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The Jewish Experience: North American Premiere

The Jewish Experience: North American Premiere


Miguel Kohan’s Spanish language documentary takes viewers on a voyage of discovery, unearthing Jewish history in the Americas extending back to the Spanish Inquisition.

Chicago’s Spertus Institute presents the North American Film Premiere

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership (610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago) proudly presents the North American Premiere of the 2019 Spanish language documentary, La Experiencia Judia De Basavilbaso a Nueva Amsterdam (The Jewish Experience from Basavilbaso to New Amsterdam). The film’s award-winning director, Miguel Kohan, takes viewers on a rare voyage of discovery, unearthing Jewish history in the Americas extending back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The screening takes place Monday, September 9, at 7 pm followed by a discussion with film producer Dr. Daniel Dunkelman, a surgeon at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a regular consultant for Hispanic television, in conversation with Spertus Institute Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keren. E. Fraiman, who spent part of her childhood in Uruguay.

In his wide-ranging quest to tell this unknown chapter of Jewish diaspora history, Kohan touches down in Brazil, Surinam, Jamaica, St. Eustatius, and his native Argentina (where his own family descends from Jewish Gauchos and he discovers an abandoned 17th-century synagogue and cemetery buried in the jungle).

On St. Eustatius, Kohan learns about assistance given by Jewish merchants—at great risk to their lives—to the rebelling British colony key to the future United States. In the course of his adventures, Kohan proves how Jews who settled in remote places turned their exile into strength.

“This film surprised me by revealing aspects of Jewish history I had never thought about,” said Spertus Institute Associate Dean Beth Schenker. “With beautiful cinematography, filmmaker Miguel Kohan makes you feel as though you are right there with him, discovering hidden histories in the jungles and villages of South America. I am thrilled that we are able to present its premiere and welcome producer Daniel Dunkelman, who helped propel Kohan’s project from a personal pursuit to fruition.”

Among his past credits, the UCLA-educated Kohan directed the acclaimed documentary Café de los Maestros (2008). Profiling the golden days of Argentinean Tango, the film had its international release at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival and subsequently screened at multiple festivals around world, receiving a number of awards. Currently in production is his latest work of fiction, El Despenador (The Bearer of Sorrows), supported by the National Film Institute of Argentina and scored by Gustavo Santaolalla (two-time Academy Award winner for Best Original Score for Brokeback Mountain and Babel).

La Experiencia Judia De Basavilbaso a Nueva Amsterdam (The Jewish Experience from Basavilbaso to New Amsterdam) is in Spanish with English subtitles. It runs 88 minutes. Tickets for the North American Premiere and post-screening discussion are $18 ($8 for students) and are on sale now at spertus.edu.

This is Spertus Institute’s annual Horwitz Family Presentation on Jewish History, generously endowed by the Horwitz Charitable Fund.

Monday, June 24, 2019