The National Center for Jewish Film archive is in a race to restore the Jewish century before it bites the dust
BOSTON – When Barbra Streisand needed visual inspiration to create shtetl sets for “Yentl,” there was only one place she could call.
Since 1976, the National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF) has bridged the divide between a lost Yiddish world and contemporary Jewish filmmaking. In addition to restoring and distributing forgotten classics of Yiddish cinema, the center represents Jewish filmmakers in the US, Israel and elsewhere.
Operating from a cozy basement space at Brandeis University, NCJF is the only film archive focused on the Jewish Diaspora. Treasures include more than 15,000 reels from around the world, ranging from 1920s-era Lithuanian “home movies” to the 1947 Exodus voyage footage.
Bringing to life a vanished Yiddish culture, NCJF has loaned films for use in dozens of museum exhibits, television programs and stage performances. Scholars frequently reference footage rescued by NCJF to explore – for instance – a history of the Jewish mother, or the “queering” of Jewish American culture.
For almost 40 years, founding executive director Sharon Pucker Rivo has helped NCJF evolve with the times, not to mention audiovisual technology.
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