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Shot in six countries, this documentary shatters assumptions about faith, sexuality, and religious fundamentalism. Built around intimately-told personal stories of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian, the film portrays a group of people who face a profound dilemma - how to reconcile their passionate love of Judaism and the Divine with the drastic Biblical prohibitions that forbid homosexuality. As the film unfolds, we meet a range of complex individuals - some hidden, some out - from the world's first openly gay Orthodox rabbi to closeted, married Hasidic gays and lesbians to those abandoned by religious families to Orthodox lesbian high-school sweethearts. Many have been tragically rejected and their pain is raw, yet with irony, humor and resilience, they love, care, struggle, and debate with a thousands-year old tradition. Ultimately, they are forced to question how they can pursue truth and faith in their lives--and survive--while upholding the universal struggle to belong.
[font=Century Gothic]"Trembling before G-d" is a documentary about the difficulties faced by gay men and lesbians living in the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities where biblical passages have been interpreted to condemn homosexuality. Another obstacle is how tight knit these communities are, making it extremely hard for a person to come out of the closet, especially when they are expected to marry and have children.(Thus explaining why certain participants have their faces blurred for the camera.) It is very sad seeing people forced to live lies.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]The movie talks to gays and lesbians in Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn and Israel, along with rabbis and psychologists in the community. Whereas some professionals are clearly empathetic, others simply ask their charges to change and conform.(By the way, I think the woman with 12 children is not depressed because of her husband's struggle.) In the end, it is much easier to tell someone what to believe than it is to tell them how to feel. And if god exists, then I would be sure that she loves gays and lesbians as much as everybody else. [/font]
November 30, 2012
The idea for this documentary is great. Hearing about the reaction to gay and lesbianism in cultures is fascinating. The problem is the execution. It simply doesn't grip us. This is a lost opportunity.
An eye-opening video on homosexuality and the Jewish tradition. Ultimately, helps answer and ponder upon our lives direction that conflicts with religious beliefs and traditions. Gives you understanding.
For a documentary, this video is very intriguing and moving. This is a film about being a gay Orthodox Jew in America. Most of Jewish Orthodoxy in the US rejects homosexuality as being against the literal text of Leviticus (a portion of the Torah--the "Hebrew Bible"--which is part of what the Christians refer to as the Old Testament).
As this film shows, a number (probably a relatively small number) of American Orthodox rabbis recognize that being gay is a natural state that can't be denied. They tell their gay congregants to obey Leviticus, but these rabbis say that expressing same sex love is OK within those limits.
The film gets legal/halachic about it, showing that this Orthodox rejection of gay sexual practices is specifically rejection of "sodomy." Beyond that there isn't any technical problem with gay expressions of love, as some Orthodox rabbis have concluded. In the biblical sense, sodomy is defined in a very limited way--not like some people's interpretation which is that any gay sexual act is sodomy.
Personally, I think the broad interpretation of sodomy is incorrect. I think the more limited definition is the correct one. But, I believe sodomy even in that limited sense is not a violation of the subject prohibition in Leviticus, even if that prohibition is read literally. This is based on reasoning that is beyond the discussion in this review.
For some for whom sodomy is not an important element of sex, the Orthodox rule is easy to obey. There are more gay people (including men) who do not perform sodomy than most believe.
The views of some non-Orthodox Jewish rabbis in the US are much more tolerant than American Jewish Orthodoxy. A growing number of Jewish rabbis in the Reform & Reconstructionist movements, and in some synagogues of the Conservative movement, even conduct Jewish marriage ceremonies for gay couples. Looking beyond the US, the rabbis of Israel, generally, do not view homosexuality favorably. Despite this, if you look up non-rabinic Israeli attitudes towards homosexuality, you will find them to be the most liberal in the Middle East and one of the most liberal in the world (ahead of the US in fact). Check it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_rights_in_Israel
My commentary will now go beyond the film, as I discuss an example of the views towards gays of Jewish & non-Jewish clergy in Israel. I followed the news on the 2007 Gay Pride parade that was planned for Jerusalem. I believe that the clerics of the three principal "religious" faiths who spoke out against the parade made a big mistake. They don't seem to realize that gay people are persecuted and discriminated against not unlike Jewish people, not unlike Arabs & not unlike Catholics in certain countries. I would prefer these clergy to be accepting of those who are different, because that's what their followers ask of other people.