After two years away from its longtime home at the Castro Theatre, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival was back at the iconic movie theater last month. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
After two years away from its longtime home at the Castro Theatre, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival was back at the iconic movie theater last month. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

Film fest responds; Don’t hold Jewish food event on Tisha B’Av; etc.

Jewish film fest responds

The Jewish Film Institute, presenter of the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, understands that some in the community were disappointed that this summer’s 42nd SFJFF did not offer screenings in Palo Alto, as the festival had done in recent years (“Disappointed film fest fans,” Letters, July 20).

JFI’s staff and board share in this disappointment, and we look forward to a future season when we are again able to present films for our loyal and valued community on the Peninsula as well as in Marin.

The past few years have been tough, not just for the JFI but for filmmakers, the arts and the movies in general. In 2020, our longtime Peninsula venue, the CinéArts at Palo Alto Square, closed permanently due to the pandemic. The closure, coupled with the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, prevented JFI from securing another venue in the area for 2022.

The SFJFF was thrilled to return with robust programming to theaters in San Francisco and the East Bay July 21-31. Your support in this pivotal year will enable us to expand our footprint in the years to follow.

For our audience members on the Peninsula and in Marin who weren’t able to travel to the SFJFF, we were pleased to offer a selection of dynamic films and programs to stream at home Aug. 1-7 at

Lastly, we want to hear from you about what you’d like to see at future editions of the SFJFF. If you’d like to share your suggestions or thoughts about new venues and new ideas, please contact us at [email protected].

Nate Gellman
JFI Director of Development and Communications

SFJFF’s history in Palo Alto

Thanks so much for your “From the J. Archives” story looking back at the formative years of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (“Tracing the growth of the SFJFF from 1980 to 2022,” July 21).

Here is more about what happened behind the scenes in regards to securing a Palo Alto venue.

In 1996, the Peninsula iteration of the S.F. Jewish Film Festival was initiated by a cohort of community leaders, with Stanford professor Steven Zipperstein and philanthropist Laura Lauder at the helm. They organized a meeting with the SFJFF to pitch the idea of adding an additional location for the program. As director, I was thrilled!

Encouraged by their enthusiasm and financial support that seeded the first year, associate director Sam Ball and I made it happen at Stanford’s Cubberley Auditorium. It was one of those great moments of synchronicity and teamwork that led to a very successful inaugural event. People came, and the most controversial conversations were about the observant community’s passionate plea to not start Saturday’s opening night until after sundown.

The loss of the CinéArts at Palo Alto Square reflects the sad state of art house cinemas in a pandemic climate of “sheltering at home” with the comfort of movie-streaming digital platforms. As we cautiously return to a public life, it would be forward-thinking to form a new partnership to underwrite the costs of the SFJFF’s return to Palo Alto. I am betting that a reboot would be welcomed.

Janis Plotkin

Where is my family’s story at film fest?

Congratulations to Deborah Kaufman for all the accolades she received over the years upon founding the first Jewish Film Festival in 1980 and for its success over the subsequent 42 years (“Tracing the growth of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival from 1980 to 2022,” July 21).

Although I might have missed among the extensive number of movies shown over the years, I have yet to view a personal-story film about the 800,000 Jewish refugees from any of the various North African nations (such as Egypt) who were expelled from their respective Muslim countries after the “Sinai Campaign,” and who managed to integrate successfully as refugees in the U.S. and around the world.

That exodus was my family’s story.

Esther Salem
San Francisco

Am I ruining summer camp?

I was equal parts embarrassed and amused while reading Forward editor Jodi Rudoren’s essay about bad camp parenting this summer (“My generation of parents is ruining sleep-away summer camp,” online, July 18).

Yes, I may have saved CampMinder pictures of my child’s backside appearing in a crowd of dozens. And yes, I may have lost sleep speculating on the meaning of my other child’s expression in more than one picture.

But does this make me responsible for ruining Jewish summer camp?!

My own camp career began with a month at Camp Young Judaea West at age 7 and continued into my 20s. My parents could only speculate as to what I was up to for the month or two I spent away from home each summer. They had no idea if I won the camp-wide Maccabiah or if I was ditching t’filot. I was fine with that. And so were they.

So why am I such a mess now that my kids are off to Jewish sleepaway camp?

I have been doing some soul-searching, trying to find the reasons behind my neurotic behavior, my calls and emails to camp, and late-night group chats with the other moms. I was not like this the first two summers my eldest spent at camp. And I don’t consider myself a helicopter parent. So what happened?


For the past two and a half years, our children have been navigating childhood during a global pandemic. They spent the first year schooling on a screen, limited to a couple of friends, unable to hug their grandparents, and rationing toilet paper. They have missed out on birthday parties, weddings, b’nai mitzvahs, graduations and countless rites of passage associated with being a kid. We are into year three, and the kids are still being forced to miss out and make sacrifices. (Yes, #FirstWorldProblems acknowledged.)

As parents, we have tried to keep them safe, happy and healthy. We have created alternative celebrations. We have worked our butts off to provide them with a sense of normalcy in a completely abnormal world.

So why am I freaking out about my child’s unenthused expression in a photo or my other child’s activities while in “modified Covid quarantine”?

Because we have been waiting all year for our kids to have a few weeks of childhood, away from their parents’ hushed conversations about the latest Covid mutation, the deteriorating air quality, which global conflict has escalated and which freedom has been stripped away.

These kids have been resilient enough, and we want them to simply have fun and be happy.

Meanwhile, we have forgotten all of the crap that went down at camp when we were kids — watching our counselor’s eyes swell shut from poison oak, friends being sent home for smoking pot, having our hearts broken. It was never all perfect. It was camp, and we loved it.

Fortunately, I only have around 100 pictures to scroll through nightly from Camp Tawonga, which I will continue to do as soon as my phone alerts me to their presence. But I will forgive myself my “bad camp parenting” this summer and will try to do better next year, when all three of my kiddos will be old enough to splash in the Tuolumne river, learn about Jew witches at chugim, and go wild at the evening song sessions.

Melissa Quiter

A deranged curriculum

Why do you suppose some California school districts are adopting the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium’s end-run around AB 101 (“Hayward schools sign contract with ‘Liberated’ ethnic studies group,” online, July 28)?

According to an archived version of an LESMCC webpage titled “Preparing to Teach Palestine: A Toolkit,” the primary goal of Zionist organizations is “to stunt the development of authentic anti-racist curriculum to ensure an Israel-friendly analysis. They want to prevent teachers and students from making connections between the U.S. and Israel as white settler states, or apartheid-era South Africa and the current apartheid in Israel.”

It should also be kept in mind that, according to an article posted on the Hoover Institution’s webpage (,

“ … there is no significant evidence these [ethnic studies] courses boost student achievement … in a state where more than 80 percent of Hispanic and Black students lack proficiency in mathematics and science.”

What interests are actually being served by a curriculum in which Arab Americans are classified by the LESMCC as among “Asian and Pacific Islanders,” but Jewish Americans from the Middle East do not fall in this category?

Julia Lutch

Bad day for good food

A recent J. food article made my mouth water when I saw the delectable date-filled menena with a hint of rosewater I used to taste after watching my Nona make them and helping her decorate each piece of dough with special pincers before baking (“Sephardic cookies at L’Chaim food and wine fest,” July 18).

As a Sephardic Jew from Egypt, I can rarely find these delicacies anywhere in the Bay Area.

Naturally, I was excited to see that the maamoul ( as the Sepharadim from Syria call them) would be sold at the L’Chaim Napa Valley Jewish Food and Wine Festival on Aug. 7.

However, then I noticed that the festival falls on Tisha B’Av — an inauspicious date for us Jews regardless of from wherever in the world we came.

I was disappointed to have to miss it this year, but I hope next year’s event will take place on a happier Jewish calendar date.

Esther Politi
San Francisco

Food fest excludes observant Jews

This past weekend, I was excited to see an advertisement in J. for L’Chaim Napa Valley, a Jewish food and wine festival with entertainment, music and dancing (and of which this publication is also the media sponsor). Then I noticed the date, Aug. 7, which also happens to be the day this year on which Tisha B’Av falls.

For roughly two millennia, Tisha B’Av has been the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, commemorating far too many tragedies that have befallen our people. Traditional observance encompasses many mourning practices, including complete abstention from food and water for the entire 25-hour period. A festival of food, wine, music, dancing and celebration is the antithesis of these practices; scheduling such for this date signals either a lack of awareness of, or concern for, our people’s history and traditions.

Further, it excludes the portion of our community that observes Tisha B’Av. In the future, I’d encourage the organizers and sponsors of events for the Jewish community to check the Jewish calendar and choose event dates that respect our history and traditions, and are inclusive of our entire community.

Joshua Reich

Antisemitism on both sides

The famous Longshoreman philosopher, the author of “The True Believer,” Eric Hoffer once wrote: “Far more crucial than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know.”

From J.’s recent article “BDS group’s map of Jewish Boston shows up on local neo-Nazi’s livestream” (July 18), we know that both the far left (exemplified by the Boston Mapping Project) and the far right (by the Goyim Defense League) hate Jews and Israel.

Unfortunately, there is much more to this balanced “there is antisemitism on both sides” routine that the media and multiple Jewish organizations “do not want to know.”

There are three major factors contributing to the not-so-balanced Jew/Israel hatred.

First, as Warriors’ fans love to say, “Strength in numbers.” There are the progressives of the far left who almost cast a spell over the entire Democratic Party, plus members of the BDS movement and multiple groups of young pro-Palestinians; overall, their numbers far exceed the number of the far right’s KKK and Nazi sympathizers.

Second, the far left is nowadays gaining political power. In May, seven members of Congress’ lower chamber, all Democrats, co-sponsored HR 1123, the Nakba resolution, which erases Jewish people’s connection to their ancestral land. Meanwhile, the far right has no clout in our legislative body.

Third, there is a vast ground, within our educational system, ceded to BDS, Students for Justice in Palestine and other pro-Palestinian activists who harass and intimidate Jewish students. Under screams and threats, American students are somehow concerned only about Palestinians and the evils of Israel.

Ukraine, Tibet, gays and women rights in Arab countries, etc. aren’t on their charts.  For the far left, Israel and Jews together form the black hole that devours the world’s benevolence.

Of course, the antisemitism of the far right must be condemned in the strongest terms, but the antisemitism of the far left deserves to be castigated far beyond a simple balancing act.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

Biden askew on Palestinians

President Biden observed that “Palestinians are hurting, you can just feel it.” Perhaps it’s time to look at what their leadership does to the people who live in the West Bank and Gaza, instead of assuming that their unhappiness will be solved if they have a state of their own (“Biden says ‘ground is not ripe’ for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as he announces new Palestinian aid,” online, July 18).

According to UN Watch, Hamas and the PLO regularly engage in torture of anyone who disagrees with their politics. Biden could have at least called out Abbas about the use of torture on those who live under his rule in the West Bank or with the continuation of education of children to hate and to kill Jews, and he could have tied his aid to reforms.

With a state of their own, the Palestinians will not have a change in government, unless the West Bank Palestinians vote to have Hamas rule them there, as well.

I would certainly like to hear that Palestinians and the Israeli government want a two-state solution, but I am not hearing that from either side.

If it does come into being, it certainly will not be the liberal democracy that so many people think it will be. There is no history of democracy in the Middle East, except for Israel. Ignoring the torture by Abbas of his own people means that the U.S. will continue to support Abbas and Hamas with funds that keep their oppressive policies in place as their agenda of terrorism against Israelis continues.

Biden chose to focus on the death of the Palestinian American reporter in Jenin, based on speculation that Israel was responsible for her death, instead of focusing on reform in the Palestinian’s “pay to slay” program.

There is very little reporting on the terrorist attacks on Israelis, as opposed to the volumes that have been written about the Palestinian reporter who was killed during an extremely violent situation she chose to cover.

Lack of balance in reporting has led some Americans to believe that the Palestinians are only innocent victims instead of murderers of Israelis who scream, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” So much for a two-state solution.

Dorothea Dorenz

J. Readers

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