NEW YORK – The 27th annual New York Jewish Film Festival is under way and promises to present the finest documentary, narrative, and short films from around the world that explore the diverse Jewish experience.The festival, being held at the famed Lincoln Center in Midtown Manhattan, features nearly 40 films from Israel, France, Morocco, South Africa, Romania, Belgium, Italy and Argentina.Billing itself as “among the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide,” the NYJFF kicked off on Wednesday and will run through January 23.The Jewish Museum, which partners with the Lincoln Center Film Society to present the NYJFF every January, said this year’s cinematic celebration features new work by fresh voices in international cinema, “with the festival’s 2018 lineup to include 37 wide-ranging and exciting features and shorts from the iconic to the iconoclastic.“Highlights include new works by Radu Jude and Tzahi Grad, documentaries about Sammy Davis Jr. and filmmaker Michal Waszynski, world premiere restorations of The Dybbuk and The Mission of Raoul Wallenberg, and more,” the Jewish Museum added.The festival’s first feature was the US premiere of Nabil Ayouch’s Razzia, “which follows five Moroccans pushed to the fringes in Casablanca by their extremist government,” according to a Film Society Lincoln Center press release.“Closing night is the US premiere of Amos Gitai’s latest documentary, West of the Jordan River, a powerful look at West Bank citizens, both Israeli and Palestinian, who have risen to act in the name of civic consciousness and peace,” the statement adds. The centerpiece selection is Ofir Raul Graizer’s tender debut feature, The Cakemaker, about the relationship that forms between a gay German baker and the Israeli widow of the man whom they both loved.Aviva Weintraub, director of the New York Jewish Film Festival, said the event’s history can be traced back to the fall of the Berlin Wall as the Soviet Union was collapsing.“With the fall of Communism, feature films on Jewish themes were suddenly pouring out of these countries. This period represents a remarkably rich vein in the history of Jewish cinema,” Weintraub said.Founding NYJFF director Wanda Bershen wrote at the time: “As we watch this almost unbelievable movie of late-20th-century history play itself out in those places from which so many of us trace our ancestry, it is our hope that the presentation and discussion of these films can contribute to the task of remembrance and reconstruction.”Weintraub said that on the heels of liberation, artists and filmmakers long suppressed by the USSR flooded the West with cinematic works.Recognizing an extraordinary opportunity to bring untold stories to New York audiences for the first time, the New York Jewish Film Festival was launched in January 1992.“For several years, the focus of the NYJFF remained on Eastern Europe, then gradually expanded to include Western Europe, Israel, and North and South America. Now the geography is truly global. The veritable explosion of Jewish film production that began in the mid-1990s increases every year and shows no signs of stopping,” she added.