Cover photo for Jennifer Steinberg's Obituary
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1961 Jennifer 2018

Jennifer Steinberg

July 25, 1961 — September 3, 2018

 Jennifer Steinberg, 57, of Philadelphia, a curator who created programs about films and lectured about them in the Philadelphia area, died Monday, Sept. 3, of complications from cervical cancer at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse.

In 1986, Ms. Steinberg, who had studied film at Temple University, became director of Temple's Cinematheque on Walnut Street, which screened foreign, independent, and classic Hollywood-produced films for discerning audiences. "We showed 280 films a year, all celluloid," she told Philadelphia Weekly in 2006.

When Temple sold Cinematheque's building in 1993, the theater closed. Ms. Steinberg was hired by filmmaker Max Raab to serve as general manager of the Roxy Screening Rooms in Center City. Roxy, too, shut down, in 1994.

"Ms. Steinberg often joked that she was the Flying Dutchman of repertory film houses," said her close friend Gary Kramer.

Over the years, she trained dozens of projectionists to screen films in 35mm and 16mm formats. Many went on to careers in film, TV, and film preservation.

"She was a part of the fabric of the Philadelphia film community for decades, and her lens was a creative and committed one," said Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. "She loved everything about film and was a sought-after curator for several organizations and festivals."

Starting in 1996, Ms. Steinberg was director of films at the Gershman Y on Broad Street. She managed the Jewish Film Festival and the Israeli Film Festival.  She launched "Movies on the Avenue," a program that teamed up repertory films with local speakers. Camille Paglia, an academic and social critic, led a discussion about the film Persona; former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham led a discussion on the film Witness for the Prosecution.

In 1997, "Movies on the Avenue" evolved into Cinema Salon, a weekly film discussion group that Ms. Steinberg led until shortly before her death. The Salon, Kramer said, was derived from her philosophy that viewers should try to see films that were outside their comfort zone.

"They didn't have to agree with the message, but they take something from the film, anyway," said her sister, Allison Rulon-Miller.

In 2001, Ms. Steinberg joined the Philadelphia Film Festival as its curator of "shorts" — brief films. In 2003, she became the festival's documentary film curator, serving in that capacity until 2009.

Her picks — including My Architect, Murderball, Winged Migration, Crazy Love, and Cinemania — proved to be critical and commercial successes. She also chose films for the inaugural year of the Trenton Film Festival and taught adult-education courses at the Main Line School Night Center.

Ms. Steinberg liked Bette Davis movies, especially The Little Foxes, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, and cult classics such as Gun Crazy and The Loved One. Her contemporary film picks ranged from Sid and Nancy to The Grand Budapest Hotel.  She regularly attended film festivals in the United States and Canada. She was a guest speaker at the Seattle Film Festival in 1997.

Film was not Ms. Steinberg's only passion. She also loved animals, enjoyed Phillies games, and was a devoted foodie. She was a true-crime TV-show fanatic.

"She used to watch autopsy shows while eating dinner," Kramer said.

Born in Philadelphia, Ms. Steinberg grew up in Lafayette Hill, graduating from Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in 1979.  She studied engineering at Northwestern University and mathematics, radio, TV, and film at Temple University.

She and H. Robert Singer met in 1983 when they were projectionists at Temple University's student-run cinema. On their first date, they went to see Brian De Palma's Scarface. They disliked the movie but liked each other, and married in 2001.

In addition to her husband and sister, Ms. Steinberg is survived by her parents, Marcia and Leon Steinberg. Her birth mother, Phyllis Steinberg, and a brother, Bruce, died earlier.

A memorial tribute to Ms. Steinberg will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia. Burial will be private.

Donations may be made to the Foundation for Women's Cancer via or Penn Wissahickon Hospice, 150 Monument Rd., Suite 300, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. 19004.

Posted: September 14, 2018 - 5:27 PM
Bonnie L. Cook | @cookb |

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