06 August 2014

IAJGS2014: Day 5

Thursday was a busy day at the conference for those, like me, involved in Ukraine SIG.

Eric Goldman, PhD.: "Cinema as Medium for Jewish-American Identity-Making" and Ukraine SIG luncheon

At 7:30 A.M., Goldman, adjunct professor of cinema at Yeshiva University and Fairleigh Dickinson University and Ukraine SIG's invited conference speaker delivered an interesting talk about how cinema has depicted Jewish people and the development of their comfort with life in the United States. He drew from several films including Young Lions, a 1958 movie with Montgomery Clift, and Barry Levinson's Baltimore series (especially, Avalon and Liberty Heights). 

In the 1950s, the emphasis was on America accepting Jewish people in the society. Jews were unsure if they would be accepted. Goldman holds that Levinson's movies from the 1990s were the first to address Jewish families and their adjustment to the USA. One of the themes is "I belong here." Although, in starting the movie with the young immigrant's first steps into Baltimore, there continued to be no real exploration of our relationship with the old country.

Goldman's luncheon talk focused on the movie Everything is Illuminated as a vehicle not only for writer Jonathan Safron Foer's journey, but also for its director, Liev Schreiber's, exploration of his roots in eastern Europe.

Both talks left one with a great deal to think about as well as a new perspective from which to view the films. I am anxious to see a couple I have not seen before and to re-screen those I had seen previously in light of Goldman's analysis.

Of note: In September, Goldman will be co-host with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies for the month-long series (23 films) "The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film."

Janette Silverman, PhD.: "Ancient Documents Shed Light on Modern Research" and "Ask a Question or make an Appointment"

I have known Janette Silverman and her excellent genealogical work for several years and it was an honor to introduce both her talks about the Archives and Special Collections one may access at the Jewish Theological Seminary's Library. Janette walked us through the Library's Special Collections website and interesting documents such as ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts that are often quite beautifully decorated) and other community records. I imagine I was not the only one in the room who will plan a pilgrimage to the JTS Library next time I am in New York City. 

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