Well, it's been a long time since I last sent out an email and a lot has happened. First of all, I'd like to welcome everyone who's new to the list. At last count, we had over 1200 people on board!
As you may have noticed, I'm using a new email program to send out my emails and automate the process. Hopefully, this will allow me to do a better job at getting in touch with all of you and keeping you updated about the film.
I've also started a presence for the film on Facebook, creating both a Group:
and a Page:
Please join and invite your friends to do so as well!
(I'm not sure which one will prove more popular/useful. Groups allow members to invite others, and are more familar to long-time users. Pages, on the other hands, allow the integration of apps, which can bring some interesting features.)
Oh, and I've updated some of the screenings and articles on the website
Lonely Man of Faith in the New York Times!
In case you missed it, the New York Times had a story, in its religion column, a week ago, on Saturday, about the film, and how I came to make it! Overall, Sam Freedman, author of the book "Jew vs. Jew", did a good job at describing the film. Freedman also interviewed Rabbi J.J. Schacter and Dr. Jonathan Sarna, both of whom were featured in the film.
You can see the story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/26/us/26religion.html
Thank God, the publicity has been great, and I've been deluged with requests for screenings (see the next item for more info on that subject).
Lonely Man of Faith on ABC News!
This past Friday, I was interviewed on the little-known 24-hour cable news channel called ABC News Now. Father Edward Beck, a Catholic priest, discussed Lonely Man of Faith with me on his show, All Together Now.
Check out clips of the show here:
Public screenings can begin
Many of you have been waiting a long time to hear the news, so I'm happy to say that we are ready to start having public screenings of the film. As you may remember, I had been spending the last year trying to put together a theatrical release that would begin in Manhattan. I'm sorry to say that due to a very difficult market, lack of distributor interest, and the high costs that would be associated with such a release, I've come to realize that this was just not meant to be.
So, we are proceeding with screenings in synagogues, schools, JCCs, and other such organizations. And, on a related note, allow me to introduce Matt Stein. Matt's a friend of mine, and he will be acting as the outreach coordinator for the film. If you have already submitted a request for a screening at your institution, Matt or I will get in contact with you, in due time. If you have not yet spoken to us, you can contact Matt at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screenings in Israel are being coordinated by Hedva Goldschmidt, of Go2Films. If you are interested in arranging a screening in Israel, you can contact Hedva at: email@example.com.
How can I purchase the film?
Many of you have inquired how you can purchase Lonely Man of Faith on DVD for your personal use, or for an institution. The film is not yet available for purchase, and likely will not be for some time. First, we have to give some time for the screenings to take place. After all, if everyone could buy the film for themselves, it's likely that many would not attend these events. But rest assured that if you are on this email list, you will be among the first to know when the film is available for purchase.
Upcoming screenings in Israel
These are the upcoming screenings that I know about (and hopefully haven't passed!). I'll update the list when I find out more.
- Beit Kenesset Ashkenaz in Modi'in
- Nof Ayalon
- Yad Binyamin
- Ohel Shlomo Synagogue in Rechovot
Lonely Man of Faith recently screened at the conference/festival known as Limmud NY, which took place over Martin Luther King weekend at the Nevele Hotel, in the Catskill Mountains. Limmud is a non-denominational, multi-generational volunteer-run event in which Jews from all walks of life attend sessions ranging from lectures to discussions, to (chavruta) study-sessions, to musical performances and story-telling, to theater and film, to art-making, chesed projects, and social events. I was in charge of the film track, and my wife was co-chair of overall programming.
We had a very good turnout for the film screening, especially considering that it was longer than the other sessions, and it competed with a dozen others at the same time slot! It was gratifying to hear positive feedback from people who hailed from such different backgrounds. I was joined at the Q/A by R. Kenny Brander, from Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future. He shared personal stories with the audience that drew from his experience as a shamash (assistant) to the Rav in the 80's, at the end of his career at Y.U.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion on R. Soloveitchik as a Communal Leader. Nati Helfgot (an advisor on the film), discussed the Rav's public positions on interdenominational cooperation and interfaith dialogue. Nachum Twersky discussed the Rav from the viewpoint of Boston. And Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of UCLA Hillel, spoke about the Rav's approach to religious Zionism.
Something familiar about those PBS programs...
You may have heard about the PBS program The Jewish Americans, with all of the press attention it received. What you may not have realized is that the six-hour program, directed by David Grubin, shares our editor and composer, as well as a few of our interview subjects! Lonely Man of Faith editor, Don Bernier, edited "Part 2: A World of Their Own," and co-edited "Part 3: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times." Composer Michael Bacon wrote the score to the entire program, as well. And Dr. Jonathan Sarna, Rabbi David Ellenson, and Rabbi Saul Berman, all of whom were interviewed for Lonely Man of Faith, appear in the Jewish Americans. If you missed the program, which received some great reviews, it may be on again. I know that in New York City, on channel 13 (WNET), the entire series will be broadcast today (Sunday, Feb 3), starting in the morning. Check your local station information to see when the show will be on in your area. And I know you're wondering whether the Rav makes an appearance in the show. To the best of my knowledge, he does not.
But wait, there's more! The PBS station in Long Island, NY, WLIW, recently aired a program called The Jews of New York. And the show is narrated by none other than Tova Feldshuh, who narrated Lonely Man of Faith. In fact, when I watched the show, I had a sense of deja vu. It was as if I was watching a sequel to my own film! I know The Jews of New York recently aired on WNET in NYC. There seems to be an interesting correlation between airing Jewish-themed programs and having an appeal for viewer donations, for that station.
In any case, it remains to be seen whether there is still an appetite at PBS for another Jewish-themed program. I guess it may depend on how many donations have rolled in over the last couple weeks...
New books by and about Rabbi Soloveitchik
Two new books have recently been published that relate to Rabbi Soloveitchik.
Abraham’s Journey: Reflections on the Life of the Founding Patriarch is the ninth in the MeOtzar HoRav series of Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. "Abraham is not only the first Jew, but also a historical prototype, his experiences and actions foreshadowing critical patterns in the history of his people. In addition, Abraham serves as a spiritual and ethical model to his descendants. He is a teacher, a paragon of kindness, a lonely iconoclast, a master of sacrifice, and a knight of faith. Through careful exegesis of verses, illuminating analyses of character, and insightful readings of classical commentators, the essays in this book seek both the eternal and the contemporary messages of the Abraham story." Edited by David Shatz, Joel B. Wolowelsky, and Reuven Ziegler. The book is available at your local Jewish bookseller, or from KTAV publishers.
Mentor of Generations: Reflections on Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
is a collection of over 55 essays by his students and those close to him, many of which were published in the Yeshiva University Commentator, over the past year. "This volume pays tribute to his accomplishments while at the same time shares untold stories and perspectives critical to the yet unwritten definitive biography of the Rav. The many contributors within the pages of Mentor of Generations shed light onto over six decades (1930s through 1980s) of the panoramic life of the Rav. This volume probes the humanity of one of the most revered scholars and leaders of the past generation." Edited by Zev Eleff. The book is also available at your local Jewish bookseller and from KTAV
, as well as from Amazon.com
Corrections to New York Times story
While I'm very grateful to Sam Freedman for writing the story on my film, and I though he did a great job, there are a few errors that crept into the story. Here's a list:
- Rabbi J.J. Schacter was the dean of the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute, not Foundation.
- I doubt Rabbi Schacter remembered me from his former synagogue, The Jewish Center, since I first moved to the area after he already left for Boston. However, he probably did remember me from the previous summer when we first discussed the idea of a proposal.
- While this is not an error, it is worth noting: In an effort to simplify the story, Freedman left out a few details. One of them is the fact that the idea for the film originated with Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, with whom I first spoke about the film five years ago. The reason I was "audacious" enough to consider making the film was because I first thought that he could provide me with funding, and then that the Soloveitchik Institute could. It's only when I realized that they could not provide the funds that I called the businessman for advice. I asked him if he thought I could raise the money for the film from private individuals. His answer: "Not only do I think you could raise the necessary funds, but I might be interested in donating some of my own money." I sent him my proposal, he called me back, and from that point forward, he started funding the film.
- We finished editing the film in mid-2006, not late-2007.
- The film was not turned down by all major Jewish Film Festivals. The point I made was that it was turned down by the New York Jewish Film Festival, although one would think it was perfect for them! The film was accepted to the Boston JFF (where it had its world premiere) and the Washington JFF. Both are considered major JFFs. Freedman told me that he had actually written that it was not accepted by "one major Jewish Film Festival", but that when the story was edited, the line was changed to "any major Jewish Film Festivals". In any case, the story was corrected today, and the line now reads: "... and was turned down by the New York Jewish Film Festival (though it did appear at Jewish film festivals elsewhere)."