Rabbi Poupko’s Oscar Nominated Film Reviews


Despite his busy schedule of travelling between Israel and other places, Rabbi Poupko found time to watch three Oscar-nominated films—Oppenheimer, Maestro, and The Zone of Interest—while on his flights. He offered us these reviews during a Sabbath afternoon gathering at the synagogue.

Speaking about Oppenheimer, isn’t it interesting that it was a group of Jews who managed to create the atom bomb which won the war for the Western powers? Isn’t it interesting that it was a group of Jews who created Hollywood in the nowhere land of California? Isn’t it interesting that it was a group of Jews that created Broadway? Isn’t it interesting that since the Nobel prize has been awarded, Jews have comprised 40% of all Nobel prize recipients in all fields? Isn’t it remarkable what Jews have contributed to the US, to Canada, to Germany?

“By the way,” he asked the crowd, “Does anybody know how many Nobel prizes Muslims have won?” After a hushed silence, someone remembered Yasser Arafat. This drew a laugh!

Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their collective efforts to foster peace in the Middle East. However, subsequent events underscore that the envisioned peace did not materialize. Arafat’s refusal to sign a cooperation agreement with Israel on the White House Lawn marked a pivotal moment. Following this, he instigated the “Second Intifada” characterized by a series of terrorist attacks on buses and cafes, resulting in the loss of over 1000 innocent Israeli lives. In response to this escalation of violence, Israel implemented border walls and checkpoints along its borders with the West Bank and Gaza. It is worth noting that among Nobel laureates, Muslims, to date, have received sixteen, nine have received the Nobel Peace Prize, four for scientific achievements, and three for contributions to literature. (*2)

Rabbi Poupko continues, “Has anyone read the book The Pity of It All? (*3) It’s a great read, a detailed description of Jewish involvement and integration in every facet of German life—the arts, government, and the universities! Germany prior to 1933. Prior to 1933 Germany was admired worldwide as a center of culture and science. Germany was thriving, and Jews also were thriving there.”


As Jews in Germany listened to Hitler’s tirades against the Jews, they decided to publish an eleven-hundred-page book detailing Jewish contributions to Germany, thinking that this would bring Germans to their senses!

Incidentally, the Jewish community in Hungary pursued a similar course of action. During my visit to Tokay, my friend Gabor Gluck, who represents the last surviving Jewish family in the town where my late mother grew up, shared a substantial volume compiled by Hungarian Jews in the 1930s. These individuals, who had served in the military during World War One, also believed that if others were aware of their contributions, the Hungarians would ‘come to their senses’! This book reflects their hope that recognizing Jewish accomplishments would foster greater understanding and acceptance.

Rabbi Poupko continued: “Wasn’t it Churchill who reminded his compatriots that ‘those who oppress Jews are simply destroying themselves?”

And indeed Rabbi Poupko reminded us that,  Spain never recovered her glory after introducing the Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and neither has Germany regained its cultural ascendance since her unprovoked attack on all Jews everywhere that she initiated in 1933, when Hitler came to power.

Sadly, antisemitism is not confined to Europe but exists also in countries like the UK, Canada, and the USA, despite the significant contributions of the Jewish community to these nations.

In the past five months, starting from October 7, there has been a disturbing resurgence of this hateful ideology. We have witnessed widespread incidents of Jews and Israel being openly vilified in public spaces worldwide. There have even been articles like Is Antisemitism Becoming Socially Acceptable Again?  There have been attacks targeting Jews in their businesses and institutions, including here in Montreal. Jewish students at McGill and Concordia have faced harassment as pro-Palestinian groups have gained dominance on campus with minimal resistance.

Rabbi Poupko shared that “as a result of campus antisemitism, Jewish enrollment at schools like Harvard, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania is now less than it was prior to the sixties when there were quotas on Jewish enrollment. Jews are now choosing to attend less illustrious universities. In the nineties, the University of Pennsylvania had a beit midrash because there were so many Orthodox Jews attending… Not anymore; Tulane University is now known as ‘Jewlane’!” (*7) Over the last five months, we have discovered an amazing resurgence of these evil ideas. Apparently, these irrational ideas, for whatever reason, continue to fester close to the surface, and people seem to be eager to find the State of Israel ‘guilty as charged.’ And sadly, I have to reflect that of the Imams and Pastors that we had friendly relations with over the years, not one has reached out to me since October 7.  On the other hand, amidst these challenges, the resilience and valour displayed by Israeli forces over the past five months has been extraordinary. Witnessing their unwavering dedication to defending our people, whether on the battlefield or on the homefront, has fostered a sense of unity and solidarity like never before.


I only bring this up because, during these difficult times, all of us Jews need to know who we are, what we have accomplished, and what we have contributed to the world over millennia. Am Yisrael Chai…”

Rabbi Poupko’s reflections highlight Jewish communities’ resilience and invaluable contributions throughout history. Despite facing adversity, Jews have significantly shaped cultures and advanced human knowledge. His insights remind us to celebrate our collective heritage and to unite against prejudice. Let us move forward with pride in our identity, fostering unity and understanding in a world often plagued by bigotry.

Additionally, I share here my own exploration of Oscar-nominated films through a Jewish lens,

Oppenheimer: What is His Story and

Barbie: Who is She?

I am also sharing two movie reviews that, in my opinion, would have deserved Oscar recognition:

Golda: A Reckoning and


Happy viewing!



  1. Mandel, Seth. “Glazer’s Partners Refure Glazer.” Commentary, vol. 123, no. 5, 2017, pp. 45-52.  
  2. “Second Intifada.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Intifada.
  3. Elon, Amos. The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch 1743-1933. Metropolitan Books, 2002. Rabbi Poupko explored the origins of anti-Semitism, proposing that a factor driving it may be a sense of bewilderment surrounding the perceived accomplishments of Jewish communities. Instead of appreciating Jewish contributions Nazi ideology chose to blame the Jews for all economic and social problems, Germany’s failures were attributed to Jews, and the idea that eliminating them would bring freedom and success to Germans was promoted through state-sanctioned literature, cinema, and broadcasting, ultimately instilling fear of Jews within the general populace.
  4. “Antisemitism: The Jewish Question.” Encyclopedia Britannicawww.britannica.com/topic/antisemitism/The-rise-of-modern-antisemitism. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.
  5. “Myth and Reality – What Did Churchill Really Think About the Jews?” The Churchill Centre,  Winston Churchill acknowledged the significant contributions of Jews to society and strongly advocated for their rights. He also warned that those who oppressed the Jewish community would ultimately be causing harm to themselves. Targeting specific groups for oppression is an abuse of human rights and results in everyone becoming poorer for it. This is a Jewish idea that has become generally accepted.
  6. “PBS American Experience: Henry Ford’s Antisemitism.” PBSwww.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/henryford/#part01. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.
  7. There’s a genuine source supporting Rabbi Poupko’s claim regarding the systematic exclusion of Jews from prominent positions in US elite universities, corporations, and government. Read ‘The Vanishing: The Erasure of Jews from American Life‘ by Jacob Savage, published by Tablet magazine. Does this presage the downfall of America’s elite universities?
  8. The Zone of Interest: You might be aware of Jonathan Glazer’s controversial statement upon receiving the Best Foreign Feature Award for The Zone of Interest. While the film itself is hailed as a masterpiece, his acceptance speech, equating the situation in Gaza with the atrocities of Auschwitz, has drawn widespread condemnation. His collaborators on the film have strenuously refuted his remarks. (*1)

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