JxJ Festival returns live with focus on Jews of Color, LGBTQ Jews

Afro-Semitic Experience. | Photo courtesy of Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center

While much of the world got through the first two-plus years of the pandemic streaming and Zooming, Dava Schub says there’s nothing like a live, in-person movie or concert. The CEO at Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center said, “people are longing for community, connection and culture, and although we’ve all soothed our need for content through mediums like Netflix and Amazon Prime, there is nothing like watching film or experiencing music in a concert setting where the audience is part of the experience.”

And like so many of us, she admitted, “I focus differently in a communal setting. I’m not constantly running for a snack or grabbing my phone. I’m as moved by the experience on the screen as I am by the people in the seats adjacent to me.”

Having joined the Edlavitch JCC in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s ecstatic about the forthcoming JxJ Festival, a program of live music, film screenings and discussions at the J and area film venues in the District and Maryland running May 12–22.

“One of the hallmarks of the JxJ Film and Music Festival is not just what happens when the lights are out, but what happens when the lights go back on and there’s a panel discussion that sheds light on an important topic, whether that’s around the place of Jews of color, of LGBTQ Jews, of the Arab citizens of Israel,” said Schub, former chief program officer at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.


The Edlavitch JCC is known for bringing in filmmakers, directors, actors and experts from all walks of life to enhance the audience experience. Those talks, Q&As, workshops and panels benefit from audience participation as well.

“The expertise is not just on the stage,” she noted, “but in the audience. We are a highly intellectual, engaged, competent, committed audience that thinks deeply about the issues that the films surface and reflect on.”

This year, JxJ sheds light on the experiences of Jews of color. “Historically we’ve seen a very Ashkenazi-centered expression of Jewish life,” Schub said. “The EDJCC has been thinking a lot about whose stories we tell and who gets to tell them … I want to make space for our community to see and celebrate the complexity, the diversity, the depth and the facets of who makes up our Jewish community and who gets to tell those stories … to understand the richness and complexity of the Jewish community.”

With 60 multidisciplinary events, including 15 artist talks or panels over 10 days, there should be something for everyone. Among highlights focusing on the Jews of color thread, is a performance by the Gili Yalo Duo. An Israeli with Ethiopian roots, Yalo draws on his Ethiopian musical legacy, but creates a sound infused with soul, jazz and funk in both his English and Amharic songs.

The Afro-Semitic Experience’s “Letters from the Affair” is a multi-media work drawing on jazz, opera and musical theater to examine the friendship between Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro and how that came to an end due to the Dreyfus Affair.

On-screen, the French-and-Hebrew documentary “The Forgotten Ones” digs into oft-ignored Israeli history. Director Michale Boganim explores her father’s journey from Morocco to Israel and the mistreatment of Mizrachi Jews.

The Canadian film “Shalom Putti” recounts a group of Orthodox Israeli rabbis who travel to a little-known Jewish community in rural Uganda and the transformations that both groups encounter.

The German-made film “Wet Dog,” an epithet, follows a teenager caught between his Jewish identity and his friends in his largely Muslim Berlin neighborhood.

Other films, performances and talks deal with LGBTQ+ issues, Jewish women, Holocaust and post-Holocaust stories, and a complexity of Jewish experiences from birth to death.

As Schub and her colleagues at the Edlavitch JCC ready for the return of JxJ live, she added, “This programming is a reflection of the larger commitment of the EDCJCC to expand the boundaries of Jewish life. This is a moment when all are welcome here … we are creating this community with you in mind.”

For a complete schedule of JxJ Events from May 12-22, visit: https://www.jxjdc.org/events/.

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