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Bringing Film to Israel

Lawrence Bush
August 7, 2017

Lia van Leer (born Greenberg), founder of the Haifa Cinematheque, the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the Israel Film Archive, and the Jerusalem Film Festival, was born in Moldova on this date in 1924. Both of her parents and her grandmother were murdered by the Nazis before she emigrated to Jerusalem in 1943. In 1952, she married Wim van Leer, a Dutch playwright and film producer, with whom she founded Israel’s first film club in their Haifa home in 1955. It grew into the Haifa Cinematheque, and their private collection of films, acquired from their travels in Europe and the U.S., became the basis for the Israel Film Archive, founded in 1960. Lia van Leer was the first director of the Jerusalem Cinematheque upon its founding in 1981. She served as a member of the Cannes Film Festival jury in 1983 and was president of the Berlin film fest jury in 1995. In 2004, she was awarded the Israel Prize. To see a trailer from a film about her, look below.

“There was no television back then ... and we had a 16 mm projector that had come as a gift from my father-in-law. Each Friday we would have friends over to watch movies. Our house became the most popular in Haifa.” --Lia van Leer

Lia from Syndicado on Vimeo.

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.