The New Jersey premiere of the documentary Mifgash: Encountering Jewish Identity in the 21st Century on Aug. 3 in Deal holds particular significance for its director/producer. Seth Kroll told NJJN he is “thrilled that the film is going to be screened in New Jersey. I feel so accomplished to bring it to my home state, because that is where my Jewish identify was first developed.”
Kroll, who grew up in Princeton Junction, where his family belonged to Congregation Beth Chaim, said that in high school, he was active with NFTY — the Reform youth movement — on the local and state level. Before that, what looms large is the trip he took as an eight-year-old to Israel. That experience, he said, “left a big impression on me and started my close affiliation with the Jewish state.”
Kroll has since staffed six Birthright trips from the Hillel at Boston University and one sponsored by the Union for Reform Judaism.
He said it seemed almost inevitable that he would undertake the production of Mifgash. “Since it launched during the winter of 1999-2000,” Kroll said, “Taglit-Birthright Israel has brought over 300,000 participants on a free 10-day tour of Israel. While it is one of the most recognized programs in the Jewish world and is changing the face of Jewish identity, there are still many misconceptions about it.”
The film’s other producers are Dan Levine and Kip Lombardo.
Mifgash tells the story of Birthright’s Hillel Bus 740 and highlights “the challenging, enlightening, and ultimately life-changing moments as participants question, reflect, and grapple with their own Jewish identity.”
The film follows the participants as they explore the Golan Heights, climb Masada, float in the Dead Sea, excavate ancient ruins, and spend Shabbat in Jerusalem. Halfway into the trip, the group is joined by eight Israeli soldiers who help further the Americans’ “understanding of what it means to be a Jew today…and ultimately, what this means for the future of the Jewish people.”
Among those interviewed in Mifgash are former Israeli Knesset member Yossi Beilin, whose idea it was to launch a program to bridge the gap between Israeli and Diaspora Jews; Birthright cofounders Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt; and Taglit-Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark.
Mifgash is Kroll’s debut feature-length documentary. The Boston-based filmmaker produces music videos, promotional videos for nonprofits, and socially aware documentaries.
In 2005 he earned a BA in international relations with a minor in film production from American University; he also studied Zionist and Israeli history at Tel Aviv University. From 2005 to 2009 he served as senior program associate at Boston University’s Hillel House. He also serves as youth educator at Temple Shalom in Newton, Mass.
For additional information on the film, visit www.mifgashfilm.com.