The Arty Semite

A Starring Role for Efratia Gitai, Amos Gitai’s Mother

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai, who turned 60 this year, has been investigating his roots. Last year a Tel Aviv Museum exhibit honored his father, Bauhaus-trained architect Munio Weinraub.

Gitai’s 2009 film Carmel featured French actress Jeanne Moreau (star of a recent Gitai staging of a play inspired by Josephus’s “Jewish War”) reading authentic letters written by Efratia Gitai, the filmmaker’s late mother, about life in early Israel. On October 29, Jeanne Moreau read more of these letters onstage at Paris’s Théâtre de l’Odéon. Two weeks before, Les éditions Gallimard published “Efratia Gitai: Correspondence 1929-1994” edited by Gitai’s wife Rivka, illustrated by family photos which are rich in drama and narrative power, resembling film stills. Efratia writes:

If life is just a stage and a play, it’s good to perform as well as possible, alongside talented actors!

Small wonder Gitai became a filmmaker.

Efratia’s parents were married by Rav Kook in Jaffa. When Efratia, born in 1909, studied at Tel Aviv’s Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, diplomas were personally handed out by poet Hayim Nahman Bialik, and the school doctor was poet Shaul Tchernichovsky. In 1932, Efratia wrote a letter to politician Haim Arlozoroff offering him “thousands and thousands of kisses, if you so desire.” Three years later she married the architect Weinraub and settled in Haifa, which did not prevent some extra-marital peccadilloes (she sends one 1940s suitor poems by Bialik, Natan Alterman, and Yaakov Fishman).

This new Gallimard volume is a labor of love, not a professional editing project, as we realize when we find on page 129 the information that in 1940, “Théodore Roosevelt” was reelected President. Still, it transmits the dangers settlers faced (one child is born in 1940 on a kibbutz, to avoid Italian bombing raids on Haifa, while the war’s end in 1945 hardly gives time for celebration, given the looming war with Arab neighbors and carnage in Europe). A free spirit, Efratia dashes off to London in 1960, leaving ten-year-old Amos back on a kibbutz. Her letters are scant consolation for the boy:

[British] women are badly dressed, utterly tasteless, but they have lots of energy.

Yet Amos grew up to be the creative spirit the world knows, with some of his mother’s freewheeling sense of adventure. In 1967, soon after the Six Day War, Amos writes to her from London, reporting that hitchhiking in the UK is “very easy” if you display an Israeli flag; how times have changed.

Watch Amos Gitai at a film conference in Lyons, France, last year.

Watch a trailer for Gitai’s 2008 One Day You’ll Understand, starring Jeanne Moreau.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Efratia Gitai, Jeanne Moreau, Amos Gitai, Munio Weinraub

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.