Biography on TV pioneer opens Jewish film festival

Jewish Film Festival Schedule

“Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” (2009, U.S.A.): 7 p.m. Sunday, USA Cinema, Great East Plaza, Niles; directed by Aviva Kempner; 92 minutes; English.

“Walk on Water” (2004, Israel): 7 p.m. Oct. 22, USA Cinema, Great East Plaza, Niles; directed by Eytan Fox; 104 minutes; German with English subtitles.

Double feature: “In Search of the Bene Israel” (2008, U.S.A., India): 1 p.m. Oct. 25, The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown; directed by Sadia Shepard; 38 minutes; English and Hindu with English subtitles. “Blessed Is the Match” (2008, U.S.A.): Directed by Roberta Grossman; 85 minutes; English.

“The Secrets” (2007, Israel): 7 p.m., Oct. 28, USA Cinema, Great East Plaza, Niles; directed by Avi Nesher; 120 minutes; Hebrew, French and English, with English subtitles.

By Guy D’Astolfo

This year’s Youngstown Area Jewish Film Festival will begin Sunday with “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg,” a biography of television pioneer Gertrude Berg.

Berg was the Oprah Winfrey of her day. An Emmy–winning actress, celebrity guest on variety shows and Tony award-winner, she was also the originator and star of America’s first sitcom, “The Goldbergs.” The CBS show, which ran from 1949 to 1956, combined comedy and social commentary while introducing Jewish characters to middle America — particularly Molly Goldberg, the family matriarch.

The Jewish Film Festival, now in its seventh year, encompasses five films spread out over 10 days. The offerings are a mix of contemporary feature films, shorts and documentaries from around the world.

Screenings will take place at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown and USA Cinema in Niles.

Sponsored by the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies at Youngstown State University, the goal of the YAJFF is to entertain and educate the entire community about the Jewish experience.

The second film in the festival will be “Walk on Water,” an emotional thriller about a Mossad hit man who is shadowing the grandson of a Nazi war criminal.

The third offering is “Blessed is the Match,” a documentary about Hannah Senesh, a World War II-era poet and diarist who became a paratrooper and resistance fighter. She was captured and executed by the Nazis. “Match” will be presented as a double feature with “In Search of the Bene Israel,” a short documentary about the 3,500 members of the Bene Israel community — believed to be a lost tribe of Israel — who remain in Bombay, India.

The final film in the YAJFF is “The Secrets,” the story of Naomi, a gifted and pious daughter of an Orthodox rabbi and her rebellious quest for individuality. Naomi persuades her father to send her to an all-female Jewish seminary in Safed, an ancient center of Kabbalistic study, or mystical Judaism. There she befriends another free-spirited student, Michelle, and the two encounter a mysterious foreigner with a disturbing past. Attempting to purge the woman’s sins through Kabbalistic rituals, Naomi and Michelle embark on a risky journey into forbidden realms.

Admission to all films is $8 ($7 for seniors and $5 for students) at the door.

Festival passes are available for $24 ($21 for seniors and $15 for students). For more information or to buy tickets in advance, contact the YSU Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies at (330) 941–1604. Tickets also may be purchased at the Jewish Community Center, 505 Gypsy Lane, Youngstown.

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