Grace Haan, JSA Peer Support trainer and supervisor, and Charles Liebovitch, JSA Peer Support coordinator, at the March 8 Food and Film Empowerment session. (photo by Binny Goldman)
The screening of Dough at the March 8 Food and Film session of the JSA Snider Foundation Empowerment Series continued the 2016-17 series’ theme of “Eating our way through Jewish history: Food, the doorway to our culture.”
Presented in partnership by the Jewish Seniors Alliance and the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, this latest session took place at the Unitarian Centre.
JSA president Ken Levitt greeted those gathered, taking the opportunity to introduce the alliance’s new motto – “Seniors, stronger together.” He emphasized the comma in the phrase, as it had been the topic of much discussion. He also credited me for the motto’s origin.
Gyda Chud, convener of this third session of the food-related Empowerment Series, said she was happy to see so many women in the audience as the event took place on International Women’s Day. Chud was wearing a scarf commemorating the World March of Women that took place in Montreal in 2000.
Michael Schwartz, JMABC coordinator of programs and development, noted how women were responsible for the existence of many organizations in the province. He stressed the importance of families contributing their own pieces of history to the museum to help future generations know the community’s origins and its past. And he asked audience members to become members of the museum, the benefits of which include receiving The Chronicle, which will keep them up-to-date on the museum’s events and research. One upcoming event, he said, is the Supper Club, which will take place at the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture, where the museum is housed. He concluded, “Without further a dough we hope you enjoy the movie Dough.”
Dough depicts the desperation that sometimes drives people together. Widowed and finding it hard to manage, Nat Dayan is desperate to save his London bake shop from closing – his grandfather had opened Dayan and Son 60 years ago. Customers are getting scarce, moving away or dying, and Nat’s son, a lawyer, is not interested in continuing the family business or helping it survive. In addition, competition is becoming a concern, with a shop next door that is selling baked goods, as well as groceries, and Nat’s apprentice has left to work for them.
Struggling to keep his kosher bakery open, Nat hires Ayyash, the teenage son of his cleaning lady. Ayyash has been selling drugs to help support his mother and himself and, when Ayyash accidentally drops cannabis into the challah dough mix, sales at Dayan and Son soar. Long lines appear and the closing of the shop seems far off.
A warm and special friendship develops between the Muslim boy and the Jewish baker, as Ayyash and his mother go to live at Nat’s when their home floods. A line in the film – Fiddler on the Roof meets West Side Story – helps describe what we see developing.
Tragedy is averted when a fire set by a competitor, instead of destroying the shop as well as Nat’s dream forever, serves to bring them closer together with mutual aspirations of continuing to exist. Dayan and Son survives with the “son” being Ayyash. The theme is an especially moving one – overcoming racial prejudice and bringing about closeness through the will for openness, acceptance and understanding, which can be found in unexpected places.
Chud thanked the delighted audience and invited all to enjoy baked goods – though not the cannabis-filled ones in the movie. The JSA staff worked hard to bring this event to the public, and Stan Shear was invaluable for all his technical work.
May we “break bread” together in the future. B’tayavon, b’shalom.
Binny Goldman is a member of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver board.