The Chelm Cultural Club initiated a Jewish film festival in Vancouver and maintained it for nine years (1978-1986), with screenings at Langara Community College and Pacific Cinematheque.
The Chelm Cultural Club was created by a group of Jewish friends who wanted to fill what they experienced as a cultural void in Vancouver, both for themselves and for the community at large. Primarily they wanted to see Jewish and Israeli films, and to that end they formed the club in 1978. In addition to films, they also organized other cultural events (ex. "Megila Lider," a Yiddish musical event and a number of lectures), but above all the Chelm Cultural Club was a Jewish film society. In 1980 they incorporated as a non-profit society (see constitution of 1980). The society disbanded in 1986.
From the point of view of their internal organization, all members of the Chelm Cultural Club participated equally and democratically. There was no bureaucracy or hierarchy. Hence the name "Chelm." Amusing as this may sound, it was basic and important because it assured the vitality of the society. In this way, the Chelm Cultural Club was an ideal model of a democratic community organization.
They chose to be independent and not to be restricted by official agencies of the Jewish community, though they did network with some Jewish (ex. Canadian Jewish Congress, Hillel, Louis Brier Home and Hospital) and non-Jewish (ex. Vancouver Community College/Langara, Pacific Cinematheque) agencies.
The Chelm Cultural Club was a volunteer-run enterprise whose operating budget came from donations at the door at film screenings and other events, occasional membership donations, as well as small contributions from other organizations when they co-sponsored a film.
The founding and core members of the Chelm Cultural Club included: Avi Dolgin, Ruth Hess-Dolgin, Shaya Kirman, Shanie Levin, and Seymour Levitan. Other active participants over the years included: Ned Glick, Alex Kliner, Edna Oberman, Barry Rabinowitz, Abe Schwartzman.
Chelm Cultural Club - list of films screened:
• Fall 1978: Miraleh Efros, Salah, Got, Mentsch un Tayvl, House on Cherrlouche Street, Let My People Go, This is Sholem Aleychem, The Dybbuk, Garden of the Finzi-Continis.
• Fall 1979: Grine Felder, The Big Day, The Martyr, Jacob the Liar, Jew of Winnipeg, A People Chosen/Who is a Jew?, The Falashas.
• Fall 1980: Yidl Mitn Fidl, Daughters Daughters, Number Our Days, The Fifth Horseman is Fear, Free Voice of Labor, Music of Auschwitz.
• Fall 1981: Der Purimshpiler, The Dreamer, Bye Bye Braverman, Jerusalem File, Journey to Heritage, 20 Years Later, A Brivele Der Mamen.
• Fall 1982: Mamele, Image Before Our Eyes, Kazablan, The Dybbuk.
• Fall 1983: One Hundred and Two Mature, The Golden Age of Second Avenue, Memorandum, 20 Years Later, Routes of Exile: A Moroccan Jewish Odyssey, The Wooden Gun/Rove Huliot.
• Fall 1984: Tevye, Jacob the Liar, Kaddish, Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?.
• Fall 1985: Routes of Exile, Catskill Honeymoon, Ra'ananah, Dark Lullabies.
Chelm Cultural Club - other activities:
• January 1979: Professor Eugene Orenstein, Moshe Leib Halpern: A Great American Yiddish Writer and His Times.
• March 1979: A Purim Celebration.
• Fall 1985: Concert with Michael Alpert.