Still from “Shared Legacies:The African American-Jewish Civil Rights Alliance” (Photo/Menemsha Films)
Still from “Shared Legacies:The African American-Jewish Civil Rights Alliance” (Photo/Menemsha Films)

Film-speaker series to spotlight shared Black-Jewish values

Early next month, the East Bay International Jewish Film Festival is offering a series of free films and talks on the historic struggles of Jews and people of color to achieve equality and justice.

“Sharing Dreams,” which runs Jan. 4 through Jan. 18, is an extension of something the EBIJFF offers in the summer at its annual festival — an entire day of programming focused on “all types of prejudice: antisemitism, homophobia, racism, stereotyping,” said Riva Gambert, the EBIJFF director.

The series is being presented for free (thanks to anonymous donors) and is in memory of Ilene Weinreb, who died in November at age 89. An activist who was a staunch advocate for affordable housing, she served two terms as Hayward’s first elected female mayor, starting in 1974.

One of the films that will be discussed — although not screened — is “Green Book,” a drama that starred Viggo Mortensen and Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali. Released in 2018, it introduced many Americans to what it was like for Black people to travel in the U.S. before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It wasn’t just a matter of drinking from the “non-whites” water fountain, Gambert said. Many hotels, motels, restaurants, pharmacies, beauty parlors and doctors didn’t allow people of color to use their services or facilities.

That’s where “The Negro Motorist Green-Book” came in. Known simply as “The Green Book,” the annual guide provided, along with general travel tips, the names and addresses of establishments that did not support segregation and welcomed Black travelers. It was an essential survival tool for Black travelers in the Jim Crow era.

Candacy Taylor, a fellow at the Harvard University–affiliated Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, is an expert on “The Green Book,” having penned her own book on the subject,  “Overground Railroad,” published in early 2020. She will speak on the topic from 4 to 5 p.m. Jan. 10 in an event titled “The Legacy of the Green Book.”

In the course of her research, Taylor drove some 50,000 miles to visit thousands of former Green Book businesses.

Her talk and the “Green Book” movie, which people can watch on their own, provide a kind of metaphor for the overall series, as “Sharing Dreams” will explore the efforts of African Americans to navigate the road forward, both literally and figuratively, as well as the history of Black-Jewish relations in America.

The program includes the 2014 documentary “Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent.” about the celebrated German-born rabbi who stood up to the Nazis in Europe and then, as a refugee and rabbi in New Jersey, stood side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr. in U.S. civil rights struggles. The 50-minute film will be available from 9 a.m. Jan. 5 through 10 p.m. Jan. 10.

At 7 p.m. Jan. 7, local Jewish historian and author Fred Rosenbaum, who has led Jewish tours to the American South, will offer another one of his “Around the World with Fred” talks, this one placing the Prinz film into its historic-cultural context.

The festival will conclude with “Shared Legacies: The African American-Jewish Civil Rights Alliance,” a 2020 documentary about the intertwined histories of Jews and Blacks in the struggle for civil rights. The 95-minute film will screen from 9 a.m. Jan. 16 through 10 p.m. Jan. 18.

Information and free tickets are available here.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s former culture editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.