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Probing the American Jewish Experience in Film
Contact: Maria Terrone
Director of Communications
(718) 997-5591
Maria Matteo
News Assistant
(718) 997-5590



FLUSHING, N. Y., April 27, 2004 -- “The history of cinema in America is intrinsically connected to Jewish history,” says Eric Goldman, author of Visions, Images and Dreams: Yiddish Film Past and Present, and co-chair of The American Jewish Experience as Reflected in Film: A National Symposium, to be held at Queens College on Sunday, May 16, 2004. “Jews have been deeply involved in American cinema from its inception. They have been producers, directors, writers, actors and production crew. They have also been the subject of films, sometimes peripherally, sometimes centrally.

In recognition of this history, and commemorating the 350th anniversary of American Jewish history, the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College is sponsoring this unique symposium to be held at the Lefrak Concert Hall on campus on May 16, 10 am. to 9:30 pm., with a supper break from 5 to 7:30 pm.

This national symposium adopts a somewhat different approach and perspective on the topic of Jews and film. “Films often serve as a mirror to society, frequently reflecting and exposing the times in which they are created,” says event co-chair Benny Kraut, the director of the Center for Jewish Studies, director of the Jewish Studies Program, and professor of history at Queens College. “Our one-day conclave explores how American cinema reveals and helps us understand the American Jewish historical experience at specific intervals during the 20th century.”

Following an opening session evaluating the historical reasons for Jewish entry into the film and entertainment industries, subsequent sessions analyze films from different eras that capture the American Jewish social and cultural reality of their day. Nationally renowned scholars, critics, and filmmakers, in presentations augmented by film-clips and audience participation, will probe these themes, stimulating thinking and conversation about the evolving American Jewish community over the last century.

Films to be discussed include The Jazz Singer, Mr. Saturday Night, The Pawnbroker, and Avalon. Among the participants are Steven Allen Carr, David Desser, Lester D. Friedman, Eric A. Goldman, Eleanor Hamerow, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Rachel V. Lyon, Leonard Quart, Neal Slavin, Donald Weber, and Evan Zimroth.

The 2001 film Focus, starring William H. Macy and Laura Dern, will be screened during the final session, followed by a discussion with the film’s creator, Neal Slavin. Focus was based on the 1945 Arthur Miller novel of the same title, which explored social perception and discrimination in 1940s America.

“We have some of the most knowledgeable and dynamic experts on Jewish themes in cinema leading discussions at this event,” says co-chair Goldman, film program curator for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research at the Center for Jewish History and artistic director of the Jack Wolgin Jewish Film Festival in Philadelphia, as well as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Queens College. “The panels will touch upon many themes of interest to those interested both in Judaica, film or both.”

The admission fee is $25; $15 for matriculating Queens College students. The fee includes admission to all sessions, buffet lunch, and mid-afternoon refreshments. To register and obtain a reserved seat, call the Colden Box Office at 718-793-8080. Supper on the campus may be purchased for an additional fee of $20. Supper reservations must be made only through the Center for Jewish Studies, 718-997-5730, and must be prepaid by May 7. All food and meals are kosher. Later registration will be accepted between 9 and 10 am the morning of the event in the Concert Hall foyer. Queens College is located at 65-30 Kissena Boulevard in Flushing.

For further information on the program and bios of participants, please visit: or call the Center for Jewish Studies at 718-997-5730.


 Office Information

Deputy Director of News Services
(Position vacant)

(718) 997- 5597

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services
Queens Hall, Room 270B
(718) 997-5593

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