Isabel Price participates in “keeping the faith” at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island by keeping history alive through films.
When her husband passed away back in 2000, Price wanted to do something “happy” to commemorate his demeanor.
“We were on a bus trip on our way to the Holocaust museum and he just sat down next to me. He took my hand as we got off the bus. He just wouldn’t let go,” she remembered of that very first moment she met Sidney Hoffman. “He was so charming. I was very attracted to him because he had stories about his heritage that went back to his great grandparents. I am a historian, so history is very fascinating to me.”
The two shared both a common heritage and a love of films. What better way, then, to remember Sidney, than to put on a film festival that he would have loved, in an interesting way that the whole community could appreciate?
“My husband and I liked specific films and we didn’t often see the kinds of films in the theater that we really wanted — something of more substance that would take us back to our heritage,” Price explained. “There were years from the mid 1920s until World War II when films were made in the language of Yiddish and they were wonderful because they were expressive of that European culture in Russia and Germany and parts of Italy. There are only a few films made in Yiddish because the Nazi’s exterminated all that culture.”
So the quest began. The first order of business would be to preview films.
Price chose “The Jazz Singer,” filmed in 1927, for the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island’s film festival debut, seven years ago. And every summer since, Price starts the planning process by conducting a search for just the right pieces which will display Jewish content in a way that relates to the community as a whole.
Some of Jewish history focuses on the holocaust, where million of lives were taken, but Price reminds us that Catholics and other Christians played a big part in helping to save the Jews. She says history is her biggest passion and she will always seek to find out more.
“I was born in New York City. I still love New York. My parents were immigrants,” said Price. “As I’ve grown older, the fact that my father came from the Ukraine — literally walked half way across Europe to get to a boat in Belgium to take him to the West — and my mother left home at the age of 13, with her parents permission, it’s very important to me.”
She added, “My mother always said, ‘I kiss the ground in America.’ That’s always in my heart. History and heritage, it’s the most important thing to me.”
She’s not alone. Film festivals, focusing on Jewish history and culture, draw big audiences in cities across the country these days. People drive from Naples, Bonita Springs and Estero to attend the showings in Marco Island.
“We do all the things other film festivals do with a paid staff but we are volunteers,” Price stated, in admiration of the hard work and dedication people put in to organize this festival. “Films are now a major expression of culture. Fewer people are reading books but where are they getting their opinions and sense of identity? Films are filling in. They are not only a major source of entertainment, they are also an expression of culture. That’s a contribution.”
This Sunday’s Hanukkah program will include hot potato latkes (pancakes) at the end of the show. Tickets are $25 per show and discounted fees will apply on season passes. For more information or to purchase tickets ahead of time call 642-0800. Tickets will be for sale at the door.
To nominate someone from your house of worship for “Keeping the Faith,” e-mail both of your names and a short summary describing that person to firstname.lastname@example.org.