Trembling before G–d

Film, Documentaries

Time Out says

Open sexuality and religion have always been uncomfortable bedfellows, to say the least. In the prohibitive Hasidic Jewish faith, with its traditionalist emphasis on piety, paternity and the sanctification of the family, they're hardly on speaking terms. But homosexuality is taboo: an evil sickness, according to the faith's Rebbes, treatable only by abstinence and prayer. DuBowksi's engrossing and award-winning doc, five years in the making, interviews a selection of (mainly American, secret) lesbian and gay orthodox and Hasidic Jews, whose combined testimonies build up a sad and moving picture of frustration, quiet desperation, divided selves, excommunication - and the occasional defiant spirit - caught by the insoluble dilemma of being true to both self and religious community. The interviewees vary widely in character - from articulate Los Angelino David (crestfallen by a 'liberal' Rebbe's insistence on continued celibacy), and loving Miami couple Leah and Malka, with their bread-making rituals, to camp Londoner Mark and his 'unorthodox' yeshivas. What they share is a yen for accommodation with their families/communities: the pain of exclusion is unbearably obvious. The director offers no editorialising comment, but the implicit plea for understanding and change is evident. However, despite the progressive opinions proffered by one orthodox psychiatrist, the film makes equally clear that change is still far off. Orthodox separationism is its own strength and weakness. The film-makers might perhaps have obviated similar charges if they had broadened their debate by involving those from the wider gay/lesbian and religious world.

By: WH


Release details

84 mins

Cast and crew

Sandi Simcha DuBowski
Dr Yaakov Meir Weil
David from Los Angeles
Rabbi Aharon Feldman
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
Rabbi Steve Greenberg
Michelle from Brooklyn
Shlomo Ashkinazy
Naomi Mark
Mark from London
Israel from Brooklyn
Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo
Rabbi Meir Fund
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