2021 Boston Jewish Film Festival – Guests

Paula Apsell, Moderator, Space Torah

Paula Apsell spent 35 years as the senior executive producer of the PBS NOVA science series. Prior to that, she produced and directed a dozen NOVA episodes including documentaries on smallpox eradication, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, was a Fellow in the Public Understanding of Science at MIT, and produced medical documentaries with ABC’s Dr. Timothy Johnson. During her long tenure at NOVA, Paula was responsible for supervising more than 650 documentaries on a wide variety of subjects in the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, several films in the field of archeology.

During Paula Apsell’s tenure, NOVA won every major broadcasting award, most many times over, including the Emmy; the Peabody; the duPont-Columbia University Gold and Silver Batons; and an Academy Award nomination for Special Effects. She has been recognized with numerous individual awards for her work, including the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Emmy of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Now CEO of Leading Edge Productions, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity, she is working on a feature documentary on Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, Resistance: They Fought Back.

Rabbi Marc Baker, Presenter, School Ties

Rabbi Marc Baker, CJP’s President and CEO, has spent most of his life in Greater Boston’s Jewish community. An organizational leader and educator, Marc served as Head of School at Gann Academy, Greater Boston’s pluralistic Jewish high school, for 11 years prior to joining CJP. A native of Lynnfield, MA Marc was active in the JCC and at Camp Bauercrest throughout his childhood. He lived in Jerusalem for four years, studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and The Hebrew University. Marc regularly speaks, writes, and teaches about Judaism, the Jewish community, and leadership. He served as scholar-in-residence for CJP’s Cynthia and Leon Shulman Acharai Leadership Program from 2013-2018. Marc attended Phillips Academy Andover and received his bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Yale University. He lives in Brookline with his wife, Jill, and their four children.

Anika Benkov, Director, The Binding of Itzik

Anika Benkov is a nonbinary, Jewish-American filmmaker who grew up in the Boston area and is currently based in New York. They write stories about the kinks in life and in ourselves, loneliness, and growing pains at all ages.

Rob Cooper, Director/Co-producer, Space Torah

Rob Cooper has been producing documentaries, educational films and television shows for over forty years. Director credits include Good Mornin’ Blues, hosted by B.B. King, which was awarded a Cine International Golden Eagle. As a producer at WBZ-TV, Rob won New England “Emmys” directing segments for You Gotta Have Arts and Money$ense.

For the past twenty years, Rob and his partner Pam Cooper have worked together as Verissima Productions, creating historical documentaries such as Zamir: Jewish Voices Return to Poland which aired nationally on PBS, Citizens not Subjects! which aired regionally, and biographies for a variety of non-profits, families and individuals, including the artist Samuel Bak, who was profiled in The Art of Speaking about the Unspeakable.

Alex Fabry, Director, Dialogues & Monologues

Alex Fabry is an East-Coast based filmmaker intrigued by the strange decisions people make and the often stranger motivations behind those decisions.

Susan Fanshel, Co-director, Irmi

Susan Fanshel is an independent documentary filmmaker and editor whose award-winning films include: A Weave of Time, The Story of a Navajo Family; Nevelson in Process, Voulkos and Company, Made in the Bronx, Six American Families: The Kennedy’s of New Mexico, and The Odyssey Tapes.

Emily Felder, Co-director, Who Will Remain? 

Emily Felder is a documentary film editor whose work has been screened in museums, libraries, and schools across the country. She studied anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she became invested in archaeology, visual ethnography, and non-fiction storytelling. She worked as the premiere technical assistant for the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project, and as an assistant editor at Florentine Films/Hott Productions on feature-length documentaries broadcast on PBS. She is now an editor and videographer based in Los Angeles where she continues to make films.

Asaf Galay, Director,The Adventures of Saul Bellow

Asaf Galay, uses the documentary medium to rethink Jewish and Israeli relationships with modern culture. His recent films include Army Of Lovers in the Holy Land, which follows a Swedish pop singer from his sexually provocative art to his decision to move to Israel; The Hebrew Superhero, which examined the development of comic-books in Israel, and The Muses of Bashevis Singer, his documentary about the female translators who transformed the career of Nobel prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer. Galay also has a film currently in production: Cartooning America, about the Jewish cartoonists who brought us Betty Boop.

Uriya Hertz, Director, Devek

Uriya Hertz was born in 1990 in Jerusalem and graduated with honors from the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem. Hertz is currently working on his first feature film, The Rabbi, which participated in the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab (2019) and was awarded a development grant by the Israel Film Fund. His previous short films won prizes and participated in many film festivals around the world, including Shanghai, Raindance, Sarajevo, Camerimage and more.

Devek is his third short film.

Dr. Jeff Hoffman, Subject, Space Torah

Dr. Jeff Hoffman received a BA in Astronomy from Amherst College, a PhD in Astrophysics from Harvard University and an MSc in Materials Science from Rice University. As a NASA astronaut he made five space flights, becoming the first astronaut to log 1000 hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle. He has performed four spacewalks, including the first unplanned, contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. He helped develop and carry out tests of advanced high-pressure space suit designs and of new tools and procedures needed for the assembly of the International Space Station. Following his astronaut career, Dr. Hoffman spent four years as NASA’s European Representative, working at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. In August 2001, Dr. Hoffman joined the MIT faculty, where to this day he teaches courses on space operations and space systems design. He is also currently Deputy Principal Investigator of the MOXIE experiment on NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover In 2007, Dr. Hoffman was elected to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Lawrence Hott, Moderator, Who Will Remain?

Lawrence Hott has been producing documentary films since 1978, when he left the practice of law to join Florentine Films. His awards include an Emmy, two Academy Award nominations, a George Foster Peabody Award, the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, the Erik Barnouw Award, five American Film Festival Blue Ribbons, fourteen CINE Golden Eagles, screenings at Telluride, and first-place awards from the San Francisco, Chicago, National Educational, and New England Film Festivals. Hott was the Fulbright Fellow in Film and Television in the United Kingdom in 1994 and Fulbright Specialist in Vietnam in 2015. He received the Humanities Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities in 1995; a Massachusetts Cultural Council/Boston Film and Video Foundation Fellowship in 2001; and the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism in 2001.

Deborah Kardon, Moderator, Shtetlers

Deborah Kardon is the Executive Director at Action for Post-Soviet Jewry. Action-PSJ has worked with Jews in the Soviet and former Soviet Union since 1975. Deborah completed her undergraduate and graduate studies in social work at Syracuse University. After a career working with at-risk, homeless and “street” teens and young adults, she obtained a Master’s in Religious Education and Leadership from the Executive Master program at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. For the past 25 years working in the Jewish community, Deborah has been a successful Congregation, camp and youth group professional developing progressive teen leadership and Israel engagement programs. She also teaches Holocaust classes at local synagogues, including an innovative multi-generational model.

Manya Lozovskaya, Director, Voices from the Balconies

Manya was born in Moscow in 1985, where she grew up and attended a few years of secondary school studying nursing. In 2004 at the age of 19, she moved to Israel to complete the program. “Ulpan Kibbutz” located in the South of Israel where she got her first experience with the Hebrew and the work life of kibbutz. In 2013, she graduated from Bar Ilan University earning a BA in Sociology.

In 2014, Manya decided to further her education by enrolling into the MFA program for a second degree in cinema at Sapir Academy in Sderot, Israel, where she successfully completed her first documentary Hebrew Kisses in the summer of 2017.

Rebecca Lurie, Moderator, School Ties

Rebecca assumed the role of Head of School of Schechter Boston in July of 2016. Prior to this, she led Talent Management at Staples, Inc – she worked at Staples, Inc for 10 years and Prudential Financial for 5 years prior to that. Rebecca attended Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, graduating with a double degree in political science and Talmud, and she later earned her MBA from New York University. Rebecca is also a proud graduate of Schechter Boston – the class of ’93. Rebecca lives in Brookline, MA with her three children – Talia (13), Sophia (10) and Micah (7), all of whom attend Schechter – and her husband Adam who is a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley-Hospital. Rebecca and her family are active members of the Washington Square Minyan, an independent minyan in Brookline, MA

Vadim Perelman, Director, Persian Lessons

Vadim Perelman is a Ukrainian-Canadian-American film director. Following a successful career as a commercial director, Perelman made his feature film directorial debut in 2003 with House of Sand and Fog. The film, nominated for three Academy Awards, also marks his first screenplay credit.

Since then, Perelman has directed four feature films, numerous episodes for television and music videos, all which have received critical acclaim.

Asaph Polonksy, Director, Long Distance

Asaph Polonsky is an Israeli-American writer/director. His debut feature, One Week and a Day, premiered at Cannes Film Festival – Critics’ Week, where it won the Gan Foundation Award. It went on to win Best Film, Best Debut , Best Script and The FIPRESCI Award for Best Israeli Debut. The film was nominated for 7 Israeli Academy Awards and won Best Supporting Actor for Tomer Capon (The Boys). His short film, Samnang, premiered at the New York Film Festival and was nominated for a Student Academy Award. Recently he directed the first season of the new TV show, Traitor.

Mark Rosenblatt, Director, Ganef

Mark Rosenblatt has been a theatre director for 20 plus years, working across the UK, the US and in Japan. As a filmmaker, he co-wrote the feature film Making Noise Quietly (released theatrically in the UK in 2019) and wrote-directed two short films adapted from Shakespeare for BFI & Shakespeare’s Globe in London to celebrate the Bard’s 400th deathiversary. Ganef, based on the experiences of his own family’s Holocaust survival, is his first original short film. It has played in festivals around the world, including LA Shorts, Hollyshorts, Tirana International, Chicago International Childrens’, Flickers’ Roving Eye, Manhattan Short and is now Oscar-qualified for 2022.

Asaf Saban, Director, Paradise

Asaf Saban is a film director, writer and producer. His short films have been screened at major film festivals and received numerous awards. Outdoors (which screened at the 1st Boston Israeli Film Festival in 2019), his debut feature film, is an indie project which he also produced. The film received rave reviews and commercial success in Israeli cinemas. Currently in pre-production of his second feature, The Delegation, which is an Israeli-German-Polish co-production.

Alex Salsberg, Speaker, Bukra fil Mish Mish Animation Workshop

Alex Salsberg is a Boston-based independent animator, filmmaker and teacher. In addition to developing independent shorts, Alex has created animation for Nickelodeon, WGBH, and MTV, and directed videos for musicians including Billy Ray Cyrus and Utkarsh Ambudkar.

Alex is an adjunct animation professor at Lesley University, and offers animation workshops to kids of all ages as founder of The Animation Lab. Alex is also co-founder and director of AniMAtic Boston, an organization that supports and educates New England animation artists.

See Alex’s work at pokegravy.com.

Avner Shavit, Moderator, Persian Lessons

Avner Shavit teaches at Wesleyan University. He holds a Ph.D. from the New Sorbonne University – Paris III, and is a member of its research team. Shavit has presented his works in the universities of Cambridge and Yale, among others. He is also one of the most prominent film critics in Israel and has been covering the local and international scene for the last two decades, in which he has covered major film festivals and published interviews with leading filmmakers.

Veronica Selver, Co-Director, Irmi

Veronica Selver is a filmmaker and editor who has specialized in social issue documentaries. Her own films include KPFA On The Air, Raising the Roof, and Cape Song. Films she co-directed and co-edited include You Got to Move, First Look, and the Columbia duPont Excellence in Broadcast Journalism winner Word is Out.

Katya Ustinova, Director, Shtetlers

Katya Ustinova is a Russian born documentary filmmaker living in New York. Prior to switching over to documentary filmmaking she has worked as a producer, host and reporter for almost ten years for a major Russian Broadcasting Company in Moscow. After moving to the US she got her MFA degree in Social Documentary from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2012 along with receiving a Paula Rhodes Award for exceptional achievement in documentary filmmaking for her thesis film. Over the past several years she has been working on three feature length films covering very different themes, stories and characters. As the other two films are still in progress, Shtetlers is her first completed feature length documentary.

Charles Wahl, Director, The Mohel

Charles Wahl is a Canadian independent filmmaker. His recent short film, The Mohel, World Premiered at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, and became Academy Award Qualified after winning Best Live Action Short, Under 15 Minutes at the 2021 Palm Springs International ShortFest.

His award winning short film – Little Grey Bubbles, had an incredible festival run with notable stops at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, 2019 Aspen ShortsFest, 2019 Clermont- Ferrand International Short Film Festival, 2019 Palm Springs International ShortFest, and won the 2019 Best Atlantic Short Award at the 2019 FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival. It premiered online via Short of the Week, while also being a Vimeo Staff Pick.

In addition to making films he works internationally directing commercials.

Christa Whitney, Co-director, Who Will Remain? 

Originally from Northern California, Christa discovered Yiddish while studying comparative literature at Smith College. She has studied Yiddish language at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, the Workmen’s Circle, and the Yiddish Book Center. For the past ten years, she has directed the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project, traveling near and far recording oral history interviews, managing a video archive, and producing documentary films and web features about all aspects of Yiddish language and culture.

Kaj Wilson, Moderator, Irmi

Kaj Wilson was Artistic Director of The Boston Jewish Film Festival for twelve years. Prior to that she was Film Editor of “The Improper Bostonian.” Awards include the Women in Film and Video/New England Image Award for Vision and Excellence (2003) and a Special Commendation from the Boston Society of Film Critics (2007). In 2011, she was honored by The Boston Jewish Film Festival for leadership in New England film. Since 2010, she’s been teaching film classes at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline.

Saul Zaritt, Moderator, The Adventures of Saul Bellow

Saul Noam Zaritt is an associate professor of Yiddish Literature in the departments of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. He is the author of Jewish American Writing and World Literature (2020) and is a founding editor of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies.