So many great New Jersey experiences were either halted or postponed or minimized in some way during the pandemic. And they were sorely missed.

One of those was the annual Rutgers Jewish film festival, sponsored by The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University. But it’s back and better than ever.

This year was it 23rd annual and, as always, the festival seeks to bring Jewish people together and allow them to celebrate Jewish life and culture.

This could not be a more important goal at this particular time in the world. After the pandemic caused most festival screenings to be virtual only, this year there are in-person screenings galore.

For example, at the Regal Cinema in North Brunswick from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6. Then, from Nov. 6 to 13, eight films will be screened virtually (one film, "Cinema Sabaya," is available both in-person and virtually).

The films are from all over the world: The United States, Israel, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Italy and Belgium.

Some of the festival’s noteworthy offerings are “Dead Sea Guardians,” an Israeli documentary about the effort to save the Dead Sea from drying out; “How Saba Kept Singing,” a film produced by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton about a 94-year-old man who survived Auschwitz by entertaining his Nazi captors with his singing; and “March 1968,” a love story set in 1960s communist Poland.

'Dead Sea Guardians' trailer

'March 1968' trailer

If you have never been to a film festival, you can’t believe the experience of being able to see some of the most unique and beautiful films that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to see.

And sharing the experience with others makes it even more special.

And sometimes you will be the first in the world to see a film. In this case, they have one United States premiere, two East Coast premieres, and nine New Jersey premieres.

Plus, there’s always so much to learn about the process and the background of the films, including conversations with screenwriters telling their stories and discussing their personal journeys of getting their films made. Some people only discover they are Cinephiles by attending a film festival for the first time.

The festival is underway already but, never fear, it runs through Nov. 6. For tickets and info, check it out here.

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