By Deb Silverthorn
Dallas’ 3 Stars Jewish Cinema will celebrate its 20th anniversary and its return to in-theater programming at 7 p.m. on Dec. 22, with the Southwest premiere of “Jackie Mason: the Ultimate Jew, Live on Broadway” at the Angelika Film Center at Mockingbird Station.
Dedicated to films with Jewish spice and spirit, 3 Stars Jewish Cinema has screened a film each month, missing less than a handful, since its first screening of “Left Luggage” with Isabella Rossellini and Maximillian Schell on July 29, 2001. “Jackie Mason” is the late Borscht Belt standup comedian’s farewell to the stage. He filmed his last Broadway show in 2008 and died earlier this year.
The year-round film series started with a request by Mort Meyerson to friends Reid Heller, Bart Weiss and Susan Kandell Wilkofsky. The four founded the 501(c)3 organization, and curtains have been rising ever since.
“What a blessing this has been and continues to be. From Mort’s first mention and his continuous support, 3 Stars Jewish Cinema has truly been a gift to the community,” said Bart Weiss, the organization’s artistic director. Weiss also founded VideoFest and the Video Association of Dallas and is the producer of KERA’s Frame of Mind series.
“So many of our films share a wide array of our people, of commitment to Jewish life, and they help us understand what Jewish life is. We see how around the world we are similar and also different,” said Weiss, who counts “Shalom Y’all,” “The Hebrew Hammer” and “Exodus” as the most memorable screenings for him. “The Yiddish cinema, our very rich culture, the films shot in the United States and those in Poland before the war, have left us wondering what became of the actors, the places, the people during World War II.”
The December film, most years shown on Dec. 24, runs two days earlier this year as the 24th is a Friday. Organizers planned Saturday night screenings once three stars were out, signifying the end of Shabbat; hence the name of the series.
Many of 3 Stars Jewish Cinema’s original members have supported the group throughout the years, even during the pandemic when films were screened at home.
“We appreciate the year-round exposure to films we’d not likely ever know of,” said Joan Davidow, who with her husband Stuart Glass have been members since the organization’s founding. Glass is now on the organization’s board of directors. “We appreciate the dedication, time and energy that has kept 3 Stars going for 20 years.”
Joining Weiss and Wilkofsky is Maristella Ostrewich, the organization’s managing director. “She is a kindred spirit who keeps us fine-tuned and running,” said Wilkofsky, 3 Stars Jewish Cinema’s programming director and contributing film reviewer for the Texas Jewish Post. “Her love for film, and care for each of our members, is something we couldn’t, wouldn’t want to, do without.”
Through the years, Weiss and Wilkofsky have held numerous titles at 3 Stars Jewish Cinema, the duo’s relationships with film and video festivals, locally and elsewhere, allowing for incredible partnerships through the years.
“We’ve shown comedies and documentaries, romantic films and historical dramas. We’ve had films that divide our audience but every time we’re together it’s a terrific opportunity to connect,” said Wilkofsky, past-secretary of the North Texas Film Critics Association, who is preparing for January’s screening of “Fiddler on the Roof.” This year is the film’s 50th anniversary, and she’s hoping for a virtual visit between in-theater guests and the film’s star Topol. In February, 3 Stars Jewish Cinema will screen “Paul Newman, Behind Blue Eyes.”
Each of 3 Stars’ Jewish Cinema films, most shown at the Angelika, has a Jewish component, whether theme or Jewish creatives. Many of the films have been followed with discussions with writers, directors, actors or subject experts.
“I love films. Films that teach, that make me think and that make me not just feel, but feel with substance,” said 3 Stars fan Patsy Kahn. “We have to go on with life and we’ll learn to return safely. I am so happy we’ll be back in the theater, where movies were meant to be shown.”
3 Stars Jewish Cinema will adhere to whatever requirements its theaters follow for safety against COVID-19.
“From those less observant to the very religious, our audiences run the spectrum of our religion,” said Weiss. “We’re really happy to share the arc of what 3 Stars Jewish Cinema has been, and will continue to be, with so many.”
For event details (non-member tickets $10/person), or membership to 3 Stars Jewish Cinema (starting at $100/year general admission, $90/seniors and $50/students and sponsorships and increased), visit 3starscinema.com or email email@example.com.Screen share: Film series returns in person