fbpx

九色

Turturro Receives Award at Sephardic Film Festival Opening

French filmmaker Alexandre Arcady and Holocaust survivor/activist Stella Levi were also honored.
[additional-authors]
June 6, 2024
Turturro with fellow award recipients Stella Levi (third from right) director Alexandre Arcady (sixth from right) on opening night.

John Turturro, a gentile actor聽who has played Jewish roles, received a Pomegranate Award recognizing Lifetime Achievement on June 2 at the opening ceremony the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.

In 鈥淨uiz Show鈥 Turturro nailed the anxiety of Herb Stempel, the game show contestant who blew the whistle on the 鈥淭wenty-One鈥 cheating scandal. He鈥檚 played Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, and he presented a magnetic and persuasive Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, who supported Charles Lindbergh鈥檚 pro-Nazi candidacy in the HBO series 鈥淭he Plot Against America鈥 based on the Philip Roth novel鈥 and professional poker player Joey Knish in 鈥淩ounders.鈥

Turturro, who is masterful in dramatic roles as well as comedic ones, showed his humor.

鈥淭hank you very much for this Pomegranate Award,鈥 Turturro told the crowd at The Center for Jewish History. 鈥淚 know that a pomegranate is high in dietary fiber, folic acid, Vitamin C and Vitamin K so it鈥檚 a healthy award. My wifeCatherine is Ashkenazi. She鈥檚 someone jealous that I鈥檝e been chosen as an honorary 鈥︹

His craft has been informed by the city where he lives, he said.

鈥淎s an actor and sometimes director, I鈥檝e had the great pleasure to investigate many other different cultures,鈥 Turturro said. 聽鈥淗aving grown up in New York, it鈥檚 a big part of my DNA.鈥 He added that he enjoys 鈥渢elling stories that are not鈥減re-packaged鈥 and make people think.

Also receiving a Pomegranate Award was French director Alexandre Arcady, who is Jewish. His film 鈥淭he Little Blond as The Casbah鈥 is being screened on June 3. Speaking through a translator, Arcady told the crowd he was moved the see the exhibit of the Nova massacre now on view in downtown Manhattan, then 鈥渢hree hours later, the Israel Day Parade 鈥 To see the children, the crowds, with the flags was very exceptional walking down Fifth Avenue.鈥

The director said that while he was inspired in New York, he was troubled by the situation back home.

鈥淚n France, we have removed mezzuzot from our houses,鈥 he said, adding that some have removed kippot, which he described as 鈥渁 very disturbing situation.鈥

Many of his films tell the Sephardic Jewish story, be it Israeli characters or members of the mafia.

Stella Levi, who was given the Pomegranite Award for 鈥減reservation and celebration of Sephardic Culture, is 101. She took the stage and read a prepared speech, speaking clearly and with conviction.

She thanked her son for calling her every Friday and wishing her 鈥淪habbat Shalom鈥 despite not being religious.

But in the eyes of mainstream American Jews, she said, she was considered an exotic person.

鈥淚n fact, when we arrived at Auschwitz, the other prisoners shunned us for not knowing Yiddish,鈥 Levi told the crowd. 鈥淚t was French, the language that saved us because the French women in the camp spoke both Yiddish and French, translated German for us.鈥

She helped a number of Jewish cultural institutions around the world and said humanity must be placed above everything else. She cited the 鈥淎don Olam鈥 prayer 鈥淎donai Li V鈥橪o Ira鈥 or 鈥渢he Lord Is With Me And I have No Fear.鈥

Asked how she had the strength to give such a speech to a big crowd, she told the Journal: 鈥淭his is what I do.鈥

The program also included a performance by French Algerian singer Enrico Macias, who is Jewish ( his real name is Gaston Ghrenassia). The 85-year-old wowed the crowd with a clear and strong voice and guitar playing. He delighted the crowd with the song 鈥淥se Shalom.鈥

David Dangoor, president of the American Sephardi Federation said truth and education is important.

鈥淥ne of the biggest problems for Jews today in the world is the world doesn鈥檛 know Jewish history,鈥 he told the crowd. 鈥淚 mean if you look at all the modern theories that exist-colonizers, occupiers 鈥 I don鈥檛 think there鈥檚 any race or any people that have been on the receiving end of the viciousness of the world and what the world can provide in terms of evilness than the Jewish people, and it continues and it鈥檚 difficult to understand why it鈥檚 never rectified itself.

“I don鈥檛 think there鈥檚 any race or any people that have been on the receiving end of the viciousness of the world and what the world can provide in terms of evilness than the Jewish people, and it continues and it鈥檚 difficult to understand why it鈥檚 never rectified itself.” – David Dangoor

鈥淎 very big part of the Jewish world, they don鈥檛 know about Sephardic Jews-they don鈥檛 understand them, they don鈥檛 know them, I almost sounded like Jackie Mason,鈥 Dangoor said.

He joked that the difference between an Ashkenazi rabbi and a Sephardic rabbi is the former tells what is prohibited and the latter tells what is permitted.

Dangoor told The Journal that while these are difficult times the world over, 鈥渋t was important to have an uplifting and positive event that reminds us of the good things we bring into the world.鈥欌

To see the schedule, go to .

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.
  • 九色

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

  • 九色

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

  • 九色