For 18 years, Spokane Jewish Family Services (SAJFS) has celebrated the Jewish experience through film. As the largest Jewish cultural event in the Inland Northwest, the event welcomes members of the public to enjoy and learn from stories told on the big screen.
“Film festivals are a really accessible way to inform and cultivate empathy for understanding the Jewish experience in the United States and around the world,” says Neal Schindler, director of SAJFS and the festival.
By connecting the public with Jewish experiences and perspectives they might not otherwise encounter, Schindler has seen the festival challenge perceptions and spark relationships that span culture and backgrounds as the local community works to counter antisemitism.
With funding support from Innovia, the festival operated in a hybrid format this year to accommodate pandemic restrictions and allow non-local filmmakers to participate in panel discussions virtually. Films screened this year included a poignant animated short, a documentary about a Jewish stand-up comedian and a film that explored the tension between Kurdish and Jewish families that find themselves as neighbors. Looking to the future, Schindler hopes the festival will grow to become a platform for an even broader range of Jewish filmmakers, including those working within the region.
“There are so many aspects to celebrate about the Jewish experience,” says Schindler.