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“Menashe” Is a Movie with a Wealth of Soul

Aug. 11 2017

Menashe is based loosely on the life of its lead actor, Menashe Lustig, who—like most of the film’s cast—is a ḥasidic Jew without prior acting experience. Set in the ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn enclave of Borough Park, and with dialogue almost entirely in Yiddish (with English subtitles), the film tells the story of a father struggling after his wife’s death to gain custody of his son. Jonathan Leaf writes in his review:

A movie that takes a sympathetic view of a faithful adherent to a Judeo-Christian religious group is as rare as a meteor from Pluto or a ski instructor in the Bahamas. It isn’t just improbable. Nowadays it’s nearly unheard of. Yet that’s what the remarkable new movie Menashe is. . . .

The group in which [its title character] lives really is a community. The word is not just a meaningless term in the service of political propaganda as it might be in an expression like the “arts community.” This means that Menashe respects its decisions. These are handed down by his elderly rabbi, his “ruv.” . . .

Menashe is relatively slow-moving and intimate, and its hero is a tubby, disheveled figure. There are no beautiful people in this movie and no action sequences. The opening credits of a typical Hollywood picture contain twenty times more violence and quite a bit more sex appeal. . . . Moreover, the movie’s production values are mostly below the level of video taken on a more recent generation of iPhone.

But Menashe has something sorely lacking from the overwhelming majority of mainstream movies: three-dimensional characters, a thoroughly plausible story, and a wealth of soul.

Read more at Scenes

More about: Arts & Culture, Film, Hasidism, Ultra-Orthodox

 

Why Cutting U.S. Funding for Palestinian “Refugees” Is the Right Move

Jan. 22 2018

Last week the Trump administration announced that it is withholding some of America’s annual contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the organization tasked with providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. To explain why this decision was correct, Elliott Abrams compares UNRWA with the agency run by the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), which provides humanitarian aid to refugees who are not Palestinian:

One of [UNHCR’s] core missions is “ending statelessness.” [By contrast, UNRWA’s] mission appears to be “never ending statelessness.” A phrase such as “ending statelessness” would be anathema and is found nowhere on its website. Since 1950, UNHCR has tried to place refugees in permanent new situations, while since 1950 UNRWA has with its staff of 30,000 “helped” over 5 million Palestinian “refugees” to remain “refugees.” . . . UNRWA has three times as large a staff as UNHCR—but helps far fewer people than the 17 million refugees UNHCR tries to assist. . . .

The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA is not primarily financial. The United States is an enormously generous donor to UNHCR, providing just under 40 percent of its budget. I hope we maintain that level of funding. . . . The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA instead rests on two pillars. The first is that UNRWA’s activities repeatedly give rise to concern that it has too many connections to Hamas and to rejectionist ideology. . . .

But even if those flaws were corrected, this would not solve the second and more fundamental problem with UNRWA—which is that it will perpetuate the Palestinian “refugee” problem forever rather than helping to solve it. . . . [T]hat the sole group of refugees whom the UN keeps enlarging is Palestinian, and that the only way to remedy this under UN definitions would be to eliminate the state of Israel or have 5 million Palestinian “refugees” move there should simply be unacceptable. . . .

Perpetuating and enlarging the Palestinian “refugee” crisis has harmed Israel and it has certainly harmed Palestinians. Keeping their grievances alive may have served anti-Israel political ends, but it has brought peace no closer and it has helped prevent generations of Palestinians from leading normal lives. That archipelago of displaced-persons and refugee camps that once dotted Europe [in the aftermath of World War II] is long gone now, and the descendants of those who tragically lived in those camps now lead productive and fruitful lives in many countries. One can only wish such a fate for Palestinian refugee camps and for Palestinians. More money for UNRWA won’t solve anything.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Refugees, U.S. Foreign policy, UNRWA