Exploring and Explaining Jews through Film

The AHRC Fellowship award Stanley Kubrick: New York Intellectual (January – December 2012) has addressed and informed public understanding of the presentation and stereotyping of Jews and Jewish cultural heritage through the exploration of, among other things, Kubrick’s own heritage and directorial vision. The research has also provided Professor Nathan Abrams with a platform from which he has raised awareness of the Jewish Communities in Wales and broader Jewish issues to the global Jewish community, policy makers and entertainment industry figures.

Nathan Abrams exploited archival material held by the Stanley Kubrick Archives at the University of Arts London, which has generated new ways of thinking about ethnic and religious representation and discrimination in film and allowed a unique interpretation of the material. The research findings, presented through public lectures, essays, media appearances and an international film festival, have changed perceptions within the global Jewish community, helping to preserve Jewish Cultural heritage and shifting ideas of self-identity in film and social media to a Jewish audience.

For example, the Jewish Tales from Wales film festival held in New York in March 2012, used cinema as a medium to connect the Welsh community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to a new American audience. Co-organised in collaboration with The Welsh Assembly Government and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and held at the museum, the festival ran film screenings over two days creating a greater awareness of this community to the public and high-profile policy makers such as the First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones. Gabriel Sanders, Director of Public Programs Museum of Jewish Heritage, said that “the series cast light on the relatively unfamiliar Welsh experience and the still-more unfamiliar Welsh-Jewish connection… Professor Abrams ably explored and explained the multifaceted nature of the Welsh-Jewish experience as captured in film."1 The event was featured in widely read publications such as Time out New York and New York Jewish Week.

Nathan Abrams, actress/director Sara Sugarman, Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones, David Marwell and Gabriel Sanders of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, March 11, 2012 at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. Picture by Dan Callister
From left: Nathan Abrams, actress/director Sara Sugarman, Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones, David Marwell and Gabriel Sanders of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, March 11, 2012 at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

Abrams has also worked closely with Limmud (www.limmud.org), the leading Jewish education organisation in the world, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJJDC), a New York based global relief agency. His lectures on cinema and film have directly impacted on younger audiences by using film as a frame of reference from which they can question their own histories, culture, identity and heritage. The directors of AJJDC said that “Dr Abrams’ lectures resulted in a deeper understanding of films as cultural products for many young adults, and therefore capable of being analyzed as devices carrying social messages [and] ideologies.”2

Nathan Abrams is Professor of Film studies at Bangor University. He is a prolific contributor to Ha’aretz’s English Edition and publishes on the work of Stanley Kubrick and the broader themes surrounding Jewish identity and culture and the representation of ethnic minorities in popular media.

1 Quote from email Gabriel Sanders, Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York

2 Quote from letter Marcelo Dimentstein Operations Director JDC International Centre for Community Development and Lela Sadikario Director Regional community development-Europe OJN Croatia & Slovenia JDC Europe

Gateway to Research Project links: Stanley Kubrick: New York Intellectual