SOMETIME DURING the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival’s extravagant opening night reception at Shalom Park’s Temple Israel on February 10, those in the buzzing crowd of nearly 400 will momentarily quiet and raise their glasses, toasting the launch of the three-week, 16-film run.
The festival enters its 14th season as the longest continuously running film festival in the city, an unlikely success born from educational programming supporting a local women’s group. The festival’s longevity is driven by highlighting well-crafted, Jewish-themed films found outside the megaplex playbill mainstream, thoughtful community outreach, and year-round programming.
“Amy Montoni and I were charged with putting together educational programming to attract interest for our Hadassah group,” recalls festival cofounder Debby Block, referring to the international Jewish women’s volunteer organization and the festival’s 2005 origins. “We thought Jewish film would be a fun way to bring people together, and screened two films (Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi and Veronika’s Birthday) at the Light Factory one evening. We expected 35 or 40, and people kept coming. We ended up with about 100 attending. We realized we’d discovered a niche, and the next year, we had two nights of programing, and it’s simply grown from there.”
Last year, more than 5,000 peop