“The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob” is getting a sequel. Meet “Rabbi Jacqueline.”
And now, a different kind of Jewish film festival. “In the Beginning Was a School…,” a two-part documentary celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, has its American premiere March 13 at the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival. Traditional in its visual presentation — talking heads intercut with archival footage, animation, video montage, and old black and white clips of maps that look like out-takes from Casablanca — this television production tells a story little known on these shores, even if legendary among the francophone Sephardic diaspora. Its director, Josy Eisenberg, is a prominent figure in France, known as host — for over 40 years! — of a television program on Jewish life, history, and culture, and as the co-screenwriter of the 1970s cult film comedy, “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob.”
At 76, Rabbi Josy Eisenberg is a longtime representative of Judaism for the French public. He is the genial host of the half-hour religious program “La Source de Vie,” broadcast in various formats since 1962, and he helped write the 1973 hit comedy film “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob,” starring comedian Louis de Funès. In France, Rabbi Jacob is still so popular that in 2008, comedian Patrick Timsit, of Algerian Jewish origin, directed a music stage version complete with a Hasidic rap.