Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

IN OTHER WORDS…

Clash of Jewish Civilizations: “It is undeniable that the State of Israel is in economic crisis and that the country’s bloated budget must be slashed,” Moshe Schapiro writes in the May issue of The Jewish Observer, a publication of Agudath Israel of America. “The charedi community accepts that reality. But when one sees where the cuts are directed and how cruel they are, one must question the motives of the slashers.”

Amid debates that were contentious even by the Knesset’s famously boisterous standards, austerity measures were passed last month to slow the downward spiral of the Israeli economy. According to government statistics, roughly one in six Israelis currently lives below the poverty line, including about one-quarter of the country’s children. And in the first quarter of this year, unemployment reached 10.8%, a 10-year high.

While the poor health of the Israeli economy has necessitated fiscal shock treatment, Schapiro argues, the budget cuts effectively place the charedim, or ultra-Orthodox, in economic quarantine. “Whether by design or coincidence, the plan happens to severely and disproportionately incapacitate every single important pillar upon which the Torah community stands.”

Grants to religious institutions, he reports, are being cut by 10% this year, following a similar slashing last year. Government funding for schools with fewer than 100 students is being canceled, as are stipends for yeshiva students over the age of 27. “In other words,” Schapiro writes, “the scholars with the potential for Torah greatness will be cut off, period.”

The motive behind the budget cuts, he suggests, is nothing less than a declaration of culture war by Israel’s secular leadership against the ultra-Orthodox community.

“Is an all-out, no-holds-barred fight against Torah their real agenda?” he asks. “It is inconceivable that any other segment of the population would be so summarily, drastically and precipitously disenfranchised, with neither warning, gradualism, nor some kind of cushion or safety net to soften the blow.… One wonders how the designers of these draconian cuts could be unaware of other ramifications of their projected cuts targeted against the charedim. Do they truly want to force the exile of Torah study from Eretz Yisroel, and to compel serious students of Torah to transfer their pursuit of Torah knowledge to other countries?”

* * *|

Cinematic Single-Mindedness: “Are too many Holocaust documentaries now being made?” Barry Gewen bluntly asks in the June 15 issue of The New York Times.

The sheer number of Shoah-related works attests to the cinematic resolve to heed the call, “Never forget.” In the encyclopedic study “Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust,” Annette Insdorf lists 69 documentaries made on the topic since 1990 — in addition to the growing number of feature films. And for every documentary that gets distribution, she estimates, there are at least six that do not make the cut.

With all the Shoah-inspired works, Gewen reports, the genre may have reached a saturation point.

“Every Holocaust documentarian is working the same territory, and some critics complain that the basic plot line of the Holocaust has become too familiar by now to permit genuinely original work,” he writes. “We all know it: first the arrival of the Nazis, then the initial terror, then the rounding up into the ghettos, then the shipment to the camps, then the gassing and death or, alternatively, the humiliation, degradation, starvation, torture, gassing and death. And at this point, it seems, just about all that documentarians can do with the history is to fill in the gaps.”

Even as the supply of Shoah story lines has outstripped demand, filmmakers have continued to produce Holocaust documentaries. This cinematic single-mindedness, Gewen suggests, is attributable to the films’ primary audience: the documentarians themselves.

“Most of these films are made not for any commercial reason, and not really with an educational intent,” he writes. “They are works of moral witness.”

The impulse to script the horrors of genocide — a natural desire, Gewen writes, of “anyone with a relative who went through the Holocaust” — need not be constrained by genre or topic, according to several film scholars.

Historian Lawrence Langer is quoted as arguing that fiction films — such as last year’s “Grey Zone,” about the Sonderkommando forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz — can most accurately capture individual experiences, though he cautions that it “requires great courage and imagination to make honest fiction films about the Holocaust.”

Gewen, for his part, suggests that “the most fruitful avenue for documentarians” may be to place the “defining atrocity of our time” within a wider comparative and contextual analysis. “For filmmakers interested in examining man’s inhumanity to man or bringing it to public attention or simply bearing witness, there is no shortage of material.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.