Producer Of New Film Speaks With TMR On The State Of The Jewish Nation

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BODY AND SOUL: THE STATE OF THE JEWISH NATION TO HAVE SEATTLE PREMIERE

The headlines and photographs are hard to digest, Jews murdered in their prayer shawls, swastikas unashamedly held aloft in downtown Seattle streets, banners in Seattle’s Westlake associating Israel with events in Ferguson, Jewish students at West Coast colleges capitulating to the wave of BDS.

In the tumultuous atmosphere of these confusing times comes the Seattle premiere of a brave new film –  Body and Soul; the State of the Jewish Nation (Wednesday, December 10th, 7:30 pm at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth – free tickets here).

This timely, powerful documentary, produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Gloria Z. Greenfield features luminaries across multiple disciplines including Yossi Klein HaLevi, Benny Morris, Einat Wilf, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Alan Dershowitz among many others of equal stature. The film not only demonstrates the undeniable historical connection between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, but also succeeds in debunking the propaganda, myths and misinformation that have become accepted as truth by so many.

The Mike Report had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Greenfield from her home in Boston this past week.

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TMR: What was the inspiration for making Body and Soul; the State of the Jewish Nation?
 
GG: This is the third in a series of documentary films released by Doc Emet Productions.  I founded Doc Emet Productions in 2007 to produce and disseminate educational films that contribute to the strengthening of Jewish identity and Jewish nationhood. The first in the series, The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost (2008) made the case for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. It featured Professor Alan Dershowitz along with 28 other leading experts and analysts. After the film was released, I traveled extensively with the film, engaging in discussions with its audiences. 

Too many people incorrectly assumed that the “conflict” was about policies and territory, rather than Israel’s enemies’ refusal to accept the right for a Jewish state to exist .

It then became clear to me that too many people incorrectly assumed that the “conflict” was about policies and territory, rather than Israel’s enemies’ refusal to accept the right for a Jewish state to exist regardless of its policies or borders.  Too many audiences were not aware that the growing animosity towards the nation state of the Jewish people was keeping pace with the resurgence of lethal Jew-hatred in regions around the world. There needed to be a film that seriously examined the connection between anti-Israelism, anti-Zionism and lethal Jew-hatred. Doc Emet Productions released my second film Unmasked Judeophobia in 2011.  
 
 
TMR: Does Unmasked Judeophobia delve into the reasons for Jew hatred?
 
GG: There are a variety of theories related to the question of why Jew-hatred exists.  I am not convinced that trying to answer that question is the more important quest.  As Elie Wiesel says in his introduction to Unmasked Judeophobia, “Antisemitism is hatred and hatred is contagious. It usually grows like a cancer cell. It goes from cell to cell, from limb to limb, from person to person, from group to group, from culture to culture.”  From my perspective, it is absolutely important to understand that Jews have been the consistent target of lethal hatred, and while there have been periods where that hatred subsides, we often get fooled into thinking that Jew-hatred is gone. Unmasked Judeophobia is meant to sound the alarm, to wake up good and decent people to the fact that the evil head of lethal Jew-hatred is spreading its tentacles.  To create awareness in the public square through community conversations.  To catalyze good and decent people to fight back. The situation continues to worsen throughout Europe and on university campuses around the world, including the United States.  
 
TMR: Have you been successful in starting that conversation?  
 
GG: Yes. The film is available with subtitles in Arabic, French, German Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish and it is still screening around the world. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs distributed the film to 500 world leaders and practitioners who participated in the last Global Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem. 
 
TMR: In much of the anti-Israel world, associating efforts to delegitimize Israel with anti-Semitism is mocked and disregarded.
 
GG: The mockery and disregard attributed to acts of identifying Jew-hatred are tactics used to intimidate good and decent people–Jews and non-Jews alike–from standing up to fight Jew-hatred. Those tactics can only be effective if we empower them by silencing ourselves.
Divestment vote at University of Washington, May 2014. Photo credit TMR.

Divestment vote at University of Washington, May 2014. Photo credit TMR.

TMR: The director of Hillel at the University of Washington and more recently J Street U and Hillel activists at UCLA have put forth the notion that it may be best not to aggressively challenge BDS efforts on campuses. The Jewish students at UCLA actually implemented this approach, deciding not to actively oppose a recent BDS resolution which seemed destined to pass no matter their efforts.

GG: We need to teach our youth to fight proactively.  For example, there should be teach-ins in the public square and on campuses about the totalitarian nature and goals of the BDS movement.  We should be setting the agenda, not just reacting to their agenda. We need to teach our children to be proud of being Jews, and to do that we need to show our children that we are proud of being members of the Jewish nation.

We need to teach our children to be proud of being Jews.

When I was growing up in the fifties, anti-Semitism was rife– at least where I grew up– and there was much more a sense of reality of what could happen if you don’t fight back. And as time has passed, I think that what we’ve done since then is given our kids the illusion that there’s nothing that they need to worry about, that there’s nothing that we need to fight, because we were under the illusion that there’s no hatred towards the Jews anymore.
 
StandWithUs Israel Rally. Bellevue, WA - July 2014. Photo credit: TMR.

StandWithUs Israel Rally. Bellevue, WA – July 2014. Photo credit: TMR.

TMR: You produced and directed films about Judeophobia and about Israel’s right to exist. Why the need for this third film, Body and Soul: the State of the Jewish State?
 
GG: After the first two films, I realized that we needed to take some time for internal reflection as a people and we needed to take stock of the daunting illiteracy in the non-Orthodox world – an illiteracy related to our Jewish history, our texts, our liturgy, our tradition.  I wanted the third film to contribute towards a reigniting of Jewish pride, of pride in being a member of the Jewish nation, of pride in the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, and the importance of fighting back.

I wanted the third film to contribute towards a reigniting of Jewish pride, of pride in being a member of the Jewish nation, of pride in the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel.

TMR: What has been the response to Body and Soul since it’s release?
Producer Gloria Greenfield: "We're a strong, determined people and that is something to be proud about."

Producer Gloria Greenfield: “We’re a strong, determined people and that is something to be proud about.”

GG:  Since the film’s world premiere on October 20 in Jerusalem, I’ve begun traveling intensively with the film throughout Canada and North America, and I’ll be in South Africa in February and the United Kingdom in March. Christians, Jews and self-identified moderate Muslims attend the screenings and have expressed robust appreciation for the film.  As Irwin Cotler states emphatically in the concluding section of the film: “We can’t sacrifice who we are on the alter of political correctness. And if we speak authentically, and if we speak in terms of who we are, where we’ve come from, what we aspire to be, then I think we’ll make a contribution not only to that understanding internationally of who we are, but we will, in affirming who we are, begin to give expression to it.”

TMR: Body and Soul features some of the biggest names in the intellectual world from across the ideological spectrum. You have Rabbi Sacks, Yossi Klein HaLevi, Benny Morris, Victor Davis Hanson, Bret Stephens, Alan Dershowitz, Ruth Wisse. 
 
GG: Featuring the leading experts and analysts related to the focus of the film is the defining signature of Doc Emet Productions films.  In Body and Soul: The State of the Jewish Nation, the experts and analysts–representing a range from right of center to left of center–have the ability to help the viewer develop pride in our history. Pride in the fact that the Hebrew Bible is the foundation of Western values.  Pride in the fact that we’ve never given up; that we’re a strong, determined people and that is something to be proud about.

Our relationship with the land of Israel is not merely a political relationship; it is the centrality of our Jewish identity.

TMR: What is the impact you hope the film will have on Seattle audiences?
 
GG: My intention is to really drive home the understanding that our relationship with the land of Israel is not merely a political relationship; it is the centrality of our Jewish identity. This is not an issue of debate. Our heritage is not debatable. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.
 
TMR: Some say that now that we have a Jewish state, Zionism has served its purpose and may now be retired.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in Body & Soul; the State of the Jewish Nation.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks” “Being a Jew is to be on a journey, a journey to the land of Israel.”

GG: Zionism is a living movement. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says in the film, “being a Jew is to be on a journey, a journey to the land of Israel.”  And Jewish philosophers like Yoram Hazony contend that while living in the land, you’re still on a journey.  “[Herzl’s] idea of the Jewish state, more than anything else, was the internal unification of the Jewish person, of the Jewish man and woman. He actually called it a return to Judaism, meaning that every Jew by becoming a Zionist was saying ‘I’m going to devote myself wholly to trying to understand what it means to be a member of a great nation that contributes to the world but I’m going to contribute through my Judaism to the rest of the world. And in that he said we’re going to become whole people again.”

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Swastika in downtown Seattle, August 2014.

TMR: We had swastikas in downtown Seattle this past Summer during the Gaza war.

GG: We are starting to get a sense of what it was like for Jabotinsky and for the Bergsons who tried to warn the Jews of America and of Europe about what was about to happen, and they were labeled as extremists, nobody would listen to them.
 
TMR: What would be your charge to those who have seen your film?             
 
GG: They should change their relationship with the land of Israel, moving it from being a political issue to being in their soul and their heart. They have to understand that the land of Israel is what being a Jew is about. Avraham was the first Zionist. There has to be a deeper, authentic understanding of what Judaism is.

When the world attacks our homeland they are attacking us.

One’s relationship with Israel – even for those who consider themselves to be advocates for Israel, – Israel can’t be seen as an appendage or something that’s sort of external to who we are as Jews regardless of where we live. It’s part of who we are, it’s our homeland. It’s our homeland and its our heritage and when the world attacks our homeland they are attacking us.
 
Body and Soul; the State of the Jewish Nation will have its Seattle Premiere on Wednesday evening, December 10th at 7:30 pm at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth. Tickets may be obtained here.
 
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