Filmmaker Gary Hochman with his camera. Hochman’s documentary, “Deadly Deception at Sobibor,” is part of this year’s Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival lineup.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

SPRINGFIELD — Like any group, Jewish people are not monolithic. There are as many sides to being Jewish as there are people who embrace the culture and heritage. From April 4-11, the Springfield Jewish Community Center’s 18th annual Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival will examine universal themes, like family, identity, legacy and social justice through a Jewish lens.

“The Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival is a valued part of the arts and culture landscape in Western Mass.,” Springfield JCC CEO Sam Dubrinsky said in a press release. “We’re proud to mark 18 years of exceptional films that showcase the diversity of Jewish identity and experience.”

The festival’s 10 feature-length films will be presented at an array of venues throughout the Pioneer Valley. JCC COO Deb Krivoy said, “Whether you’re up or down the valley, you have access to award-winning films that maybe wouldn’t otherwise find a screen in Western Mass.”

The festival begins on April 4, with a viewing on “Seven Blessings,” a film by Ayelet Menahemi, which won several Israeli Ophir Prizes. The 7 p.m. screening at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame will follow a reception at 6:15 p.m.

A lot of intentionality and work goes into choosing the films that are shown during the festival, Krivoy said. The JCC has a committee of volunteers who work with movie distributors to find potential films to present. It then screens 50 or more titles in months ahead of the festival.

The films — four documentaries, four dramas and two “dramedies” — focus on a variety of topics, settings and time periods that highlight “the life and experiences of Jewish people around the world,” Krivoy said. While two of the films are set during World War II, they could not be more different. “Martha Lieberman: A Life Stolen” is a drama about an upper-class elderly woman fleeing from Nazi Germany, while “Deadly Deception at Sobibor” is a documentary about a Nazi death camp, the existence of which was covered up after it was dismantled by Germany in 1943.

The films will be of interest to wider audiences, as well as Jewish ones, Krivoy said. “There is plenty of Jewish-themed content, but the universality is what makes it unique. We’re showcasing people’s lives through the medium of film,” she said.

Included with four of the titles is the chance for participation in discussions and Q&A sessions with people involved in the making of the film or professionals in the film’s subject area. It provides “a nice, interactive element,” Krivoy said. She added, “We’re hoping that the programming we run can really help expand people’s understanding of each other” and “connect the community” through “cross-cultural dialog.”

The schedule of films is as follows:

  • “Seven Blessings” — Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m., Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, 1000 Hall of Fame Ave., Springfield
  • “Rabbi on the Block” — Saturday, April 6, 8 p.m. Springfield JCC, Neal Webber Building, 1160 Dickinson St., Springfield
  • “Remembering Gene Wilder” — Sunday, April 7, 1 p.m. Greenfield Garden Cinemas, 361 Main St., Greenfield
  • “The Catskills” — Sunday, April 7, 7 p.m. Tower Theater, 19 College St., South Hadley
  • “All About the Levkovitches” — Monday, April 8, 7 p.m. Greenfield Garden Cinemas, 361 Main St., Greenfield
  • “Martha Lieberman: A Stolen Life” — Tuesday, April 9, 1:30 p.m. D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, 21 Edwards St., Springfield
  • “Deadly Deception at Sobibor” — Tuesday, April 9, 7 p.m. Springfield JCC, Neal Webber Building, 1160 Dickinson St., Springfield
  • “The Monkey House” — Wednesday, April 10, 1:30 p.m. Northampton Center for the Arts, 33 Hawley St., Northampton
  • “Rapito (Kidnapped)” — Wednesday, April 10, 7:30 p.m. University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • “Running on Sand” — Thursday, April 11, 7 p.m. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, 1000 Hall of Fame Ave., Springfield

Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for students and those 65 and older. Tickets can be purchased online at springfieldjcc.org/pvjff, by phone at 413-739-4715, in person at the Springfield JCC or at the door subject to availability.

Over the nearly two decades since the festival’s creation, the JCC has shared 361 films with the community. Krivoy said, “The feedback has been so incredibly positive. Our filmgoers are so enthusiastic. We’re hoping for a great season.”

For more information, or to see trailers for the films, visit springfieldjcc.org/pvjff.

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