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The Sheba Film Festival will celebrate the culture and history of the Ethiopian Jews by displaying arts, paintings and feature 5 films about Ethiopian Jewry. The event will be held on August 15th, 2004 from 12PM to 10PM. It will take place at the Faison Firehouse Theatre at 124st and St.Nicholas Ave in Harlem NYC.

For the first time in New York City, the Sheba Film Festival is aimed to honor the contributions of Ethiopians Jews to greater Judaica and to the ancient Ethiopian culture. The Beta Israel of North America Cultural Foundation Inc. together with the American Performing Arts Collaborative presents the SHEBA FILM FESTIVAL: A LOOK AT ETHIOPIA’S JEWISH CULTURE AND HERITAGE. The Sheba Film Festival will be held at the newly renovated Faison Firehouse Theatre located at 6 Hancock Pl. & 124th st., near St.Nicholas Ave. in Harlem. It will run from 12pm-10pm and will showcase movies, an artistic and cultural display and a speech by Prof. Ephraim Isaac of the Semitic Studies Institute and Princeton University.

The Sheba Film Festival will highlight a new era, as it becomes the first Festival to focus on the history, culture and issues of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews) community. Numerous film festivals celebrating Jewish heritage and culture have been presented before, but none featured the Beta Israel community in Ethiopia or Israel. The Festival primarily focuses on the culture and heritage of the Jews of Ethiopia, featuring 5 films demonstrating life primarily in Israel and Ethiopia, and showing the long history that Judaism has had in Ethiopia. Supplementing the films will be an artistic display from Beta Israel artists and cultural handiworks indigenous to Ethiopia. The Festival also serves as an opportunity for the Ethiopian Jewish community to expound on many issues that are affecting them today. “The films depict life’s triumphs and tribulations that are specific to the Beta Israel community as well as issues that are faced by peoples all over the world today”, says Executive Director Beejhy Barhany. Presently 90,000 Ethiopian Jews call Israel home, of these the majority arrived through massive migrations over the past 25 years, sacrificing their lives to accomplish aliyah, the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures, that demands return to the Promise Land. In this regard, the films shed a spotlight on their reception and introduction into Israeli society. It also shows the erosion of the Beta Israel culture, as well as steps taken to preserve it, as they find their place in a new home. When asked what she hopes to accomplish through the Festival, Ms. Barhany remarks, “We hope that you walk away with a greater understanding of our community, our history and culture and mark this as the beginning of a great friendship.” Scheduled to give a speech is Prof. Ephraim Isaac of the Semitic Studies Institute. Prof. Isaac, of Ethiopian and Yemeni heritage, uses language as evidence of the impact Ethiopia has had on Judaism. His speeches are lively, engaging and always enlightening. A young and upcoming Ethiopian singer will bring the night to a close with a performance.

The Festival is expected to draw a large crowd as well as dignitaries within NYC political field and the international community. Expected in the audience are Councilmen Bill Perkins, Charles Barron and Alan Gerson of New York City Council. Councilman Perkins, an avid supporter of the growth of culture and heritage of the city in explains the importance of the event. “This illustrious affair continues the efforts made to showcase the culture and history of the Ethiopian Jews.” To explain its purpose to the community the Councilman stated, “It encourages the development of the artists and creative persons and maintains the Ethiopian Judaic culture and way of life.” Councilman Gerson similarly displays his enthusiasm for the event. “I am very excited about [the] inauguration of the Sheba Film Festival! There has been a fine representation of Ethiopian Jewry in film, and it is fantastic to see this program celebrate such a rich artistic movement and culture.” In describing what’s in the future of the festival Councilman Gerson said, “The Sheba Film Festival will soon become an important cultural tradition in our city. I encourage all to join with me, and visit, view, and enjoy the Sheba Film Festival. Sheba is an event whose time has definitely come.”

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