Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres Documentary Review

Dreams sustain us when everything seems dark. Without that light and that hope that dreaming provides, what we wish for will always seem far away.

The new Netflix documentary, Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres tell the story of the late Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres. Born in a small shtetl in Eastern Europe in 1923, Peres and his family immigrated to what was then British-controlled Palestine in the early 1930s. When the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, he joined the newly formed government and over the decades, rose up and down in the ranking of leadership.

His story is both the story of Jews in the 20th century and Israel as we know it to be today. He faced political challenges that are universal and unique to the region. Above all, he believed that peace and co-existence with the nation’s Arab neighbors are not unattainable goals. Though they were not achieved within his lifetime, Peres opened the door for future generations of Israeli leadership to follow in his footsteps.

Narrated by George Clooney, this narrative is about a dreamer who was also realistic. Peres knew what he wanted the future to look like. At the same time, he understood that it would take work, courage, and being open to new possibilities to get the job done.

What I took away from the film was that dreaming is a good thing. But without getting your hands figuratively dirty, the image in your mind will remain just that. That inspiration crosses all boundaries and perhaps provides the lift we need to get off our buts and do what we need to do.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres is available for streaming on Netflix.

Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen Movie Review

Fiddler on the Roof is one of those movies that we all know. Even if we have never seen the film or the various stage adaptations, the songs and the story are iconic in their own right.

The new documentary film, Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen was recently released in theaters. It tells the story of how the original 1960s stage show became a big-screen sensation a decade later. Based on the stories by Sholem Aleichem, the audience follows Tevye (Topol), a Jewish dairyman living in poverty who is trying to provide for his wife and five daughters in the fiction shtetl of Anatevka in the early 20th century. His three eldest daughters, Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small) are all of marriageable age and test the social boundaries of the period.

In addition to interviews with the actors, the audience also is taken behind the scenes by director Norman Jewison (who despite his surname is not a member of the tribe) and musical director John Williams. Narrated by Jeff Goldblum, this is a love letter to a beloved narrative and characters who transcend time, culture, and religion.

I loved this movie. It was everything I could have wanted and more. The making of the original film was a labor of love for all involved. Told with authenticity, heart, and nothing but love, this documentary is nothing short of perfection.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen is currently playing in theaters.

Fiddler On The Roof Broadway GIF by GREAT PERFORMANCES | PBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda Book Review

Fans of Broadway musicals and students of Jewish history know the final scene of Fiddler on the Roof all too well. The Jewish residents of the fictional shtetl of Anatevka have been forced out of their homes by the local authorities. As they scatter to four winds, their fate is unknown. Presidential advisor Stephen Miller comes from this world. As do I and millions of Jews of Eastern European descent. But for any number of reasons, Miller has forgotten this history.

Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda, written by journalist Jean Guerrero, was published in August. Miller grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in California. As a young man, his political beliefs began to swing to the extreme right, especially when it came to immigration. He was not shy about sharing his opinions, and like many with that perspective, couched his words in a way that would not immediately come off as racist.

After college, he went into politics, which ultimately led him to his current position working for you know who as a speechwriter and policymaker.

In my world, Miller would be described as a shanda (disgrace). As an American and a Jew, he has forgotten the traditions and the history that we carry with us. Without the United States, Miller’s family, like my family would have been part of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

There is nothing wrong with regulating who can come into this country. But as I see it, his policies are a bridge too far. There were moments while reading this book that I was both outraged and disgusted. While it was a good book, it was a smack in the face that hate, prejudice, and xenophobia is still alive and well in America in 2020.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Family- Heartbreaking and Powerful

This weekend, I read David Laskin’s novel, The Family.

In short, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Mr. Laskin narrates the tale of his mother’s family, starting with his great-great grand parents, Shimon Dov HaKohen and Beyle Shapiro, who lived in the shtetl of Rakov and the yeshiva center of Volozhin, which is now in Belarus.

Shimon Dov and Beyle have six children and numerous grandchildren, all choosing different paths in life. One branch of the family emigrated to the United States and became successful business owners. Another made Aaliyah to what was then Palestine and became pioneers of modern day Israel. The third stayed in Europe and became part of the martyred six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

This book could have sounded like a history book or  a boring documentary. But it doesn’t.  Each member of Mr. Laskin’s family has their own voice and their own story to tell. The details are so vivid that one doesn’t have to be Jewish or have roots in Eastern Europe to be caught up in this world.

I couldn’t put it down, the book is nearly 400 pages long, but it doesn’t feel like it is 400 pages. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a good book.

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