CHELSEA – At their Founders’ Day program in Sept. 2019, the Walnut Street Synagogue announced plans to transform their historic building into a museum and cultural center with programs open to the entire community. The synagogue recently announced its Tikkun Olam/Sanar El Mundo Film Series as an early step towards making that transition a reality.
The free virtual film series is conducted in partnership with Women in Film and Video New England (WIFVNE) and the Boston Latino International Film Festival (BLIFF). This program is supported in part by a grant from the Chelsea Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. Due to COVID restrictions, the entire event – both the screenings and discussions – will be virtual.
Films will be screened on two Sunday afternoons in February and one Sunday afternoon in March. The theme of the movies is the objective to “heal and repair the world,” consistent with the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, which translates into Spanish as “Sanar El Mundo.” Films will be followed immediately by roundtable discussions with filmmakers and community members. 2020 was an extraordinarily difficult year for millions of people. In the midst of the difficulties and crises, truly heroic acts by individuals and organizations have helped to repair, support and heal the lives of so many. This series of films celebrates the way even a small act of Tikkun Olam can have a deep impact.
“The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America” will be shown on Feb. 21 at 3:30 p.m. This film tells the story of a small group of South Americans, whose ancestors were European Jews forced to convert during the Spanish Inquisition. They long to affirm their faith while isolated in Catholic countries. Despite being rejected by local Jewish communities, they battle to become Jews regardless of the consequences.
“Decade of Fire” will be shown on Feb. 28 at 3:30 p.m. This film follows the plight of Black and Puerto Rican residents of the South Bronx who were blamed for the devastation of their neighborhood caused by fires in the 1970s, despite their daily battles to save their neighborhoods. The film uncovers the truth along with policies of racism and neglect that still shape our cities.
“Havana Curveball” will be shown on March 14 at 4 p.m. This film is the story of 13-year-old Mica who takes to heart his rabbi’s dictate to help “heal the world.” He launches a grand plan to send baseballs and baseball equipment to Cuba, a country with a mysterious pull. He knows only that Cubans have few resources, love baseball, and that they saved his grandpa’s life during the Holocaust.
Each film will be followed by a moderated discussion with the filmmaker and special guests. “The Longing” will feature special guest Rabbi Claudia Kreiman of Brookline’s Temple Beth Zion in conversation with filmmaker Gabriela Bohm. “Decade of Fire” will be moderated by Sabrina Aviles (executive director of the Boston Latino International Film Festival) and feature the filmmakers Vivian Irizarry and Gretchen Hildebran as well as Chelsea’s own GreenRoots’ executive team, Roseann Bongiovanni and Maria Belen. Guest panelists for “Havana Curveball” will be announced soon.
“The Walnut Street Synagogue today embraces partnerships with the Chelsea community and beyond to create and expand cultural and arts enrichment for all Chelsea residents, said film series and Walnut Street Synagogue Committee member and founder of Chelsea Jewish Tours, Ellen Rovner. “Through the magic of this film series, the Walnut Street Synagogue shares the much needed, universal themes of connection, hope, and inspiration with our community.”
“WIFVNE is proud to be a partner with the Tikkun Olam/Sanar el Mundo film series. We are turning to stories of hope in our daily lives and this series not only brings you hope, but reminds us of the power of this medium. We hope you are as inspired by these films as we are,” said WIFVNE President Alecia Orsini.
“Boston Latino International Film Festival welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with Walnut Street Synagogue given the theme it chose for the series – one of healing and resiliency, so indicative of what Chelsea has experienced in the face of this pandemic. It was our small way of supporting the community,” added Sabrina Aviles, BLIFF Festival Director.
The films are available in English and Spanish (with captions). Everyone is welcome and tickets are free, but advance registration is required to receive links to the screenings and discussions.
Visit walnutstreetsynagogue.com/film-series for complete details and ticket information.