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How an encounter with Guillermo del Toro led to NYC’s first Mexican Jewish Film Festival



(JTA) — When Deborah Koenigsberger Gutierrez attended a small cocktail reception  with the celebrated Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro last December, she didn’t expect to leave with an idea for a synagogue fundraiser. 

But in a conversation with del Toro and a few other guests at the event, which was in honor of the premiere of his latest feature, “Pinocchio,” the famed filmmaker made a remark that stuck with her.  

“He said something that really hit my heart,” recalled Koenigsberger Gutierrez, the president of Tribeca Synagogue. “He said, ‘Every Mexican outside of Mexico is an ambassador of the culture of Mexico.’”

Koenigsberger Gutierrez, who was born in Mexico City, had been on the lookout for creative ways to engage young families at her congregation, something beyond a traditional silent auction and gala dinner. She landed on a program that would draw an audience and pay tribute to del Toro’s craft, and began organizing the synagogue’s first-ever Mexican Jewish Film Festival, which will begin on Sunday, April 2. 

“I basically said to myself, ‘How can I make a big event that brings in people and also celebrates Mexican Jews?’” Koenigsberger Gutierrez said. “And everybody loves going to the movies.” 

The festival will feature 10 films with English subtitles over the course of three days, all of which were directed, made, written or acted in by Mexican Jews. The Jews highlighted in the festival come from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, including Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Syrian, and the films span a variety of genres, including horror, comedy and drama. 

In addition to movie screenings, the festival will feature Q&As with two of the directors: Guita Schyfter, who directed “Like a Bride,” a coming-of-age story about two young women in 1960s Mexico City; and Isaac Ezban, who directed two horror movies, “Evil Eye” and “The Similars.” It will also feature a performance from the Nashir! chorus, pop-up artisan shops in the social hall, coffee from Mexico’s Chiapas region and cocktails and kosher Mexican food from the restaurant Carlos & Gabby’s. 

The film screenings will conclude on April 4, and the festival will host a final day of events on April 5, the eve of Passover, including a “bread party” where attendees can munch on leavened products traditionally prohibited on the holiday. Vendors will sell Mexican folk art and kosher Mexican cookies.

The Tribeca Synagogue, which until a decade ago was called the Synagogue for the Arts, often rents out its sanctuary space, and hosted the 2022 NYC Bicycle Film Festival in November. It can place a giant screen at the front of the sanctuary, turning it into a makeshift theater. All it took to organize the Mexican Jewish Film Festival, Koenigsberger Gutierrez said, was selecting the films and getting the rights to screen them (and in one case, subtitling one of the films, the 2008 drama “3:19,” in English for the first time ever.)

Other films screening at the festival include the 1955 comedy “The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz,” about a wannabe serial killer who keeps plotting murders but can’t quite execute any of them; “One for the Road,” a 2014 film about three octogenarian friends who take a trip together; and the 2007 comedy “My Mexican Shivah,” about a family dealing with their secrets being revealed as they mourn their patriarch.

Beyond her own synagogue community, which has fewer than 100 active memberships, Koenigsberger Gutierrez is expecting a diverse turnout for the festival. Jorge Islas Lopez, the Mexican consul general in New York, will give an address and is inviting Mexicans in New York to attend. The American Sephardi Federation and the Syrian Jewish group Kanisse have also partnered with the festival.

Koenigsberger Gutierrez hopes the films enable viewers to see beyond popular U.S. conceptions of Mexico on screen, which she says focus too much on violence fueled by drug cartels.  

“We are not one genre,” Koenigsberger Gutierrez said. “We’re not only El Chapo and all these you know, drug dealers, and the things you see [in] Hollywood a lot. We are much more than that. The film festival is to celebrate Mexican Jews and their work.” 

She added, “People tend to think that Jews look a certain way. And I can say that people think that, also, Mexicans look a certain way.” 

When Koenigsberger Gutierrez came to the United States for her master’s degree eight years ago, she was surprised to see that people doubted her nationality.

“In Mexico, nobody ever questioned that I was Mexican,” she said. “There was no question. But when I got to America, people would be like, ‘You’re not really Mexican because you’re Jewish.’ And that was kind of like, really something I’ve never, never dealt with. I was like, ‘What do you mean? I’m 100% Mexican, I’m 100% Jewish.’ I’m Mexican and I’m Jewish.”

The post How an encounter with Guillermo del Toro led to NYC’s first Mexican Jewish Film Festival appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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