Arts & Entertainment

Elizabeth Smart joins Jewish hostage solidarity during Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah — The Women of Har Shalom home-hosted part of a delegation from Israel during the Sundance Film Festival which was in Park City raising awareness for their family members being held hostage in Gaza.

Park City event. Photo: Brian Spivak.

Temple Har Shalom’s sisterhood, the Women of Har Shalom, founded by Beano Solomon, which provides educational, entertaining, and recreational opportunities for it’s membership made up of men and women, jumped at the chance to help out. Wendy Kantor put three of the six visitors up at her Park City house. She’s the United States representative of the Mishkan Museum of Art in Israel, and travels back there every year, even guiding group trips for many Park City residents.

Kantor and retired Park City School District Teacher, June Volk, also a Women of Har Shalom member and Board President Exoficio not only prepared traditional Israeli meals for the group but drove them throughout the Sundance-filled streets, no easy feat.

Photo: Wendy Kantor // Women of Har Shalom

Sundance Film Festival hosted a talk at the Ray venue on Sunday entitled “Sects, Lies, and Videotape: Debunking deadly tropes about Jews and Israel in TV, film, and media.”

It also showed multiple screenings of a feature film called “Between the Temples,” a U.S. Dramatic category submission. The fictional comedy stars Jason Schwartzman who plays as a Cantor in upstate New York; Robert Smigel whose character is the Jeep-driving, golf-playing rabbi; and Carol Kane who plays a bat mitzvah student honoring the 100th year since the first ever bat mitzvah, a real-life milestone which the Women of Har Shalom celebrated last year at the Temple Har Shalom.

However, the Women of Har Shalom’s guest were not officially affiliated with the Festival. This group hosted two events, one public discussion in Park City and one at the Salt Lake City Jewish Community Center which was attended by Elizabeth Smart who, as a teenager, was taken hostage from her home in the same SLC neighborhood as the venue before being rescued by Law Enforcement nine months later.

Omer Neutra, 22, is one of the American hostages being held in Gaza still today, his parents came to Park City during Sundance straight from Washington D.C. where they’d met with President Biden and Vice President Harris in the White House.

Omer Shem Tov, 21, another hostage had his brother come on this Park City trip to help get their message out to “Bring them home now.”

The group was appreciative of the assistance provided by the Jewish Federation of Utah.

This Hostage Forum has sent 140 delegations around the world since Oct. 7. including, New York, Las Angeles, and throughout Europe.

View a portion of the Park City event below.

The Leader of the Utah delegation told TownLift, “One of the more notable things that happened in Park City was that the Orthodox-observant public speaker at the well-attended event couldn’t use a microphone since it was Shabbat Friday night, thus no electronics. So, I just spoke louder and projected my voice and the crowd respectfully quieted to listen.” He added, “Omer’s brother shared a powerful story about what’s being experienced in captivity from learned from two hostages who have been released. Every Friday night, they’d say the Sabbath blessing, which is done with red wine or grape juice. They were somehow given a bottle of grape juice. And they didn’t know how much grape juice and they were going to get and how much how longer they were going to be in captivity. The custom is that you’re supposed  to fill the cup that you have up to the top. And so what they would do is they would fill the, the cup all the way to the top, take a sip and then pour the wine or the grape juice back into the bottle so they can save it for the next week.” he continued,”In addition, you’re supposed to supposed to take bread and dip it in salt and they didn’t actually have salt but they were given pretzels to eat. They scraped the salt off of the pretzels so they could dip the bread into the salt. And so these were the traditions that they were able to keep alive while they were in in captivity.”

On stage in Park City. Photo: courtesy of Brian Spivak.

After the meetings and messaging during Sundance was complete, the Women of Har Shalom was able to facilitate Omer’s brother to have his first skiing experience and took him to Deer Valley. 

Skiing at Deer Valley while honoring a family member being held hostage. Photo: courtesy of Brian Spivak
Skiing at Deer Valley while honoring a family member being held hostage. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Spivak

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