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The Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College

Queens College

Jews have been deeply involved in American cinema from its inception. They have been producers, directors, writers, actors and production crew. They have also been the subject of films, sometimes peripherally, sometimes centrally. Indeed, the role, place, and image of the Jews in American film have been written about by scholars in the past with great depth and illumination.

This national symposium adopts a somewhat different approach and perspective on the topic of Jews and film. Predicated on the idea that films often serve as a mirror to society, frequently reflecting and exposing the times in which they are created, our one-day conclave explores how American cinema reveals and helps us understand the American Jewish historical experience at specific intervals during the 20th century.Following an opening session evaluating the historical reasons for Jewish entry into the film and entertainment industries, subsequent sessions focus on and analyze films from different eras that capture the American Jewish social and cultural reality of their day. Nationally-renowned scholars, critics, and filmmakers, in presentations augmented by film-clips and audience participation, will probe these and other themes, stimulating thinking and conversation about the evolving American Jewish community over the last century.The symposium is occasioned by the 350th anniversary of the beginning of American Jewish history, which will be marked by scores of programs nationwide during 2004.

Professor Eric Goldman, Professor Benny Kraut
Center for Jewish Studies
Symposium Co-chairs



9:00-10:00 am - Late Registration: LeFrak Concert Hall Foyer
10:00-10:15 am - Welcome: Professor Evangelos Gizis, Provost, Queens College
Professor Benny Kraut, Director, Center for Jewish Studies
10:15-11:45am - Session I: Jews Enter the Entertainment Industry: An Historical Overview: Moderator—Professor Evan Zimroth, Professor Jenna Weissman Joselit, Making Whoopee: American Jews and the Pursuit of Pleasure Professor Lester D. Friedman, "You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet": Silent Jews and Silver Images
11:45-1:00 pm Buffet Lunch: Patio Room, Dining Halls Building (Adjacent to the LeFrak Concert Hall)
1:00-3:00 pm Session II: The American Jewish Experience through Film: Part I
Moderator: Professor Eleanor Hamerow
Professor David Desser, NewYork, New York: Creating the Myth of the New
Old Country in The Jazz Singer
Professor Steven Alan Carr, Anti-Semitism, World War II, and the Hollywood Social-Problem Film
Professor Donald Weber, A Comedian’s Nostalgia: Mr. Saturday Night and the Psychic Landscape of the Jewish American 1950s
3:00-3:30 pm Break: Refreshments in the Atrium
3:30-5:30 pm Session III: The American Jewish Experience through Film: Part II
Moderator: Professor Rachel Lyon
Professor Leonard Quart, Hollywood’s Holocaust: Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker
Professor Eric Goldman, The Role of Memory in Barry Levinson’s Avalon
Stuart Klawans, "What Kind of Jew Are You?": Illusions of Identity in David Mamet’s Homicide
5:30-7:00pm Supper.
7:00 pm-9:30 pm Session IV:
Feature Film Screening: Focus--Arthur Miller’s Novel, Neal Slavin’s Film. Discussion follows screening with Mr. Slavin, Professor Goldman, and audience participation

Brief Bios of Participants

Steven Alan Carr is Associate Professor of Communication at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, and a 2002-2003 Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies Postdoctoral Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. He is the author of Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War II. His present project, which explores the response of the American Film Industry to the growing public awareness of the Holocaust, received an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2002.

David Desser
is the Director of the Unit for Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois and is Professor of Cinema Studies, Comparative Literature, and East Asian Languages and Cultures. He has authored and edited a number of books on Japanese cinema and Hong Kong cinema, and recently provided the commentary on the Criterion Collection Edition of Tokyo Story. Along with Lester
Friedman, he is co-author of American Jewish Filmmakers, now in its second edition
from the University of Illinois Press.

Lester D. Friedman
teaches film and medical humanities at Northwestern University. He is the author of Hollywood’s Image of the Jew and The Jewish Image in American Film (which won the National Jewish Book Award), as well as the co-author (with David Desser) of American Jewish Filmmakers.. He has served as a consultant on topics of Jewish cinema and culture for the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith, the National Jewish Archives of Broadcasting, the Jewish Heritage Video Collection, the National Center for Jewish Film and the Jewish Museum.

Eric A. Goldman
is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Queens College. He is founder and president of Ergo Media, a New Jersey-based video publishing company specializing in Jewish and Israeli video and a contributing film reviewer for New Jersey’s The Jewish Standard. Author of Visions, Images and Dreams: Yiddish Film Past and Present, he is film program curator for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research at the Center for Jewish History and artistic director of the Jack Wolgin Jewish Film Festival in Philadelphia.

Eleanor Hamerow
is a film editor and former professor in the graduate film
program at New York University, where she was department chair. At present, she
is both teaching in the film department at Columbia University and producing
a personal film about growing up Jewish and radical in the Bronx.

Jenna Weissman Joselit
received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. She is the author most recently of the critically praised book, A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character and the Promise of America and of the prize-winning The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880-1950, which won the National Jewish Book Award in History. A frequent contributor to The New Republic as well as a columnist for the The Forward, Joselit currently teaches American studies and modern Jewish studies at Princeton University
Stuart Klawans has been the film critic of The Nation since 1988 and writes frequently about film for The New York Times. He is the author of "Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order" and "Left in the Dark: Film Reviews and Essays, 1988-2001."

Rachel V. Lyon is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies, Queens College. An Emmy Award-winning producer and director of the documentary, Men Who Molest Children: Children Who Survive, Ms. Lyon has produced four feature films, sixty documentaries, and two series. Her most recent project, Mr. Dreyfuss Goes to Washington, is a behind-the-scenes historical tour of Washington, DC, hosted by Academy Award-winning actor, Richard Dreyfuss. This documentary special premiered on The History Channel and won three Telly awards in 2002.

Leonard Quart
is Professor Emeritus of Cinema Studies at the College of Staten Island and at the CUNY Graduate Center. A longtime Contributing Editor of Cineaste, he has written essays and reviews for Dissent, Film Quarterly, The Forward, London Magazine, and New York Newsday. His major publications include the co-authored works (with Albert Auster) American Film and Society Since 1945 and How the War was Remembered: Hollywood and Vietnam and The Films of Mike Leigh, co-authored with Ray Carney.

Neal Slavin
is an award-winning photographer, acclaimed author and film director. Honored in 1986 as the American Society of Magazine Photographers’ "Corporate Photographer of the Year," he has had numerous one-person and group exhibitions at some of the finest galleries in the world. Mr. Slavin’s work is included in many prestigious museums, such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, and Paris’ Bibliothèque Nationale. Focus is his feature film directorial debut. Mr. Slavin is currently in development on a new feature film entitled, I Was a Military Industrial Complex.

Donald Weber
is Professor of English and American Studies at Mount Holyoke College and Chair of the English Department. He has written widely on Jewish American literature and popular culture. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Haunted in the New World: Mapping Modern JewishAmerican Culture (Indiana University Press, 2005).

Evan Zimroth
is Professor of English and Associate Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College. She is the author of several books, including Gangsters, which won the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction in 1996. A consultant for YIVO and contributor to The Forward, she recently returned from the University of Cambridge, England, where she was a Visiting Fellow.

Admission fee: $25; $15 for matriculating Queens College students
Charge includes admission to all sessions, buffet lunch, and mid-afternoon refreshments.
To register and obtain a reserved seat, call the Colden Box Office, 718-793-8080, after March 1, 2004.
Supper on the campus may be purchased for an additional fee of $20.
Supper reservations must be made only through the Center for Jewish Studies, 718-997-5730, and MUST be prepaid by May 7, 2004.
All food and meals are kosher.
For further information, please call the Center for Jewish Studies office, 718-997-5730, or check the Center website at