February 18, 2020

Producer Turns to Web For Faith-Based Edutainment

A young man drives up to his garage and tries to open the door via remote, but it won’t open. In the driveway next door, a Chasidic man blows a shofar, the long curly ram’s horn, and — presto! — his garage door opens. “These High Holy Days, stick with what works,” scrolls on the computer screen of the Internet film “Shofar, So Good.” The short film closes with the young man blowing his own shofar to open his car’s trunk.

“Shofar” is one of the dozens of Web-based movies put out by Jewish Impact Films, a nonprofit Los Angeles-based organization making “funny, positive movies that educate entertain and inform about Judaism and Jewish spiritual values,” said its president, David Sacks, a TV writer/producer from “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Jewish Impact Films is one of a number of newer organizations using the Internet and filmmaking to promote Jewish causes.

Sacks started the company two and a half years ago to use his creative talents to promote Jewish values. “I have all these commercial skills, and I’ve always wanted to marry them with my dreams for tikkun olam. And this is the way to do it.”

Sacks says that people watch the 30-second to one-minute films on the Web site, pass the link around to friends, and, sometimes, other Jewish organizations use one of the Jewish Impact Films films to promote something of their own. For example, “Shofar So Good,” is viewable on NoMembershipRequired.Com, a Web site that lists High Holiday services around the country at synagogues, where, as stated, no membership is required.

“One of the reasons we’re making these films is to help Jewish organizations promote the good things that they’re doing, in addition to sending out positive messages about Judaism,” Sacks told The Journal.

There’s also “Holy Cow,” a movie about keeping kosher narrated by a happy cow explaining why being kosher is more humane; the short is being used by an author to promote a book about being kosher.

Sacks said he hopes the films will inspire people to learn more about the subject. After each film there’s a “learn more” and “do more” icon. So on the “Shofar” film there are topics such as “Rosh Hashanah,” “Hearing the Shofar’s Call,” “Symbolism of the Shofar” and “Buy a Shofar!”

“It’s a great resource, it’s great entertainment and social action source as well,” Sacks said by telephone from Jerusalem, where he was leading his second Jewish Impact Films internship there, including three American filmmakers.

“We’re shooting movies about going to Israel, about joy, about Jewish unity and Jewish survival — how the Jewish people are indomitable and forever,” he said.