For the first time, a delegation of Beit Berl film students and alumni travelled to the United States to present their short films to local Jewish communities. The jury is still out on who enjoyed more: the students or the American audiences.
The Beit Berl Film Department received the red-carpet treatment at Jewish communities in the U.S. during a series of well-attended events featuring Beit Berl student films. The short films that were screened portray important yet little-known issues within Israeli society, and are testaments to the college’s commitment to encouraging diverse perspectives and a nuanced view of Israel.
The delegation from Beit Berl included Thekra Mekalda, a 22-year-old film student from the Israeli Arab city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, whose dramatic short film “Girl on a Bicycle” depicts a young woman who wrestles with her culture’s traditional values. Tomer Lahmy, a Beit Berl alumnus, screened his poignant short film “Gazlan,” about an ice-cream truck driver who meets a Sudanese refugee in the desert near the Egyptian border. The delegation was led by Sarah Kreimer, Director of External Relations at Beit Berl College.
The first stop was Boca Raton, where the delegation was hosted by B’nai Torah Congregation, the largest Conservative synagogue in Florida. Rabbi David Steinhardt and his wife Dr. Tobi Steinhardt, along with Ellen Safran, arranged home hospitality for the Israeli visitors, with the Steinhardts personally hosting Thekra. Altogether four short films by Beit Berl students were screened at the event in Boca Raton, which was attended by approximately 200 members of the local community. Rabbi Steinhardt remarked, “You and your students elevated the understanding of Israel!”
In Miami, the delegation was the guest of the Miami Jewish Film Festival, CAJE, the Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and the University of Miami Hillel. The screening marked the first time the festival included student films. Finally, the students screened their films in Philadelphia at the Reform synagogue Congregation Rodeph Shalom. The Philadelphia event was sponsored by Richard Berkman and Toni Seidl and funded in part by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Israeli Cultural Fund.
“The trip was a dream,” says Thekra. “I was surprised by the amount of love I received from the American audiences. They listened to me, asked many questions, and really understood me and my movie. When I entered Beit Berl, a whole world opened up to me. My film crew, Jewish students from the Film Department, and I became like family; and now this trip made me feel really appreciated.”
The Film Department of the Faculty of Arts–HaMidrasha at Beit Berl College is among Israel's leading film and film education programs, bringing new voices and new faces to Israel's flourishing film industry.
If you are interested in hosting a similar event in your community next year, please contact Sarah Kreimer: email@example.com