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Embracing Identity Through Film: Dana’s Journey as a Yemenite Jewish Filmmaker

Meet filmmaker Dana Schneider, creator of Be’chol Lashon’s newest fiscally sponsored innovation hub, "Nice Jewish Girl."


Dana’s passion for telling the stories of diverse Jewish experiences comes to life in her film, “Nice Jewish Girl.” Growing up Yemenite and Jewish in New York, and then spending many years in Israel,  “Nice Jewish” reflects Dana’s personal  journey. Through her protagonist, an ethnically ambiguous Jewish actress navigating life in New York, Dana tackles themes of understanding identity, microaggressions, and the quest for belonging. The film not only sheds light on the nuances of Mizrahi culture but also delves into universal human experiences of finding one’s place in a diverse society.

Dana’s passion for film developed during the ten years that she spent living in Israel. During her time in Tel Aviv, Dana immersed herself in Israel’s vibrant nightlife scene where she had the chance to create events and explore film. She shared, “I became very passionate about events by the people, for the people.” Dana then had the chance to produce and film a music video for the Israeli and Moroccan singer Jasmine Moallem. In creating this music video, Dana’s passion for showcasing diverse representation in media and storytelling came to life.

 

Through Dana’s continued time in event creation and filmmaking, she fell in love with the industry. Dana found film to be the ideal medium for expressing stories that reflect the diversity of people’s identities. For Dana, “Film is a combination of every artistic medium in one: music, visuals, acting, color composition. Every medium is there to enhance the story. It is very human, and the more mediums you have to tell the story, the better chance you have of telling it in a real way.” Dana took this passion for film and telling diverse Jewish stories back with her to the United States. 

 

Upon her return to New York, Dana realized the stark differences between how Israeli society integrated Mizrahi culture into its own, compared to how Mizrahi experiences were often left out of the American Jewish narrative. America’s racial awakening in 2020 also gave Dana language for what she had been experiencing throughout her life in Jewish spaces as a Yemenite Jewish woman. “So many times people still don’t know how to digest me. I’ll get asked questions or people will spend time trying to identify me.” Through these interactions, Dana had the chance to reflect on the importance of spaces of belonging and made this central to “Nice Jewish Girl.”

 

Dana shared the heart of “Nice Jewish Girl,” explaining, “Ultimately, it is a short film about how identity can play into a person’s happiness. When you are in an environment that supports you, the need to be understood won’t be so loud. But if you’re in an environment that doesn’t reflect your history or your culture, it will create an identity crisis.” 

 

It is Dana’s hope that her films can help people from diverse backgrounds see themselves represented, and help ease the challenge of navigating multiple identities. “Nice Jewish Girl” is a story that Dana feels goes beyond Jewish identity. “I think any ethnically ambiguous person living in a Western society will find themselves going through these hurdles. I think this is not just a Jewish story, it’s a human story, and that’s very important to highlight.” While Dana’s story is unique, it is her hope that these universal themes of cultural identity and acceptance can connect people across cultures. 

 

It is Dana’s hope to have “Nice Jewish Girl” be the starting point for a larger film series that amplifies diverse Jewish narratives, bridging cultural gaps and fostering understanding. “As a filmmaker, it took me many years to realize I wanted to be telling my own story. One day, it felt like something came to me so strongly I couldn’t ignore it. I really feel like it is a calling.” The Jewish community, and society as a whole is fortunate to have Dana’s vision of diverse Jewish representation made into a reality through her films.

 

Starting with “Nice Jewish Girl,” Dana is redefining the perception of Jewish identity and showcasing the richness of diverse Jewish cultural heritage. Follow Dana at @danaschneiderr to stay up to date on Dana’s creative journey! 

 

 

 

 

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