After 13 years of screening independent Jewish films for the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, founder Deborah Kaufman has gone behind the camera to make a film of her own. Teaming up with producers Alan Snitow, a Jewish man, and Bari Scott, a black woman, she has created “Blacks & Jews,” a documentary that aims to open up dialogue between the two groups by going beyong the “ritual of conflict” Kaufman says is perpetuated by the clashes of media-minded forces such as Louis Farrakhan and the Anti-Defamation League.
“Blacks & Jews,” shown at the Sundance Film Festival of independent films in January and scheduled for screening at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival this summer, goes for the complexities of the Crown Heights riots; the 1960s selling of a Chicago Jewish neighborhood to blacks unable to get mortgages; blacks who left the Nation of Islam; blacks and Jews in Hollywood; and, most recently, black and Latino high school students kicked out of an Oakland, Calif., movie theater for laughing at “Schindler’s List” atrocities during a Martin Luther King Day outing.
Can a documentary help break down hateful stereotypes? Clearly the film’s image of a bloodied head of a Hasid—featured on the cover of the New York Post during the Crown Heights riots—will be remembered, even by Jews who feel little kinship with the black-hatted members of the tribe. The layers of black and Jewish distinctions take a long time to peel away, but what Kaufman is aiming at is, for starters, a conversation.