Jewish Studies Launches Course on Israeli Cinema in Context

by Haya S. Feig

It is always a pleasure to add a new course to my repertoire. This year it is even more exciting, since I love movies, and Israeli cinema has really changed for the better in the last fifteen years. Thus, I proposed a new film course in Jewish Studies: JS 1259 Israeli Film and Television. I will teach it this coming spring semester using the textbook M. Talmon & Y. Peleg, eds., Israeli Cinema, (University of Texas Press, 2011).  I set out to research the subject in Israel. With the support of Jewish Studies course development funds and additional moneys from the European Studies Center, I traveled to Israel this past summer, met with people from the Israeli film industry, and learned many new things. The Ultra-Orthodox film critic Merlyn Vinig was among these new acquaintances. She opened for me a window onto a new and unique category of Israeli films: Ultra-Orthodox cinema. We all have seen films with stories about Ultra-Orthodox Jews, made by filmmakers who are not orthodox, some even non-Jews. But these films are made by Ultra-Orthodox Jews for Ultra-Orthodox Jews. And within this genre there is a sub-genre of films made by Ultra-Orthodox women for women only. This discovery may lead me to new research for future iterations of this course. Ultra-Orthodox cinema will be featured in my new course about Israeli cinema, but as there isn’t anything written about this in English, I have a new challenge for myself. I look forward to this new adventure both for me and my students.