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July 31, 2009

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I HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 31, 2009 'Rachel' inferno gets even ha :te00 S.F. festival PAGE 15A By Dan Pine and Stacey Palevsky j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California SAN FRANCISCO If the Academy handed out an Os- car for community turmoil. the Rachel Carrie flap at this year's San Francisco Jew- ish Film Festival would win handily. Dissension in the Bay area Jewish community continued unabated over the festival's upcoming screenings of "Ra- chel." a film that in*vestigates the death of anti-Israel activist Rachel Carrie. and its invita- tion to her mother• Cindy Carrie. to speak afterward. On July 20. festival board president Shana Penn re- signed from her post, citing "healthy differences on how to approach sensitive issues." with five months left on a two-year term. This came as a pro-Israel speaker was hastily added to the Saturday, July 25 screen- ing in San Francisco and as some sponsors criticized the festival's program. Penn will continue to serve on the board. Vice president Dana Doron, a marketing and product development executive, has assumed the post of president. "Rachel" is a sympathetic portrait of the American pro-Palestinian activistwhowas killed in 2003 in Gaza while protesting a home demolition in front of an Israeli bulldozer. Booking the film and Cindy Carrie for the festival has struck a nerve with detractors in the Jewish community, who believe the festival crossed a line into overtly anti-Israel propaganda. Some have called for a boycott of the festival. saying Carrie. and now her parents, have worked to ostra- cize and delegitimize Israel. In a statement released July 21. festival Executive Director Peter Stein apologized "for not fully considering how upsetting this program might be," though he added that the festival stands by its decision to screen the film. • The-apology was not good eriough for many, who flooded local Jewish leaders and this newspaper with protest let- ters. Sponsors of the festival also voiced their concerns. The Koret Foundation and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture. each headed by philanthropist Tad Taube and self-described as "sister philanthropies," issued a joint statement July 21. Koret and Taube. among dozens of sponsors of the" S. F. Jewish Film Festival. criticized the festival for working with the American Friends Service Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace-- "two virulently anti-Israel. anti-Semitic groups" in co-presenting the film. for inviting Cindy Carrie to speak and for booking "Rachel" in the first place. The statement read in part: "Those who cavalierly fling Israel's future into the grasp of those who would destroy it betray a mainstay of the mainstream Jewish community to support Israel and to counteract anti-Israel propaganda events, speak- ers and organizations. In this case, the San Fran- " cisco Jewish Film Festival AP/Denny Sternstein Activist Rachel Corrie at the Burning Man festival in Nevada in September 2002, roughly six months before her death. has aligned itself with the wrong side." Penn, the festival board member who resigned her presidency, is the executive director of Taube Philanthro- pies. But the foundation said she made the decision to step down as festival president on her own. To read both the Koret and film festival statements in full, go online to http://www. jweekl,.com/u/39307. Another festival funder raising objections is the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation. CEO Daniel Sokatch disagreed with the decision to invite Carrie to speak but otherwise supported the festival and its showing of "Rachel." Sokatch reported receiving numerous calls and e-mails criticizing his organization for supporting the film festival. In a response to one donor who threatened to pull his federation support over the "Rachel" flap, Sokatch wrote that the festival "made a mis- take in inviting Cindy Carrie to speak without offering a range of perspectives on the film's controversial subject•" Festival director Stein said no funder has withdrawn or threatened to drop their financial support. Walter and Elise Haas Fund executive director Pam David told j. her organizationwill "continue to support the S. F. Jewish Film Festival financially," though she would not comment on the "Rachel" controversy. Koret Foundation and Taube Philanthropies in their state- ment said. "We have made no decision regarding future funding•" One issue upsetting both funders and writers of protest letters is the involvement of Jewish Voice for Peace as one of the co-presenters of film's two screenings, Saturday, July 25 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco and Aug. 4 at the Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theater. Mainstream Jewish orga- nizations consider JVP to be a left-leaning group that is often harshly critical of Israel over the country's dealings with the Palestinians. Rachel Pfeffer. a film festival board member, is also a member of JVP and was until last year its interim national director• In a letter published in j. two weeks ago, Pfeffer strongly supported the festival's deci- sion to screen "Rachel ." In that letter, she identified herself as a festival board member, though she did not mention her affiliation with JVP. Meanwhile. festival or- ganizers have taken steps to address accusations that the program was riot fair and balanced. Stein invited pro-Israel activist Michael Harris to speak just before the Castro Theatre screening. No speakers are scheduled to appear before or after the Aug. 4 showing in Berkeley. Harris. Who spearheads the gi'oup S.F. Voice for Israel. was brought in as a counterweight to Cindy Carrie, who will ad- dress the audience after the screening. Stein hopesHarris' appear- ance will help turn down the heat. "I wanted to be certain that our large and diverse community understands we are listening, we are respon- sive." Stein said. Harris commended the fes- tival for inviting him to offer an alternative view of events, saying organizers "indeed responded to the outcry." "I'm going to set a context for what was going on in Israel around that time 3 Harris said of his intended remarks. "so people understand the events that led to Rachel Carrie be- ing in Gaza did not happen in a vacuum. It's important that people understand that Israeli civilians were getting blown up on buses and in res- taurants at the time [Carrie] was in Gaza.'" The scheduling of "Rachel" prompted a flood of letters and online comments to j. from supporters and opponents of the film festival: Even the blogs got into the act, with a posting on the left-of-center DailyKos blasting the film's critics and j. for its editorial two weeks ago, linked on j.'s homepage at http-//www. Though the SFJFF has faced controversy before, the "Rachel" debate might mark a new level of vitriol among opposing factions in the Bay Area Jewish community. Why did this situation elicit more of an outcry than anything else at the festival in recent years? Stein said that is "the $64.000 question." "This is far beyond the question of one film and one speaker at a festival." Stein added. "Many people feel Israel is under siege, and that's the elephant in the room. This is an indicator of the passion around this issue, and is re- flective of a deep divide in our community that We want to be a part of addressing. '• And on the day of its first screening last week. "Rachel" screened to a fiery audience of- ten inhospitable to divergent viewpoints. "What happened to two Jews, three opinions?" asked Laynie Tzena, standing in the Castro Theater after the film. "What happened to respect for dissent?" Despite festival director Peter Stein's plea to not inter- rupt or disrespect any element of the screening, including people speaking before or after, many members of the audience hissed• booed and shouted ata those whose opin- ions clashed with their own. Those booed opinions were nearly always supportive of Israel• "What bothered me was not the movie, though I didn't like it, but the audience--there was no respect for the speaker before the film, and offensive Kim Kim/Creative Commons Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, are flanked by anti-war activist Medea Benjamin, left, and author Alice Walker at an International Women's Day event in Gaza in March 2009. comments were made during the movie," Tzena said. "You cannot  shoot people down because you don't agree [with them]." People began lining up at the theater more than an hour before the film began• Even- tually, the line snaked up the street and around the block. Stein introduced the film before the curtains parted and the projector rolled. He acknowledged the firestorm surrounding the festival's decision to screen the docu- mentary, about activist Rachel Carrie's 2003 death in Gaza, and to invite her mother. Cindy Carrie, to answer ques- tions following the screening. "This has become a light- ning rod for a tremendous controversy: Is it appropriate for a Jewish film festival to screen a movie critical of the Israeli government?" he asked. "We're trying to be a model for civic discourse...But what makes for acceptable dis- course will not be solved with one movie or one speaker." Originally, Cindy Carrie was slated to take questions after the film. After the com- munity protested, festival staff added to the docket Dr. Michael Harris. a pro-Israel activist involvedwith SFVoice for Israel. the BayArea chapter of Stand With Us. He spoke for five minutes before the film. Many found that inad- equate, or thought it failed to provide the balance festival staffers intended• "[Cindy's] daughter was killed, so her point of view is far from objective," said Steve Katz of San Francisco. "Why not invite a panel of diverse opinions? Why not give equal time to all points of view? It was set up to be a hostile situatiofi." Rachel on page 23A Temple Israel Farai Fun enlber.s and lOrO.specive raeraber.s welcome! Sunday" August 11  .- U,O0 am - bOO pm  Fun for all ages with adult programming Available inside and outside Inflatable fun, water fun, food, & games (bring your bathing suits) lhOO am - Noon Meet the teachers and view classrooms: Mingle with Rabbi Perras, Membership Committee 8= Leadership in the Social Hall. Noon= "Bima Basics w bt Rabbi Perras Join Rabbi Perra$ for the grand reopening and blessing of our chapel where he will share all the ins, outs, and whys of a bima. Bring all your "ash the Rabbi" questions! " SundanY, Aug/ 9; 7:OO Pm (The Hoffman residence in Winter Springs)  []  Sunday_, Augmt 3.O- 11:?O am (The Sh T reddeTce in Orlando)  I Phone: 407-647-3055 E-mail: 1 ,/Y 50 S. Moss Road Winter Springs, 32708 q), 407,647-3055 / // [i\\;  Templel srael@tiflorida, org