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Flickering Lights: Jewish Movies That Have Impacted Us – Feb 8th, 2019 Sermon

Flickering Lights: Jewish Movies That Have Impacted Us

By Rabbi Boaz D. Heilman

February 8, 2019

Festivals have always been community-wide events meant not only for entertainment, but also for celebrating any number of the community’s traditions or cultural aspects. Jewish Americans today have music festivals, arts-and-crafts festivals, religious festivals, and of course, food festivals. These are wonderful occasions for rejoicing or reminiscing, for seeing what is new and beautiful, and for tasting a variety of fares from different countries and cultures.

Additionally, however, Jewish festivals also serve yet another important function: to bring together Jewish people; to let them interconnect, exchange ideas and thoughts.

In the past few years, a new kind of festival has become popular: the Jewish Film Festival.  More than other festivals, the Jewish Film Festival serves an additional function: to let us see ourselves the way others do. As we sit there, in the dark, watching and listening, we can recognize ourselves, both individually and as a community. Simultaneously, we also decipher the trends, the direction, and in general, the current state of the Jewish People.  Movies are a powerful medium.

An end-of-the-year tradition among literary pundits is to list the most important events of the almost-over-year. In a similar vein, knowing that the New Hampshire 2019 Jewish Film Festival will be coming to theaters in just a few weeks, I would like to put forth my own, very personal and very opinionated, nominations for the most influential Jewish movies that I have seen—not only in the past year, but actually over the past few years.

I will focus on movies that came out after the Holocaust, categorizing them by topic or era.  Keep on reading!

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2018 TBI Shem Tov Award Recipients

Barbara Malcom Katz and Karen Calmon Lukeman of Temple B’nai Israel were honored on October 7th, as our 2018 TBI Shem Tov Award recipients. The Shem Tov (good name) awards were created by the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire to recognize volunteers from organizations across New Hampshire who have provided outstanding service to the Jewish community. TBI elected both Barbara and Karen for the time and effort they have both have put in for the benefit of the temple as well as the community at large. They have worked on publicity for the temple’s We Care concerts (which donate the net proceeds to deserving local non-profits) and the Jewish Food Festival (both cooking and doing PR for it…it attracts about 600 people yearly), as well as other activities for the temple and the community.

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On Chanukah

By Rabbi Boaz D. Heilman

At first blush, it would seem that Chanukah is yet another of those ancient Biblical holidays that have to do with, they tried to kill us, they didn’t succeed, let’s eat.

How wrong that is!

First, Chanukah (however you spell it) is not a Biblical holiday. It was instituted by the Talmudic Rabbis sometime in the 4th or 5th century. Though the events it commemorates took place many centuries earlier, when the Bible was still in the process of being compiled, the story doesn’t appear anywhere within the authorized Scriptures.

And yes, they (the Greeks, that is) tried to destroy Judaism by forbidding not only Jewish worship and rituals, but also through the teaching and learning of Torah and Hebrew.

But it never was about latkes and applesauce, or sour cream, or whatever side dish you like with your favorite fried vegetable. All that came later. Much later.

Originally, way in the days that preceded both the Greeks and the Jews, it was a festival of lights, with rituals intended to bring back the light and warmth of the sun. However, even that changed through the ages. It’s still about lights, but also about so much more.

It’s about Jewish survival despite all odds.

Today, when we see anti-Semitism on the rise again, we are reminded that we are still surrounded by the darkness of prejudice and hatred. Yet hope shines through. We survived every attempt on our existence (though the unimaginable numbers of our martyrs give sad evidence to our history as a persecuted minority). Today, whether the hatred comes from anti-Zionists or neo-Nazis, from the political left or the Alt-Right, we can find hope in the support and friendship of our many friends, Jewish and Gentile.

We saw that support in Pittsburgh, site of the horrific synagogue shooting, with members of the Muslim community raising a generous sum of money to help out the families of the victims. We saw that support in the letters, emails, calls, hugs and flowers that were delivered to our houses of worship. Every synagogue throughout the country, every community that held memorial vigils and special services, experienced incredible turnout.

Over and again, we were reminded that the oldest hatred cannot win out in the end, that Love is stronger than hate.

Jewish celebrations are rarely without a few tears shed. It will be the same this year.

And yet celebrate we will. With lights, songs, games and — yes — special foods.

At Temple B’nai Israel in Laconia, our Chanukah celebration will take place on the weekend of December 7-9. Friday evening, we will have a community dinner for members, children and grandchildren, followed by a special family service. Saturday evening, TBI will host our annual Chanukah party with more candles, food, games, prizes and Israeli dancing. With each year and each celebration, we say Shehecheuanu, the prayer thanking God for enabling us to exist, live and reach joyous times yet again. The Jewish People has learned not to take its existence for granted. Gratitude is the least we could offer in return.