The JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival is proud to present a brand-new film series that examines the history, stories, experiences and legacy of American Jews from the earliest days of moving pictures to present. We will look at how Jews are portrayed in film and explore important subjects such as stereotyping, assimilation, anti-Semitism and even Jewish mothers. Further, we will trace how these views have changed over the past one hundred years. We will reflect on not only how society as a whole sees Jews, but how Jews see themselves and change in response to these societal forces.
Each session is a 4-week series that will explore the Jewish experience through short movie clips and feature length films. The classes will be led by Jay Sorkin, researcher and educator in Holocaust history.
$100 for each 4-class session
In week one we will introduce the state of the early film industry and the role Jews played in developing the business. We will examine how Jews are portrayed in these early films—the stereotypes, the anti-semitic tropes, and the introduction of the Jewish mother, as we screen the 1920 silent film Humoresque.
In week two we examine the state of assimilation and the clash of old-world Jewish values with the new “life in America” values of the next generation, and see how the Jewish mother has evolved, as we watch the 1927 classic The Jazz Singer. While this film is widely known as the first “talkie,” it is also almost the last time Jewish characters are prominently featured in a Hollywood film for twenty years.
In week three we will confront the issue of anti-semitism head-on as we watch the Oscar-award-winning film Gentleman’s Agreement, and place it in the context of its post-war time. We’ll look at how prevalent anti-semitism is in America at this time, both the subtle and the not-so-subtle.
In week four we will explore the changes over the first half of the century in assimilation—how Jews want to be seen, and how society sees them—in Marjorie Morningstar. We will also see how the depiction of the Jewish mother has changed since the 1920s