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August 15, 2003

Film Festival Promoted By Top-Notch Publicists

As one of the publicists for the Israel Film Festival in Chicago, this year and last, I would like to extend an invitation to Forward film critic Daphne Merkin to call us anytime (“Exporting Homegrown Culture: Can Israeli Cinema Go Global?”, August 8).

I am sorry she had a difficult encounter with other Israel Film Festival publicists. We are not, as she writes, “inept,” nor are we “brusque.” We bend over backward to work with our Chicago-area press, and for that matter with anyone who calls — in the only way we know how: as consummate professionals. We work this way on behalf of all of our clients.

I would be happy to provide Merkin with a list of Chicago-area and national print and electronic press we work with on an ongoing basis, from major dailies like the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, to the area’s Jewish publications, The Chicago Jewish News, Jewish Star and JUF News. Our office works regularly with noted and respected area and national film critics, including Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. This year, the festival was fortunate to have two wonderful honorees: Chicago Sun-Times columnist and CBS entertainment reporter Bill Zwecker and actor-writer-director Harold Ramis. They were wonderful spokesmen. (Okay, maybe they were “heavily accented spokesmen,” as Merkin writes — those Chicago accents, after all, can be very difficult to understand.)

We have wonderful and very hard-working chairs and committee members, fundraisers and supporters who are committed to the festival’s success in Chicago, as are the very hard-working staff members of the Israeli consulate to the Midwest.

It is not our job to address what directors shoot, writers writer and producers produce in Israel. Nor is it our job to select the films shown in Chicago for the Israel Film Festival.

But it is our job to make it as easy as possible for the media to pre-screen the films, to have clearly written press material, provide photos, betas and public service announcements to run on television, set up and facilitate interviews, and secure as much coverage as possible.

Cheryl Lewin

John Iltis Associates

Chicago, Ill.

Define ‘Christological’

An August 8 letter writer, in criticizing Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion,” argues that “When filmmakers with a Christological agenda fail to accept this responsibility [for antisemitism], the blood that may result is indeed on their hands” (“Apologetic for ‘Passion’”).

I’m not exactly sure what “a Christological agenda” is, but I know inflammatory language when I read it.

It is nothing short of amazing that the only people who are bashing Gibson’s movie are the ones who have never seen it. Moreover, this is a film about sacrifice and redemption — not hate. To attribute hate to Gibson is singularly irresponsible.

William Donohue


Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

New York, N.Y.

Social Democrats’ Stand

I visited the “single mothers” encampment across from the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem a few weeks ago when I was in Israel (“Budget Crusade Pits Single Mom Versus Netanyahu,” July 25).

I watched it grow from a few tents to an encampment, from one woman’s courageous walk to an outpouring of women from all parts of Israeli society. I watched Vicki Knafo evolve into a leader. The Forward is correct in noting that many jumped on her bandwagon, but she is a determined woman and knows that she represents many women and a social agenda that includes the welfare of all of Israel’s citizens.

But most important, and rarely mentioned in the articles about Knafo, is that this is the last struggle taking place between Thatcherite economics and the social-democratic state.

Lilly Rivlin

New York, N.Y.

Misreading the Talmud

There is a fundamental flaw in the August 1 analysis of the relationship between the Kamtza-Bar Kamtza story in the Talmud and contemporary rabbis’ response to the plight of agunot, or chained women (“Ancient Tale of Mistaken Identity Sheds Light on Divorce Dilemma”).

Putting aside the fact the Forward’s interpretation of the story is inconsistent with the talmudic text, the article’s use of the tale as a springboard to attack today’s rabbis is unwarranted.

Essentially, the article argues that rabbis today should ignore or change Halacha to solve all problems facing agunot. Even the Forward’s flawed analysis of the Kamtza-Bar Kamtza story does not support this conclusion.

To be sure, one can understand the concern for the plight of the agunot. Indeed, such feelings are shared by rabbis of all generations and all other serious religious people. Nevertheless, that compassion does not justify a baseless attack on contemporary rabbis, an assault that is certainly inconsistent with the teachings of Tisha B’Av.

Julius Berman

New York, N.Y.

Schep Naches for Bubbe

My wife and I were thrilled that a photograph of our chupah was selected for to illustrate an August 1 article (“The Do-It-Yourself Ethos of ‘I Do’”).

However, we were disappointed that credit was not attributed to my wife’s wonderful grandmother, Barbara Rosenblum of Boynton Beach, Fla., who lovingly crafted the chupah for us. The canopy now hangs over our bed, a constant reminder of our wedding day and the love of one grandmother for her granddaughter.

Shawn Weil

Columbus, Ohio

Call War by Its Name

It has been so disheartening to read Leonard Fein’s recent columns about the war in Iraq. The July 25 column demonstrates his apparent disregard for the end of torture, atrocities, mass graves, pervasive fear and generally distressed state that the Iraqis have been forced to live under for decades (“This Time It’s Our War”).

I have long been an admirer of Fein. I helped select him many years ago as our first scholar in residence. I was a regular reader of Fein’s Moment magazine. As a former member of the Commission on Social Action, I was pleased when the Reform movement appointed him as the new director. My political sympathies have been Democrat-leaning, and it is fair to say that I am basically a liberal.

Nowhere in his columns, though, does Fein even acknowledged the complexities of the situation in Iraq. Instead, he leaps to premature indictments of what he thinks is happening in post-war Iraq, with little regard to contrary reports appearing almost every day in the newspapers — and despite the fact that the “war” is still going on, as evidenced by continual troop mortality reports. All this, apparently to justify his one-sided position that the “war” was a big mistake.

At what point does the threat against us become “imminent?” At what point should our protectors act to prevent another September 11? With all due respect, this is the crux of the matter. And polemics do not help the debate.

John Schlager

Springfield, N.J.

Help Fund Day Schools

The August 8 article in the special section on education reporting on how a down-turned economy is hurting Jewish day schools was thoughtful, well developed and informative (“Day Schools Learn New Math During Economic Downturn”).

I invite all Forward readers to rise to the challenge of helping fill the budget gap at your local day schools. All Jewish day schools in North America — community, Orthodox, Reform and Conservative alike — strive to ensure that a new generation of Jews will come to appreciate and celebrate what it means to be a Jew. This is truly holy work and it warrants the philanthropic support of each and every one of us.

Send a check to a Jewish day school, and in the memo write that you were inspired to give by the Forward!

Marc Kramer

Executive Director

RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network

New York, N.Y.

Disastrous Demolitions

It is sad that the American public generally is not informed of the inherently discriminatory practices regarding home demolitions (“The Particular Poignancy of Tisha B’Av, This Year in Jerusalem,” August 8).

Our media is only partially attending to the issue, as it seems to focus on the occasional home demolished of known terrorists, and not of the ordinary Palestinian families who are systematically deprived of building permits to expand or build on land they own.

We are often told here in the Diaspora that the State of Israel is a model democracy where all citizens and residents are treated equally. Yet this is difficult to believe when Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem are routinely demolished due to political motivation rather than as a result of the fair application of housing law. It seems to me that common sense and logic would conclude that a policy that leaves many Palestinians homeless is a prescription for disaster.

Esther Wolf

Seattle, Wash.

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