The cinema provides a unique vehicle by which one may closely examine Jewish history. Dr. Eric Goldman uses film as text to explore the changing nature of Jewish life over the last century. By including film clips in his presentations, Eric Goldman helps us understand how film reflects the Jewish experience.
Dr. Goldman has been a scholar-in-residence and lecturer across North America and around the world. He has given talks in synagogues, middle and high schools, film festivals, colleges, JCCs,
and for various organizations. He lectures for UJA/Federation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Ruderman Foundation, and for the Wexner Foundation.
By analyzing select mainstream films from the beginning of the sound era until today, one can use the medium of cinema to provide an understanding of the American Jewish experience over the last century. The fact that Jews have been so predominant in the movie business makes cinema such a wonderful text for study and analysis. Through film clips and discussion, we will learn how filmmakers created and packaged their own unique concept of the Jew- as filtered through their own consciousness. (One, Two, Three-part Talk, Mini-Course or Scholar-in-Residence).
Israeli movies provide an intimate insight into Israel’s birth, growth and development as a country. The cinema provides an ideal “lens” by which we gain a greater understanding of Israel’s history, culture and the challenges to its existence. This lecture examines the changing nature of Israeli society as reflected through its cinema. (One, Two, Three-part Talk, Mini-Course or Scholar-in-Residence)
Despite the accolades that Steven Spielberg has received- most recently the Golden Globe awards for Best Director and Best Motion Picture for The Fabelmans- his full body of work is often underrated. This talk studies and analyzes his motion pictures, focusing on elements that make his movies so unique and how his Jewish background and life experience have deeply influenced his films.
Israeli television has caught the interest of Jewish viewers, along with a broad swath of Americans, as greater numbers turn to streaming services for entertainment. Whether it’s SHTISEL, FAUDA, TEHRAN or more than a dozen others, these programs offer relatable stories in new and unique settings, with production standards on par with American television. How did Israeli TV evolve and why have these programs attracted so much attention? Also, what do their stories tell us about a changing Israeli society?
Since World War II, Hollywood filmmakers have repeatedly, often reluctantly, explored the hate that will not die. Some, particularly members of the North American Jewish Establishment, were fearful that raising the issue might cause greater harm than good. Would it create an anti-Semitic atmosphere? How have those explorations changed over time? The issue of anti-Semitism as subject for cinema has always been hotly contested and a study of the films is quite revealing. Most recently, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Lynn Novick, Sarah Botstein, Ken Burns, Barry Levinson, and Spike Lee have stepped forward to use cinema to fight bigotry.
An exploration of how cinema reflects memories and experiences of the Holocaust as well as how it affects and shapes our understanding of the Shoah. The talk reviews how filmmakers in some countries immediately went to task to represent the Shoah on film, most notably in central and eastern Europe, while others were in denial. Most recently, such films as Defiance, In Darkness, Inglourious Basterds, Sarah’s Key, Ida, Labyrinth of Lies and Son of Saul show that this film genre remains a powerful force for better understanding the Shoah. (Lecture or One, Two or Three-part Mini-Course)
The years after World War II should have been a time when Jews found great comfort in America. Yet despite America’s victory over Nazism, Jews continued to remain concerned about anti-Semitism and the various restrictions and quotas that limited Jewish inclusion. The Cold War, hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee, McCarthyism, and the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg impacted how Jews felt and reacted. But a variety of U.S. Supreme Court decisions helped break down many of the barriers and a number of films reflected a changing environment.
Yiddish cinema was the product of a changing world and a desire to hold onto traditions and ideals that were being questioned by the majority of Jews. While Hollywood’s filmmakers presented a picture of the American ‘melting pot’ and their own desire to assimilate into American society, Yiddish filmmakers celebrated the beauty and particularity of Jewish life and culture. The lecture will trace the history of Yiddish cinema from its early years as a showcase for Yiddish theater in Eastern Europe through its Golden Age in both Poland and the United States in the 1930’s through today’s renewed interest.
In 1980, Belgian filmmaker Samy Szlingerbaum wrote and directed Brussels-Transit, the first Yiddish feature-length narrative to be made in thirty years. Since that time, filmmakers in France, Israel and the United States have turned to Yiddish as the central language of their films. In 2011, Eve Annenberg’s Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish opened in New York and two years later, Naomi Jaye’s Canadian production The Pin was released. In 2014, Amos Gitai’s Israeli film Tsili with Yiddish as the primary spoken language was released and productions like Menashe and The Vigil were respectively released in 2017 and 2019. Just why is there renewed interest and what are the various factors that have brought about new Yiddish filmmaking? The lecture will show how each sphere-- Europe, Israel and America-- is impacted by different circumstances.
Israel's creation in 1948 was a story virtually made for Hollywood — a persecuted people rising heroically from the ashes to found a country of their own against extraordinary odds. From the beginning, Hollywood filmmakers tackled the subject of Israel’s birth through a series of powerful films, like Sword in the Desert and The Juggler, culminating with such classics as the 1960 Exodus and 1966 Cast a Giant Shadow. This lecture takes a look at this fascinating period for America’s Jews and the nascent State of Israel.
A study of the evolving work of Woody Allen from his early films through today. The lecture examines how Allen has struggled with his own Jewishness over the last five decades and how he has used the cinema to cope with his own ambivalence as a Jew. Some of the films to be studied are Love and Death, Sleeper, Annie Hall, Zelig, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Deconstructing Harry, and Cafe Society.
Jewish characters and stories are much more commonplace today in World Cinema than ever before, and not just in films about the Holocaust. The lecture explores the changing place of the Jew in cinema stories, the initial reluctance by European and South American filmmakers to take on Jewish stories and how the cultural and political climate of the 1970s and 80s forged a change in attitude. Of particular interest, is the growing interest in Germany and Poland by non-Jewish movie-makers to take on Jewish themes in their work
Throughout the post- World War II period into the late 1960s, France took no responsibility for its collaboration with Nazi Germany and its participation in sending Jews to the death camps. "Vichy France was not France!" Then, French filmmakers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, took charge and forced a reevaluation by the French people and its government of its collusion with the Nazis in the Hololcaust. The lecture, with film clips, looks at how that change took place and which films and filmmakers brought it about.
Eleven of Philip Roth's novels have been adapted to film and there are more to come. Throughout his work, he inserted his Jewish background, growing up in Newark. This is a lecture, with film clips, focusing largely on the autobiographical nature of Roth, as reflected in his work- a Jewish man growing up in post-depression New Jersey. Films discussed include Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy's Complaint, The Human Stain, American Pastoral, Indignation, and The Plot Against America..
Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch in 1916 in upstate New York, went to Israel twice to make important films about the Jewish State, The Juggler and Cast A Giant Shadow. After a near-fatal helicopter crash late in life, he embraced his Judaism and at age 83 returned a third time to have a second Bar Mitzvah and be honored at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Having appeared in nearly ninety films, we will look at his work and the various roles he played, both on-screen and off.
As a youth, Academy-award winning director Barry Levinson had Holocaust-survivor relatives stay at his family’s home. Their visit made a great impression on him and he inserted such a visit in his 1990 film classic, Avalon. Now, Levinson has just finished a new film, The Survivor, about a concentration camp inmate who was made into a boxer for the entertainment of his Nazi guards. The film is more about how this survivor tackles his new life in America, than it is about what happened during the war. These movies and other films by Levinson, like Diner and Liberty Heights, provide great insight into the American Jewish experience, the subject of this lecture with film clips.