By Celina Colby

Once again, the Boston Jewish Film Festival graces screens around Massachusetts with the latest in cinematic artistry from Jewish creators. Running November 7-21 virtually, the 33rd annual festival will showcase films of all genres, including a rich new category highlighting short films made during the COVID-19 quarantine.

BJFF executive director Susan Adler says the virtual platform utilized for the first time last year was a success. Our audience was enthusiastic about the first-ever virtual Boston Jewish Film Festival. They were able to access such a great variety of films and conversations and watch anytime during the Festival, at their convenience.

Based on this feedback, the organization decided in the spring of 2021 to play things safe and host the festival virtually again this year. Audience members will purchase access to films and screen them at their leisure during the festival period. Some events, including workshops, panel discussions, and Q&As, can only be experienced live during their scheduled event time.

The online platform for the festival hasn’t hampered the rich community connections that result from its programming. This year audience members can participate in an animation workshop with local artist Alex Salsberg, participate in live conversations with directors and be the first to pass judgment on the FreshFlix Short Film Competition. Festivalgoers can participate as much or as little as their heart desires.

“Coming together virtually, and watching films from around the world, interacting with programs and guests on a variety of topics is enjoyable, meaningful, and important,” says Adler. Bringing together the Brookline and Greater Massachusetts community is as essential to the festival’s ethos as sharing the work of Jewish artists.

Highlights in this year’s festival include “Persian Lessons,” a striking film about a young Jewish man who claims to be Persian when captured by the SS and sent to a concentration camp in Germany, only to be tasked with teaching Farsi to an officer; and Leaving Paradise,” a documentary about a family living on a communal farm discovering and reconciling with their unexpected Jewish heritage.

As always, the BJFF showcases the vast diversity of Jewish experiences and highlights the deep humanity of these stories. “Highlighting aspects of Jewish culture within these stories can enlighten, entertain, educate everyone who watches and be a really engaging platform to have meaningful discussions about the films, timely issues facing the Jewish community and the community at large,” Adler says.