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Saturday, August 23, 2014

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Play explores world of Shanghai's Jewish refugees

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Next Stage Theatre Festival presents the premiere of On the Other Side of the World, a play written and directed by Brenley Charkow, about a young Jewish girl whose family flees to Shanghai during World War II. “I wanted to honour this little-known piece of history,” Charkow said. “Growing up Jewish, I was raised with the knowledge of what happened during the war, but not once did I hear of the Jewish refugees and ghettos of Shanghai. The more research I did, the more I wanted to tell this story.”

The production will feature a 14-person cast that includes Ashleigh Hendry, Nicholas Rice, Sam Rosenthal, Dale Yim, Liza Balkan, Jordan Kanner and Dov Mickelson. It also features an original musical score incorporating both Asian and Jewish musical influences that will be performed live. $15. Factory Theatre Main Stage, 125 Bathurst St. Jan. 9 to 19, 2014. www.fringetoronto.com, 416-966-1062.

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Israeli Film Festival: The Daring Independent Film Festival (DIFF), which grew out of the five-year-old but now defunct Moving Image Film Festival, makes its debut in Toronto in December, headed by Toronto-based filmmaker Ron Furman. DIFF, in partnership with the Schwartz-Reisman Centre, is presenting a full day of Israeli films.

“My mission is to promote Israel as best as possible,” says Furman, who once worked for the Israeli foreign ministry and the Israel advocacy organization Stand With Us, and who adds that films that bash Israel will not be accepted in the festival.

“I believe there are a lot of anti-Israel films out there that do not represent the state in the proper way. I wanted to do my part to present Israel as I see it. An Israeli film festival is the best way to promote Israel and to educate people as to what Israel is all about.”

The program includes Welcome Home, Furman’s hour-long documentary about groups of young participants in the Birthright program from New York, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles and Miami as they visit Israel for the first time. Other titles include Strangers No More, Dolphin Boy, 804, Red Nose and Out in the Dark.

While DIFF’s first three days of screenings take place at a downtown venue, the Israeli films will be screened on the fourth day – Sunday, Dec. 29 – at the Schwartz-Reisman Centre, 9600 Bathurst St., north of Rutherford Rd. in Vaughan, Ont. $10 per film, day pass $36. www.diffest.com

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Ishay Shaer in Concert: Syrinx Concerts Toronto presents acclaimed Israeli pianist Ishay Shaer playing a program of Beethoven and Somers. He has performed throughout the world and won both national and international prizes. $25, $20. Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. Sunday, Dec. 8, 3 p.m.  ­syrinxconcerts.ca/concerts

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Jews of Egypt: Congregation Darchei Noam is screening the Egyptian documentary film Jews of Egypt by director Amir Ramses, supposedly the first film of its kind produced in Egypt and permitted a general release. The film covers the Jewish involvement in Egyptian business and arts in the first half of the 20th century, mentions the founding of Israel in 1948, the Egyptian revolution of 1952, and the forced exile of Egypt’s Jews.

Khaled Diab, an Egyptian-Belgian journalist, wrote an opinion piece in Ha’aretz after a screening of the film in Egypt was cancelled. “This damages the push-back against strong anti-Jewish sentiment gripping the country, while failing to remind Egyptians of a past era of diversity and tolerance,” he wrote. $10, $5. Darchei Noam, 864 Sheppard Ave. W. Sunday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Arts in Brief

• Aftermath (Poklosie), a recent film by Polish director Wladyslaw Pasikowski, is a controversial, award-winning thriller dealing with the reality of Polish-Jewish relations since World War II. This Toronto Jewish Film Festival Chai Tea and A Movie selection is co-presented by the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation. A Q&A with producer Dariusz Jablonski follows the screening. $15. City Playhouse Theatre, 1000 New Westminster Dr., Vaughan (off Bathurst, south of Hwy. 7). Sunday, Nov. 24, tea at 4 p.m., film at 5 p.m. www.tjff.com, 416-324-9121.

• Critic Kevin Courrier continues his series on “The Enigmatic Genius of Robert Altman. Topic, “Documentary – Tanner 88.” $11.25, drop-in, students $6. Miles Nadal JCC, Monday, Dec. 2, 7 to 9 p.m.

• Active Seniors and Boomers presents More Gems from the Jewish-American Songbook, with Jordan Klapman playing selections from Irving Berlin, the Gershwins and Richard Rogers. $4. Miles Nadal JCC, Thursday, Dec 5, 1:30 p.m.

• Toronto Jewish Film Society and Koffler Centre of the Arts present two documentaries on Jewish music in South America – Tango, A Story with Jews, and Rio Klezmer. With guest speaker Eric Stein. Tickets ($15, $10) available 15 minutes before screenings. Miles Nadal JCC, Al Green Theatre. Sunday. Dec. 8, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

• Teatron Toronto Jewish Theatre presents the world premiere of Seven Days, a play by Ron Rutberg about some former fighters in a Jewish underground movement in pre-independence Jerusalem who moved to America after the state was declared. The play explores the question: “What drove these fierce nationalists so far from their cherished homeland?” Toronto Centre of the Arts, Studio Theatre, Jan. 8 to 19, 2014. ­teatrontheatre.com

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