult Education programming and is intended to promote the appreciation of Judaic art and design in a wide variety of media and Jewish artists.
The three founders, Shelley Werner, Caron Glickman, and Michele Doctoroff, express that “one of our goals at Art and Scroll Studio is to create a diverse community of people all over the world who are passionate about or want to learn more about Judaic art. We allow our viewers the rare opportunity to raise questions directly to the artists.”
The next artist interview is with Pamela Feldman-Hill on October 26 and you can get your free tickets here. Find Art and Scroll on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with their series and catch Milt Fischbein’s interview November 10, and, and Galia Goodman’s on December 1.
Learn more about the initiative here.
Conversations with Artists
If you read last month’s edition of Arts and Kvetch (read it here if you missed it!) you would have seen my mention of the Koffler Centre for the Arts, which focuses on arts and intercultural dialogue. One of their upcoming series is the Fall 2020 Books & Ideas Series, and runs from September 29 to November 30 — find out more about the writers and activists featured here. The Books & Ideas series is not new, however the free and virtual nature of the series is.
The themes being addressed this fall are youth activism, food, culture, politics, and environmentalism. Adam Eli was featured recently, and I’m most excited to see culinary historian Michael Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American History in the Old South. He is featured on many YouTube channels such as Townsends, discussing ‘Culinary Injustice’ and ‘Kosher Soul Food’.
Thanks for reading the second round of Arts & Kvetch. Do you follow @hey.alma, attend TJFF, or regularly tell yourself you’re going to relearn your Hebrew?
Comment below to share what has helped and I hope you found something useful in this article. You can find me on Twitter at @LaraBee713 and on the podcast Watch the Film With Us (or @WTF_WithUs on Twitter). And of course, don’t forget to donate to your favourite cultural organizations (tzedakah!). Art and culture make the world go round.
Header image design by Orly Zebak.
Lara Bulger has a deep-rooted commitment to the arts. With a Bachelor’s degree in Music with minors in Film and English, plus a Master’s Degree in Arts Leadership, she is passionate about the capacity of art to bring about social change. Lara is currently pursuing her PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, focusing on documentary film and its social, political and cultural impacts.