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Supplier Sisu Hopes to Bring Its Selection of Jewish-Themed Titles to a Wider Market

14 Aug, 2003 By: Brendan Howard

Jewish video supplier Sisu Home Entertainment takes its name from part of a phrase in the Bible in Hebrew: “Be happy and rejoice in Jerusalem.” But Israeli-born co-founder and president Haim Scheininger had to put some thought into it first.

“When my partner and I were looking for a name, we thought about ‘Sisu simchu' [pronounced SEE-soo SEEM-hoo],” he said. But ‘simchu' is problematic for Americans.” English speakers thought it was pronounced “sim-choo” and that the company was Japanese.

Linguistic barriers not only haunt Sisu's name, but its product. The company specializes in programs, mostly from Hebrew-speaking Israel, on Jewish history, Jewish religion and the Holocaust. Sisu is increasingly having to bridge the language gap as it branches out to its wider market -- including online retailers, Netflix, Tower Records and Video, and Toys “R” Us -- in addition to its solid base of Jewish schools, catalog sales and Judaica shops and synagogues.

For instance, an Israeli children's program coming from Sisu, Our Wonderful World (street Oct. 28, prebook Oct. 7; DVD $24.95, VHS $19.95), has English narration and subtitles, but its songs are in Hebrew, which would be complicated to rearrange to fit English translations.

Sisu's feature films are attractive to foreign film buffs, and it is repackaging its films with English-friendly covers.

Sisu also makes an effort to expose Westerners to the day-to-day struggles of Israelis. Israel and the War of Images shows a side rarely seen of Arab brutality against Israelis.

A second documentary packaged with Israel and the War of Images is The Trojan Horse, which translates televised speeches of Arab leaders at Arab rallies into English. According to Scheininger, their words to the Arabs differ significantly from their words to English audiences.

Israel and the War of Images and The Trojan Horse street Oct. 14 (prebook Sept. 23) as a single DVD ($29.95) or on separate videocassettes ($19.95 each).

Programs appealing to Christians, Muslims and Jews are another specialty for Sisu, with such titles as Holy Land Journey and Jerusalem: The City Touched by God, a documentary that was shown on public television. Jerusalem (street Oct. 14, prebook Sept. 23) will come packaged on DVD ($29.95) with a second documentary about one of Jerusalem's most famous mayors, Teddy Kollek.

Also in the pipeline is the documentary The First Israeli in Space, about Israeli Air Force fighter pilot Ilan Ramon. The film is available in English or Hebrew with English subtitles (street Oct. 7, prebook Sept. 16) at $29.95 on DVD or VHS.

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