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Jewish Federation shows international films

The Greater Altoona Jewish Federation will begin its 21st annual Jewish Film Festival next week.

The four-week, international festival will begin Thursday at 5:30 p.m. with wine, appetizers and dinner at the Agudath Achim Social Hall. At 7 p.m., the film will begin at the Penn State Altoona Devorris Downtown Center on the feature documentary about the legacy and themes of the broadway classic “The Fiddler on the Roof.” Jewish Federation member Neil Port organized local musicians to perform live numbers from the musical: “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” before the film.

Bill Wallen, executive director of the Jewish Federation, said that they try to bring films that would not otherwise be shown in Altoona theaters.

“Each season we try to bring a variety of films that will either educate or entertain or both,” he said. “It’s not just for the Jewish community — about two-thirds of attendees are from the general community.”

Wallen noted that the regional event has attracted residents from Blair and the surrounding counties, including students from local colleges like Saint Francis and Mount Aloysius.

The idea for a film festival originally came from the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Arts (SAMA). According to Wallen, Michael Tomor, former executive director, and Barbara Hollander, Altoona Site Coordinator, reached out to create an event that would furnish the community amid a winter-time dearth of cultural and entertainment activity. This festival is modeled after Jewish film festivals in larger cities.

Upcoming shows will feature films from the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. Past presentations have included works from Israel — a country which, according to Wallen, has a fast-developing film culture.

“When we first started, we had a difficult time finding films with Jewish content in them and a difficult time finding films produced all over the world,” Wallen said. “Now, there are many more choices.”

“It’s a really good opportunity to learn about Jewish culture, Jewish history and Jewish entertainment. We’ve got a very loyal following and get new folks every year.”

The schedule for the 4-week festival is as follows. More information to come:

“Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles”

Thursday, Feb. 20

When “Fiddler on the Roof” opened on Broadway in 1964, it explored themes of tradition, religion, and anti-Semitism against a modern backdrop of radical social change that addressed gender roles, sexuality, and race. Rare archival footage and interviews with musical luminaries explore the legacy of this long-running, award-winning musical.

“Who Will Write Our History”

Thursday, Feb. 27

In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decided to fight back. Led by Emanuel Ringelblum (code name Oyneg Shabes), this clandestine group vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda not with guns or fists but with pen and paper.

“Denial”

Thursday, March 5

Based on the acclaimed book “Denial: Holocaust History on Trial”, DENIAL recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s legal battle for historical truth against David Irving, who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier.

“The Keeper”

Thursday, March 12

Bert Trautmann is a WWII German soldier and prisoner of war who winds up in the UK against a backdrop of British post-war protest and prejudice. When he wins the position of goalkeeper for Manchester City’s soccer team, his signing causes outrage among thousands of fans, many of them Jewish, but he then receives support from an unlikely advocate.

If you go:

What: “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” presented by the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation

When: 5:30 p.m. dinner and 7 p.m. showing, Thursday, Feb. 20

Where: Dinner at the Agudath Achim Social Hall, Film at the Penn State Altoona Devorris Downtown Center

Tickets: $5 for the film, $25 for film and dinner. Reservations required and available by calling the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation office at 515-1182.

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