Moshe cannot be blamed if he’s a little bit confused. The kippa-clad Ethiopian immigrant protagonist of Zion Rubin’s 2001 film “Caravan 841” cannot figure out why his mother has not yet joined him in Israel. As he anxiously awaits the arrival of his only living parent, 11-year-old Moshe must cope with the imminent closure of the resettlement trailer camp where he lives and fend off efforts by a social worker to ship him off to boarding school. Meanwhile, as if Moshe’s life weren’t complicated enough, his two mentors, a fervently Orthodox rabbi and an African-American jazz musician, tug him in radically different directions.
“Caravan 841” is one of several short films dealing with the Jews of Ethiopia being screened at the 8th New York International Sephardic Film Festival at the Center for Jewish History. Although Ethiopians are not technically Sephardim, this year’s festival, the theme of which is “Sephardic Crossings,” casts a wide net.
The eight-day festival also features movies from Israel, the United States and Europe that focus on the Jews of France, Greece, Iraq, Morocco and Turkey. The festival is sponsored by Sephardic House, the American Sephardi Federation and Yeshiva University Museum.