Students Cast a Creative Eye on the Future with “Jewish Heroes” Film Competition

Zack Pollack, who was chosen by students Richard Lewis, Josh Graber, and Mathew Cherney as their Jewish hero.

Mar 22, 2007 — It may not be the Oscars, but the suspense was just as great for the students vying for awards in the Center for Jewish Life’s short film competition, “Who is Your Jewish Hero?”.

Using the new communications lab in Belfer Hall, some 30 undergraduate students created short films on the Jewish hero of their choice. A panel of three judges chose the top eight films—all five minutes long, or less—and the audience at the Schottenstein Cultural Center screening on March 21 narrowed the field to five.

“By encouraging students to use the tools of modern media and draw on their personal creativity, we want to encourage their individual voices in building the Jewish future,” said Jordana Schoor, CJF’s director of special projects.

In an open invitation to YU undergraduates, would-be filmmakers were asked to celebrate a hero of their choice, someone “who means the most to you,” whether a friend, family member, or “someone from the annals of Jewish history.” Students began submitting their films on March 1, and the heroes they chose were as diverse as the films themselves.

In his film, which was chosen as one of the finalists, freshman Ariel Saidian chose to feature his grandfather, Samuel Saidian, one of the leaders of the Jewish Iranian community in New York. “After all the amazing things he has done, he has never received a moment of glory,” Mr. Saidian said. “My film is a tribute to my grandfather after an entire lifetime devoted to the Jewish community.”

For sophomore and fellow finalist Uri Westrich, the person most worthy of a film tribute is his friend Itai Baniel, with whom he served in the IDF. “In the film, I relate the heroism that Itai demonstrated last summer in the Lebanon war, and how he risked his life in order to save a fellow soldier,” Mr. Westrich explains.

Voting for the winning film is open on the center’s Web site at until midnight on Tuesday March 27. The grand prize winner will receive a $2,000 prize toward film equipment or Jewish books.

The top five movies, in no particular order, are:

Embracing the Dichotomy
Producers: Chai Hecht & Shealtiel Weinberg

Becoming a Hero: A Conversation with Dr. Rabbi Norman Lamm—The Past, Present, and Future of the Chancellor of Yeshiva University.

Producers: Richard Lewis, Josh Graber, and Mathew Cherney

Zack Pollack suffers from cerebral palsy. He has overcome his disabilities and serves as a role model and inspiration to all of those around him.

The Patriarch
Producer: Ariel Saidian

A tribute to a leader of the Iranian Jewish community, Samuel Saidian, this is the epic story of a man that has dedicated his life to the physical and spiritual well being of his community and was forced to flee his home country due to an anti-Semitic revolution.

Lchol Ish Yesh Shem: Every Person Has a Name
Producer: Uri Westrich

Itai Baniel, a close friend of the filmmaker, with whom he served in the Israeli Army. Itai’s story serves as an example of the incredible lengths that the members of the IDF went to in securing the safety of every Israeli soldier during Israel’s war with Lebanon last summer.

A Man of Ideals: The Story of Richard M. Joel
Producer: Jonah Raskas

A compilation of interviews describing Richard M. Joel’s reinvigoration of Hillel, The Campus for Jewish Life and his achievements as President of Yeshiva University. A film dedicated to showing the extraordinary qualities of a truly special person, a man of ideals.


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