Students at the film festival

On a winter afternoon, I set out with my friends, Hannah and Jake, for an impromptu visit to New York City. Our primary objective was to attend the 2019 New York Jewish Film Festival, though our chosen film, “Autonomies,” was already sold out. So, as we boarded the train, our excitement for the trip was tempered by the knowledge that our plan to try for standby tickets might not work, and we’d have to find something else to do in the Big Apple. Our excursion was funded by Princeton's Center for Jewish Life (CJL), which is always looking for ways to give students new opportunities to connect to their Jewish identities. 

Our train ride featured plenty of laughter, including each person telling the story of their first concert (mine was Taylor Swift, Jake’s was Zusha and Hannah’s was A Great Big World). Before we knew it, we’d reached the city and Jake, the native New Yorker, expertly guided us to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where the movie was set to take place. 

As we waited, we marveled over the beauty of the Lincoln Center at night, popped into the Metropolitan Opera for a look, and talked about our next adventure. After scoring the standby seats, we went inside. The mini-series was directed by Yehonatan Indursky, producer of the show “Shtisel,” which I had recently binge-watched with my little brother over winter break. Indursky was in New York for a Q&A session after the movie, so we settled in for what was sure to be an exciting night.

“Autonomies” has a plot so incredibly complex, nuanced and dramatic that no summary can do it justice. It tells the story of an alternate reality in Israel, which is depicted as a country literally divided in two by a barrier. We left the theater energized, drained and full of questions. We marveled over the plot and its complexities and lamented the ways in which we saw connections between this terrifying dystopian reality and current events. It made us realize how much division and violence have become an expected part of our reality today.

Although initially exhilarated by the excitement of the night, we were all soon taking turns dosing off on our train ride back to campus, dreaming about New York adventures and dystopian worlds. 

Our adventure was in the middle of finals week at a time that we absolutely could have been spending every waking moment studying. That said, the fact that a Princeton group (the CJL) gave us the funding and means to take a break and try something new shows that despite Princeton’s intensity, there are more than enough opportunities (and resources) to live life and make friends. 

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