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9 classic Jewish New York movies you can stream right now

(New York Jewish Week) — Jewish people have made New York City home for centuries now, often finding opportunity and acceptance where it elsewhere had been denied. So when Jews began to tell their stories of their lives on film, it only makes sense that they would feature New York City front and center.

From the tenements of the Lower East Side to the present-day Diamond District, New York City has shaped the lives of millions of Jews, and in turn we’ve reflected the city back to itself — the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly.

Below are nine classic films created by Jews, starring Jews and featuring the unique foibles of being a Jewish person in New York City that are all available to stream now. As we head into winter (and, for many, a Christmas break where film-watching is de rigueur), it’s the perfect time to get cozy and stream an iconic Jewish New York movie or two … or all nine.

1. “The Jazz Singer”

Streaming free on Tubi and available to rent on Amazon, Apple and more. 

Not only is this the first movie on our list, it’s the first movie that had sound, period. The conflict at the center of this 1927 musical is one that continues to echo in films today: A cantor’s son, Jacob (Al Jolson), seeks to use his talent to serve his own ambitions and desires rather than following in his father’s footsteps. Filmed on the Lower East Side, the movie is a peek how Jews lived when the neighborhood remained a religious enclave, yet were tempted by what the secular city had to offer.

Content warning: A character appears in blackface in this film.

2. “Hester Street”

Streaming free on Tubi and on Mubi and Kanopy (in certain locations). Available to rent on YouTube, GooglePlay and more.

Though there’s been a Jewish community in New York since 1654, the Jewish population in the city began to boom in the late 1800s as thousands fled deadly pogroms in Eastern Europe. Joan Micklin Silver’s “Hester Street,” released in 1975, transports viewers to the Lower East Side in this complicated era, which was both painful and liberating for Jews. Gitl (Carol Kane) and her son Yossele are at last summoned to join the family patriarch, Yankel aka Jake (Steven Keats) in the new country — but, once arrived, Gitl struggles to assimilate. Shot in black and white, with dialogue in both Yiddish and English, “Hester Street” is faithful to its source material, the 1896 novella “Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto” by Abraham Cahan. “Hester Street” is an essential look at Jewish culture at one of its most watershed moments.

3. “The Producers”

Streaming free on Pluto and available to rent from Amazon, AppleTV, YouTube and more.

Zero Mostel, left, and Gene Wilder star in the Mel Brooks classic “The Producer.” (Screenshot)

As the saying goes: Only in New York. And when it comes to “The Producers,” we’ll say it’s certainly one of those only in New York — and only written by a Jewish New Yorker — stories. Written and directed by Mel Brooks, this film finds disgraced Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) realize he could make more money off a flop than a hit. So he and his partner, Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) decide to stage “Springtime for Hitler.” Hilarity ensues as the pair run around 1960s New York City to pull their scheme off, but despite its comedic trappings, the movie has some serious undertones: Brooks wrote it with the understanding that sometimes the best way to take down an antisemite is not with a grandiose speech, but with laughter.

4. “Girlfriends”

Available for rent from Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play.

Before there was Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” there was Claudia Weill’s 1978 film “Girlfriends.” When bar mitzvah and wedding photographer Susan Weinblatt (Melanie Mayron) discovers her best friend and roommate is moving out to marry her boyfriend Martin (Bob Balaban), her world is turned upside down. What ensues is a charming tale of the search for self-discovery in New York City, complete with an inappropriate relationship with a religious figure and a haircut that would be a devastating blow to any Jewish girl with a curl pattern. If you’ve ever tried (and flailed) to do something creative in the Big Apple, you’ll feel seen by all of the small, one-step-forward, two-steps-back moments this movie contains.

5. “Crossing Delancey”

Streaming free on YouTube; available to rent from Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play and more.

Peter Riegert and Amy Irving starred in “Crossing Delancey.” Riegert played a pickle shop owner. (Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

Another feature from barrier-breaking director Joan Micklin Silver, 1988’s “Crossing Delancey” once again confronts that eternal conflict of wanting to break from tradition in pursuit of modernity. Izzy (Amy Irving) meets pickle man Sam (Peter Riegert) at the behest of her bubbe and the local matchmaker, but is unable to reconcile her past (the Lower East Side) with her more erudite future (the Upper West Side). Come for the charming romantic comedy, stay for the wonderful shots of a Lower East Side that once represented a bustling Jewish and multicultural haven, instead of a trendy neighborhood that’s home for expensive cocktail bars and countless vape shops.

6. “When Harry Met Sally”

Streaming free with Hulu Live and Fubo subscriptions; available to rent on Amazon and for purchase from Vudu and YouTube.

Nora Ephron once said that the difference between Christian and Jewish rom coms is that “external forces separate lovers in the former, while characters’ neuroses obstruct happiness in the latter.” If this is true, writer Ephron and director Rob Reiner’s 1989 hit “When Harry Met Sally” certainly fits the bill as a Jewish rom-com. Former college classmates Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) reunite in New York 15 years after they drove from Chicago to New York together; they maturely decide to be friends, only to realize there might be deeper feelings between them. While religion isn’t overtly discussed, the film’s sensibilities are undeniably Jewish — and it’s credited with putting Jewish institution Katz’s Deli forever on the map.

7. “Kissing Jessica Stein”

Available to rent on YouTube, Amazon, GooglePlay and more.

How many movies open on Yom Kippur services? In a Cinderella story that would make any Jewish mother proud, “Kissing Jessica Stein” began as an off-off-Broadway play titled “Lipshtick,” co-written by its stars Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen, and became an indie film in 2001. Westfeldt stars as the titular Stein, of the Scarsdale Steins, with a mother (Tovah Feldshuh) who’s eager for her to find a Nice Jewish Boy to settle down with. Instead, Jessica finds herself drawn to a non-Jewish woman, Helen (Juergensen), and frets over how her traditional Jewish family might receive their relationship. What entails is a beautiful meditation on the search for acceptance, both from family and of yourself.

8. “Obvious Child”

Streaming free on Kanopy (in certain locations) and Cinemax with subscription; available to rent on Amazon, Google Play, YouTube and more.

Written and directed by Jewish native New Yorker Gillian Robespierre (you can check out her film “Landline” for a peek into her childhood), this 2014 film centers on a young Jewish woman, Donna (Jenny Slate), who ventures where many, many Jewish people have before her: The world of standup comedy. “Obvious Child” delivers a more modern look at Jewish life in New York City, as Donna contemplates getting an abortion after her one-night stand with nice guy Max (Jake Lacey) has more lingering consequences than intended. If you’ve ever felt more like a menorah that accidentally burns down the Christmas tree than the angel on top, then this movie is for you.

9. “Uncut Gems”

Streaming free on Netflix with subscription; available to rent from YouTube, GooglePlay, Amazon and more.

Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner in “Uncut Gems.” (Courtesy A24)

If “Die Hard” is considered a Christmas movie, then the Safdie brothers’ 2019 “Uncut Gems” is a Passover movie, featuring Adam Sandler in a departure from his usual comedy fare as Howard Ratner, a Jewish anti-hero with unbridled hubris for the ages. Deemed by many to be an extraordinarily stressful watch, the film will still send chills of recognition up your spine — particularly during that seder scene, which shows no matter how bad the fighting may be between you and your family, you still make time to sing “Dayenu” — and brings life to some of the city’s more offbeat characters, who are often pushed to the margins, both in real life and on film.


The post 9 classic Jewish New York movies you can stream right now appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas

[Illustrative] Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment. 

Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.

“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”

The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.

The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.

Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom. 

The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.” 

“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.

Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”

“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said. 

Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus. 

Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7. 

She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”

She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing. 

“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes.  The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.

The post Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7

Eden Alene, winner of the reality show “The Next Star to Eurovision,” during finals in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”

“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.

Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”

“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”

Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”

Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”

Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”

The post Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7 first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..” https://t.co/N1wkOPgKJs

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

The post UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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