Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

“Come Back to the Movies”: This year’s Jewish Film Festival offers a blend of live, virtual elements

“Persian Lessons”

One by one, in-person events have been returning to our lives.

This is great news for fans of one of our area’s most-anticipated annual celebrations—the Edward S. Finkelstein Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival. After two years of being virtual-only, the festival will feature dual formats this year.

“The festival will be a hybrid of live and virtual screenings to accommodate everyone eager to get back to the theater, as well as the many who are not yet ready to do so,” explained Julie Sherman, festival chair.

This year, the festival comprises Israeli, American, Canadian and European films— documentaries, dramas and one comedy. In-person screenings will take place at both Midtown Cinema and the Harrisburg Jewish Community Center (JCC).

Opening night is May 19 at the JCC, when the first two episodes of an Israeli television miniseries, “The New Jew,” will be screened. The final two episodes will screen at the JCC a week later, on May 26.  Both JCC events will be followed by dessert receptions.

“The series was made to try to explain to Israelis what American Jews were all about,” said Sherman. “It’s light-hearted, but fascinating, because in this country we express our ‘Jewishness’ in a wide variety of ways.”

Five films will screen at Midtown Cinema over the weekend of May 21 to 22.  Among them are “Image of Victory,” a drama based on a desert battle during Israel’s War of Independence, and “A Lullaby for the Valley,” a documentary about an Israeli artist who paints huge canvases of the views outside his studio.

“We chose these pictures for live screenings because the vistas are so beautiful,” Sherman said. “You really can’t appreciate them on a laptop or phone.”

For live screenings at both venues, proof of vaccination and photo ID are required. Masks are encouraged.

Throughout the festival, from May 19 through June 1, eight additional films will be available virtually only, and all but one of the pictures that are screened live will also be available virtually after their live screenings are over.

The one exception is this season’s Book Club Film, “Gentleman’s Agreement,” the 1947 Academy Award-winning drama based on a best-selling novel of the same name by Laura Z. Hobson, which will screen once only, at Midtown Cinema. The movie stars Gregory Peck as a newspaper journalist who poses as a Jew to expose anti-Semitism in New York City and affluent communities in neighboring Connecticut after World War II.

“The film is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and while it does not pack quite the same wallop as it did upon its release, its subject matter is as timely now as ever,” Sherman said.

Other films include “Marry Me However,” about gay men in the Orthodox Jewish community who have chosen to meet the dictates of Jewish law through marriage and having children at the expense of their true selves; “Persian Lessons,” about a young Belgian who is sent to a concentration camp and narrowly avoids execution by swearing to the guard that he isn’t Jewish, but Persian; and “Plan A,” a thriller based on the true story of a post-WWII group of Jewish vigilantes who vowed to kill one German citizen for every Jew killed in the war.

Three documentaries, all available virtually, focus on people who have had a broad impact on society: Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, billionaire philanthropist George Soros and comedian and mental health spokesman Howie Mandel.

Sherman acknowledged that the pandemic has changed festival patrons’ viewing habits.

“Our audience got used to watching movies at home, at their leisure, anytime,” she said. “They like it. So, we’ll probably never again have an all-in-person festival. There will always be some kind of virtual component. But we’ve got to get everyone back to the theater!”

Sherman fears that, due to the pandemic, moviegoers have lost the important communal experience of seeing a film together.

“Until people come back, they won’t know what they’ve been missing,” she said. “So all I can say is, please come back to the movies.”

For more information, including ticketing information and a full movie slate, visit


Pick Your Format

This year, the Edward S. Finkelstein Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival will take place both live and virtually. Live events include:

“The New Jew” (episodes 1 & 2)
Thursday, May 19, 7 p.m.
Harrisburg Jewish Community Center
3301 N. Front St., Harrisburg
Dessert reception follows.

“Love and Mazel Tov”
Saturday, May 21, 8:45 p.m.

Midtown Cinema
250 Reily St., Harrisburg

“Gentleman’s Agreement” (Book Club film), 10 a.m.
“Unheard Voices” and “Marry Me However,” 2 p.m.

“A Lullaby for the Valley,” 4:45 p.m.

“Image of Victory,” 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 22
Midtown Cinema

“The New Jew” (episodes 3 & 4)
Thursday, May 26, 7 p.m.

Harrisburg Jewish Community Center
Dessert reception follows.

All films not screened live at the JCC or Midtown Cinema will be available virtually from 9 p.m. on May 19 until 9 p.m. on June 1. Films screened live at the JCC or Midtown Cinema will become available virtually the following day. For film schedules, to purchase virtual tickets, and to log in and access films, visit


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