Janis Plotkin's Reflection

Dear Jenny, Asher, Ella & Family of Marcia Freedman,

Sometimes people are introduced and then a bond is born. In my case, I read about Marcia Freedman in the press. She was a candidate in the Citizen’s Rights Party in 1970’s Israel. The world was changing, women were speaking up and Marcia, the first openly LBGTQ women to be elected to the Knesset, had something to say. I was living in Israel at the time and while reading about her I immediately felt a kinship with her efforts to challenge the Israeli macho society of the post ’67 years when we all thought peace with the Arabs was possible and Palestinians had not as yet found their voice. She was a force in her gentle, intelligent way. Fighting the fight for women’s rights in Israel and daring to raise the question of pursuing peace when the Arabs said no to land for peace, no to negotiation. I wanted to be her friend.

Later in the 1980’s there was a rumor that Marcia was moving to Berkeley with her daughter Jenny. It was the early years of the Jewish Film Festival and we were making a mark as a place for the Israel discussion. There was no other public space for this in the mainstream. It was a taboo.

It did not take much to convince Marcia to join the Board. Eventually she would step up to be our President and coincided with my stepping into being the new JFF Director. There were big shoes to fill. The founding Director, Deborah Kaufman was ready to make her own films and departed in the Fall, 1993. There, she became a friend.

I remember many a time when Marcia was with me for contentious meetings with community critics. We were fighting the good fight for justice and to have a voice at the table. She was my ally in fundraising, strategizing, gossiping and bolstering each other. What a partner the Jewish Film Festival had, a comrade who could lead us to the next level.

Although I often times scared myself with our boldness, I floated hand-in-hand with Marcia who made me feel protected. I felt I no longer feared the coming political storm. Marcia had been part of a political breakthrough for women in Israel. She was a fighter, an activist and our petite, quiet leader who devoted herself to the civic good and said so—“her service was her contribution” she said. She was a major ‘big giver’ when she volunteered her time and talent to the emerging cultural force called the Jewish Film Festival. Not only was she our President, but she joined our staff as a volunteer Editor for our 20th anniversary catalog entitled INDEPENDENT JEWISH FILM: A Guide To Films Featured in the Jewish Film Festival.

Now, in times of doubt I would ask myself, what would Marcia do? In an imaginary voice Marcia would say: you shall soar! She was my model of steady, wise leadership. She lifted me beyond the boundaries. She was my imaginary guide. The fear was real but there simply was no choice but to fly holding her hand. We have lost her in the physical world, but her message and presence are still with us. No doubt, she had changed us forever.

Thank you, Marcia!
Janis Plotkin

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