Ashkenazim — Jews of European origin — are Israel’s “white folks.” And like most white folks in a multicultural society, they see themselves as the social norm and don’t think of themselves in racial or ethnic terms, But the paradox of whiteness in Israel is that Ashkenazim aren’t exactly “white folks” historically. A story that begins in the Rhineland and ends in the holy land (or is it the other way around?), Ashkenaz looks at whiteness in Israel and wonders: how did the “others” of Europe become the “Europe” of the others?
NIF Film Club discussed this film with NIF’s VP of Public Engagement Libby Lenkinski and director Rachel Leah Jones.
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Rachel Leah Jones is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose trajectory in the field — from researcher to writer to producer to director to editor — has spanned 25 years and three continents. Her work, which has been awarded by the Asia Pacific Screen Academy (APSA), was also nominated for the PGA and IDA Awards, selected by the EFA, honored by Cinema Eye, and shortlisted for the Oscars. A two-time Sundance Festival and Institute alumna, her critically-acclaimed films have screened in festivals worldwide like Hotdocs, Sheffield, IDFA and DocNYC and have aired on dozens of channels, including: BBC Storyville, ARD Germany, France 2, RTS Switzerland, Channel 8 Israel, YLE Finland, DR Denmark, SVT Sweden, 2M Morocco, Radio Canada, and HBO Latin America. Her latest film, Advocate (2019), is slated for PBS’s 2020 POV season. Born in Berkeley, California in 1970 and raised between Berkeley and Tel Aviv, Jones has a BA in Race, Class and Gender Studies and an MFA in Documentary Media Arts. Her directing credits include: 500 Dunam on the Moon (2002); Ashkenaz (2007); Targeted Citizen (2010); Gypsy Davy (2012); and Advocate (2019). In addition to making her own films, Jones has produced with others (e.g. WALL by Simone Bitton, which premiered at Cannes 2004 and won the Jury Prize at Sundance 2005), has been affiliated with progressive media outlets such as DEMOCRACY NOW! in New York, and has worked extensively as a story consultant, directing mentor, lector, and curator. Photo of Rachel by David Adika.