First film in CRC series attracts diverse audience

by | Jan 28, 2013 | Other News

Only 40 people were expected to attend the first movie in the five-part, film-based education program, Step Up for Israel, on Jan. 10 at Norfolk’s Temple Israel.

But at 7:15 pm, members of the congregation began counting the number of folks coming into the downstairs multipurpose room 15 minutes before the movie’s scheduled start, and realized more chairs were going to be necessary. Working quickly, they moved tables from the center of the room toward the edges, and lined up dozens of more chairs in front of a large television set.

By the time Crossing the Line: the Intifada Comes to Campus was started, the audience numbered at least 100. Among the attendees were a considerable number of high school and college students, and members of diverse faith groups were represented.

“As you can see, support for Israel is a strong and binding force among all of our different synagogues and all denominations, no matter who is hosting this series,” Temple Israel’s Rabbi Michael Panitz said during his introduction.

A presentation of the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and, Step Up for Israel was originally developed to educate and inspire Jewish college students about Judaism and Israel in order to create a stronger identity and appreciation of heritage. As Tidewater witnessed, though, the program is also appealing to a broader audience of curious, supportive, and passionate citizens.

Each movie in the film series tackles a different focus, from Crossing the Line, which explored anti-Zionism on campuses, to the upcoming Israel Inside that looks at Israel’s dynamic and innovative society, to Creation of a State, the fourth movie that examines the events leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel.

Just as the films change, so do the settings for area screenings. Each movie will be held at a different congregation, with the host temple’s rabbi leading the post-viewing discussion.

The lively discussion guided by Rabbi Panitz at Temple Israel included statements of support from student members of Christians United For Israel (CUFI) chapters on area campuses, and a brief explanation of the effort to start a Jewish studies program at Old Dominion University, from Farideh Goldin, academic director for ODU’s Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding.

Goldin also shared some advice for parents who are concerned about their children’s exposure to anti-Semitic academicians. Let the schools know you are dissatisfied with the educators they have hired, have your children seek out Jewish professors who are pro-Israel—some are not, Goldin warned—and students should join Hillel.

“It was encouraging to see a number of people from CUFI and students and faculty from ODU,” Panitz says. “I feel that people who are passionate about Israel can become discouraged when they see how many people and nations are against us, and that by gathering together, we strengthen each other.

“At the end of each book of the Torah, we say ‘Hazak, hazak, v’nithazek, be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened. We could say that about this film series. It’s very good.”

The next film in the series will be held on Monday, Feb. 18, 7 pm at B’nai Israel with Rabbi Sender Haber moderating. For more details about the Step Up for Israel film series or to RSVP, contact To find out about other CRC initiatives and community resources, visit

by Laine Mednick Rutherford