Academic Video Online Database has Jewish Studies Documentaries
By Debra Mandel.
While working from home, our screen time has increased enormously. We are balancing zoom sessions, binge watching series, and tuning in to difficult daily news.
To add to this mix, the Northeastern Library has wonderful streaming videos and music to choose from. Here is a link to the Streaming Media Guide.
Academic Video Online Database is a good resource for informative and documentary films and includes more than 68,000 multi-disciplinary titles. A search for “Jewish Studies” yields 1377 results from reputable filmmakers and distributors.
Here are three recommended titles from this database:
A Bridge of Books: (15 min.) Directed by Sam Ball; produced by Sam Ball, Filmakers Library, 2006.
This film documents the marvelous and touching history of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Using rare archival footage and great images, Aaron Lansky humorously describes how he rescued, amassed, and preserved more than 1.5 million Yiddish books from around the world, beginning as a student at age 23. From humble beginnings and hard work, he created this Center, considered the “world’s first Yiddish museum” which provides programs and exhibits celebrating Jewish and Yiddish culture. It’s building is closed at the moment due to the pandemic, but the library also offers free 11,00 digital titles for you to peruse.
I Was There in Color: (55 min.) Directed by Avishai Kfir; produced by Yitzhak Rubin, Ruth Diskin films, Ltd. 2011.
Created from a treasure trove of unwanted family “basement films,” this documentary tells the story of the earnest and fun-loving Boston businessman Fred Monosson, who embraced the new state of Israel with passion and benevolence and filmed his experiences with skill and ardor. Included are wonderful historical footage of his Israel ventures and conversations with some of his local descendants. Fred was an NU Law School graduate! He died in 1972 at age 79 and you can learn more about his activities in this obituary and on the JewishGen site.
From Swastika to Jim Crow: (56 min.) Directed by Lori Cheatle and Steven Fischler. Produced by Joel Sucher, Steven Fischler, and Lori Cheatle. Pacific Street Films, 2000.
This film focuses on the German refugee scholars in various disciplines who taught at Black colleges in the south before and during World War II. Historical footage and interviews document how the parallel worlds of raging anti-Semitism in Europe and racism at home transformed American higher education and cemented life-long bonds and understanding between faculty and students.
For more on this topic, be sure to read Laurel Leff’s 2019 book, Well Worth Saving: American universities’ life-and-death decisions on refugees from Nazi Europe, which provides in-depth research on the grave difficulties Jewish scholars faced in getting US teaching positions during the Nazi regime.
On another note:
The complete Kanopy database is unavailable until August 24 except for the titles the library has already licensed. Students and faculty may request a title needed for a class or research during this time. More information is available here.