In the News

New Synagogue presents filmmaking program for teens

August 3, 2022
New Synagogue presents filmmaking program for teens

By Linda Chase (Staff Writer)

New Synagogue of Palm Beach created a filmmaking program for teens that culminates in a virtual screening of the students’ original films on Tuesday, August 16th at 7 p.m. The films to be presented are “Calgary Vice” by Ben Armstrong and “Let’s Go” by David Rubin. Rabbi Abraham Unger, Executive Director of Programs at the Synagogue chatted with the Florida Jewish Journal about the series.

Linda: Why was the film program for teens created?

Rabbi Unger: The film program for teens was created to offer a chance for young people to pursue a craft that allows them to become independent and creative storytellers using the most popular medium of our time. Yet, while it’s certainly fun to make a movie, it also requires tremendous discipline and stick-to-itiveness.

Unlike a documentary, in a fiction film such as those our students made, a script has to be written from beginning to end, it has to be cast, filming has to be scheduled and organized in terms of locations and camera work, and then there is of course editing, all the way down to the credits. It’s a multi-faceted undertaking with lots of moving parts. Students learn they can indeed do anything, and see anything through.

Linda: I understand the program is offered virtually across the country?

Rabbi Unger: Yes. We even had a student from Canada.

Linda: How did New Synagogue get involved?

Rabbi Unger: This program is a New Synagogue creation! We have been following the hybrid model taken from Higher Education of both in-person and online programming, and giving it our own creative twist to meet people where they are. In this case, we met teens through making movies that they themselves created.

Linda: How were the teens chosen?

Rabbi Unger:This was a program to which the teens were accepted by application.

Linda: How much are the teens involved in the filmmaking process?

Rabbi Unger: We expected them to be self-starters and organize their production from start to finish, and, when offered the chance, they rose to the occasion.

Linda: What got each teen interested in films?

Rabbi Unger: The teens who came to us were self-selecting in that they already had an interest in film. For example, one student had to leave mid semester because of a major grant received for the making of another film. Another of our students was just accepted to a prestigious undergraduate filmmaking program.

Linda: Do they aspire to continue a career in filmmaking?

Rabbi Unger: All of our alumni so far do aspire to continue a career in filmmaking, but as an educator, I can attest that the skills learned in this program contribute to success in any field. Seeing something through from start to finish, and learning when young you can organize a major project under deadline, are lessons for a lifetime.

Linda: Are the filmmakers connected to New Synagogue?

Rabbi Unger:These filmmakers were not initially connected to New Synagogue. They found us and this program because they were so interested in pursuing their passion, but now they are New Synagogue alumni.

Linda: What is the film “Calgary Vice” about?

Rabbi Unger: “Calgary Vice” is a comedy about someone trying to get home desperately for Passover, but no matter how hard he tries, using a variety of techniques, plans go awry. His plans keep backfiring.

Linda: What is the film “Let’s Go” about?

Rabbi Unger: “Let’s Go” is a bit more serious, and is about someone who thinks he is in control of his life, but quickly realizes he isn’t. Throughout, there is the shadow of the main character’s grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.

Linda: Are the teens currently working on other film projects?

Rabbi Unger: This is currently a one semester program, so the teens have now moved on.

Linda: Does filmmaking strengthen their Jewish identity and how?

Rabbi Unger:That’s a very significant part of what we do in this program. No matter the background of the student, they have to research a part of Jewish life or history to weave naturally into their scripts.

Because the teens are creating their own stories, they take deeper ownership of the Jewish dimension they bring to their screenplays, thereby strengthening their understanding of Judaism and Jewish identity in a very natural way that becomes part of them. It’s part of a project they’ve made as independent thinkers and creators.

Linda: Rabbi Unger, I’m impressed with their creativity and willingness to challenge themselves.

For more information visit

(Page 21)

Click here for article