There’s a Jewish concept of “tikkun olam,” which in Hebrew means “repairing the world,” and doing so in the pursuit of social justice, explained Igor Shteyrenberg, executive director of the Miami Jewish Film Festival.
In its 24th edition, the film festival – set for April 14 through 29, is introducing a new program that significantly represents the concept of tikkun olam.
The “Building Bridges/Breaking Barriers” program was designed to demonstrate the power that exists in the connection of Black and Jewish communities during this time of rising racism and anti-Semitism, Shteyrenberg said.
“The Miami Jewish Film Festival was built on diversity, inclusion and, especially, tolerance,” he said. “Opposing one form of racism means opposing all forms of racism and if we, the Jewish community, expect wider society to stand by our side in fighting anti-Semitism, then we must stand up and be counted when it comes to fighting racism towards the Black community.”
In its entirety, the festival will offer 145 films, through a mix of virtual and in-person screenings at the North Beach Bandshell, Miami Beach Jewish Community Center and Carpool Wynwood Cinema. Out of these films, five feature films and one short film make up the “Building Bridges” schedule, including “A Crime on the Bayou,” directed by filmmaker Nancy Buirski and executive-produced by entertainer John Legend.
Buirski, who is of Jewish heritage, said she has forever been aware that many Jewish people feel a connection with African Americans and their struggle. Her documentary tells the story of a bond formed between an unjustly arrested Black man, Gary Duncan, and Richard Sobol, a Jewish attorney who represented him in 1966 in Louisiana.
“Building Bridges” will also feature filmmaker Brad Rothschild’s documentary, “They Ain’t Ready for Me,” which focuses on Tamar Manasseh, who is Black and Jewish and the founder of Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killing in Chicago. Manasseh started the group, she says, after gang violence killed two 13-year-old Black boys in her neighborhood. She began sitting on a street corner to establish a constant presence meant to diffuse escalating gun violence in the community – and others started to join her, eventually giving out free food while acting as watchdogs, mentors and mediators.
“I live in a neighborhood full of Black people, not a neighborhood full of Jews. There’s no better advocate for the Jewish community for people in my neighborhood who rarely see someone who is Jewish that lives among them,” Manasseh says. “For me, it is about taking the mystery out of Judaism for people who never come in contact with Jews, and me representing the Jewish community in the Black community, and vice versa.”
The “”Building Bridges” films will be screened online. All Festival films will be available to stream for free starting Thursday, April 15, until Thursday, April 29. More information is available at MiamiJewishFilmFestival.org or by calling 305.573.7304.