Athens JFF Blog

Film Festival Volunteers Build Bonds Between Religious Cultures

by Barbette Houser

Volunteers from the Holy Cross Lutheran Church who, every year, show up at the Athens Jewish Film Festival ready to help.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church volunteers for Athens Jewish Film Festival

Holy Cross Lutheran Church festival volunteers: (left to right) Ken Feinstein, Martha Feinstein, Jane Connelly, Jim Connelly.
Photo by Barbette Houser.

Many of us devote a number of hours or days each month to set aside our own lives and concerns, roll up our sleeves, and help others in some way. We volunteer.

When we do this, though we are thinking of others, it is we often ourselves we find rewarded in myriad ways. Friendships are formed. Bridges are built. Cultural understanding is increased.

Such is the case with a group of volunteers from the Holy Cross Lutheran Church who, every year, show up at the Athens Jewish Film Festival ready to help.

“Being a small part of your festival is just downright fun—meeting new people, exchanging stories, and making new friends,” HCLC member Jane Connelly shares. “This is Holy Cross’s third volunteer year, and we even have people on standby in case an assigned volunteer cannot be there.“

“All our volunteers rave about how gracious and supportive the people running the program are, especially Ken and Martha Feinstein. They say the movies are top shelf, and they all love the Nosh!”

Jane and husband Jim recruit the volunteers through their church and Jim laughs that their members like the festival so much that “We have to turn people away!” The couple are neighbors of Martha and Ken Feinstein, who both serve on the board of the Athens JFF. The four have become good friends through their shared volunteer work.

The Feinsteins moved to Athens from Florida in 2013 to be closer to family and began working with the festival shortly afterwards. Ken retired as a chemical engineer and Martha taught preschool for 28 years. Now, in addition to keeping busy with bridge and tennis, they organize the volunteers that man the doors at the film festival. These are the people taking your tickets and handing out and collecting evaluation cards for the movies.

In addition to enjoying the social aspects of the film festival, the Connellys appreciate the Athens Jewish Film Festival’s contributions to the community. “We also realize how much this festival affects the cultural landscape of Athens,” states Jane. The films “broaden our perspective of subjects not considered before.” She adds, “The festival is truly a unique and welcome change to the ordinary.”.

“On a more serious note,” she continues, “Holy Cross’s mission statement is ‘to connect with G‑d and other people to make a difference.’ We are people that strive to be a useful presence in our community.”

When Connelly explains that “We consider volunteering for the film festival a wonderful opportunity to be of service and at the same time build relationships between our two cultures,” it is clear that the Athens Jewish Film Festival is accomplishing its mission of enhancing cultural understanding within the greater Athens community. And in more ways than just bringing in great films.

Barbette Houser is a textile artist who writes about cultural events in Athens, Georgia and makes a lovely matzo ball soup.