Gershman Launches New Young Friends Group for Film Fans

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The Young Friends of the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival (GPJFF) held its first film event on Dec. 6, ushering in a new development for the Jewish arts organization.

The group’s goal is to bring young adults, ages 21 to 39, together to influence Jewish film narratives, said Development Associate Nick McNamara, who is acting as the group’s committee chair. The group seeks to elevate young voices while creating a sense of community.

“There’s so much information about the past [in Jewish films], but the world is very different now,” McNamara said. “We find that it’s important to also tell the stories of today because history is still happening. It’s still being made.”

About 30 people attended the Shorts on South event at South Street Cinema, where the group screened The Love Letter, The Outer Circle, Shabbos Kallah and Who Sank Your Ships? These shorts take place in the modern day and cover topics such as LGBTQ issues and interfaith dating. The event also included a conversation with local filmmaker Yoni Brook.

GPJFF officially launched the Young Friends group on Sept. 26 with a party, which about 50 people attended. The group is still in its infancy and is looking to grow by building a committee, finding a committee chair and generating community interest.

Besides the launch party and the Shorts on South event, the group’s committee had its first meeting on Oct. 24. The purpose of the meeting was mostly for the committee members to get to know each other. They also created marketing, event planning and development subcommittees.

Ruth Coval, an electrical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center and a 2017 graduate of Pennsylvania State University, recently joined the committee following the Jewish film festival in November.

She attended several of the festival’s events, including the closing night screening, Promise at Dawn. At the following reception, Coval met McNamara. She remarked to him that there were a lot of older people at the event, and McNamara told her about the Young Friends group he was starting up.

Coval doesn’t have a particularly strong interest in film — she does like historical films, dramas and romances — but wanted to use the opportunity to get more involved with the Jewish community, especially as she recently moved to the city.

She attended Shorts on South and found the films served as a platform to discuss larger issues.

“I really enjoyed all the films,” she said. “I thought they were all great. Each one gave you a lot to think about afterwards.”

On the committee, Coval hopes she can get the word out about the group, build relationships with other Jewish young professional organizations and, of course, pick out “really great, meaningful films to show at our events,” Coval said.

“Part of the point recently of the films is it creates a platform to speak about what’s going on in the films and, from there, to reach our own personal lives,” Coval continued. “It’s a really great way for younger people to talk about their own experiences because [film] sets a platform.”

At the end of November, 90 years of history came to a close when the Gershman Y moved from its building and transitioned into the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival. Now, the GPJFF staff works in an office space at the National Museum of American Jewish History. At the same time, the annual Latkepalooza — now in its 16th year — was not held this year because of the Gershman Y’s closing.

The Young Friends group launched in conjunction with the transition, but it’s not a direct result of it, McNamara said.

With this group, they are hoping to bring in more young people. The Gershman Y had a tendency to attract older adults, many of whom had grown up going to the center, but the organization also holds events relevant to younger generations, he said.

Moving forward, McNamara is considering what young adults want from a group like this. He said he thinks they want to get to know people and develop a stake in their community.

“The Gershman Y never had a Young Friends group,” McNamara said. “We really feel like it’s important for people in that age group, like 21 to 39, to have an outlet in which they can be influential in the stories that are told today.”

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