Synagogue or Sell? TIFF's Industry Players Debate Observing Jewish Holidays
"One year I had to fly on Yom Kippur, and so I fasted on the plane and downloaded a siddur on my iPad to say my prayers while I had to travel," says Nu Image's Jeffrey Greenstein. "I will find a way to honor the holiday."
At sundown Sept. 13, Rosh Hashana begins, and some industry players plan to put their dealmaking on hold or at least refrain from announcing splashy sales. Marking the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana ushers in the holiest period for the religion and lasts 48 hours. Among the popular places of worship among the Hollywood set in Toronto are Holy Blossom Temple with Reform Jews and Beth Tzedec Congregation for Conservative Jews.
"I will be out of pocket for business from sundown Sunday through sundown Monday," said American Entertainment Investors president Joseph N. Cohen, whose clients include Alcon Entertainment, Black Label Media and River Road Entertainment. "I can’t imagine any business I might do on Yomtov [that] can’t be post-poned for 24 hours. After all, it’s not like I have to pitch the opening game of the World Series — and Sandy Koufax didn’t do that either."
Though many agents, who are on the front lines of the Toronto dealmaking scene, say they will observe, none wanted to be named so as not to give their rivals a competitive advantage. But other industry players were more than willing to detail their plans to mark the Year 5776.
Said Paul Bronfman, chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios: "It’s just a tradition of mine. I don’t go to the synagogue. I’m not religious. But I’m traditional and I like to commemorate the holidays. Maybe it’s my Jewish guilt. Maybe it’s my upbringing. I don’t just feel right working on the days of Rosh Hashana."
Bronfman, who also is chairman and CEO of William F. White International, a major production equipment supplier for studios shooting in Canada, will resume work at 5 p.m. on Tuesday with his annual TIFF party thrown at Bell Lightbox.
This isn’t the first time that TIFF has conflicted with the Jewish holidays. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur overlapped with the festival in 2010 and 2013.
From Jeffrey Greenstein, president of international sales and distribution for Nu Image, said TIFF poses a quandary for Jews like himself.
"Some buyers like [Roadshow Films’] Joel Pearlman and Brett Rosengarten don’t come to TIFF for that reason," he says. "Me, for example, since I don’t have that ability, I do what I can. One year I had to fly on Yom Kippur, and so I fasted on the plane and downloaded a siddur on my iPad to say my prayers while I had to travel. This year, I tried to keep my dinner open on Rosh Hashana to celebrate, but when Lionsgate U.K. couldn’t make our earlier time, naturally I agreed. I won’t stop doing business these days, but I will find a way to honor the holiday."
But given the pace of the 10-day festival, some say they can’t afford to miss a beat. DDA partner and president Dana Archer is one. "Unfortunately, Sunday is our busiest day with four films so I can’t really slow down," she says. "I will just have a lot of repenting to do post-TIFF, pre-Kippur."