Check out our new ideas and discussion guide for a clip from the movie "Keeping the Faith".
Synopsis of the Movie:
In this 2000 movie, directed by Ed Norton, a comedic romantic triangle is created, when childhood friends, Jake and Brian, both fall in love with the same girl, their childhood friend, Anna. But things are more complicated because Jake is Jewish and is a rabbi, while Brian is a Catholic priest.
Jake and Brian are both trying to innovate in their congregations, while Jake is also interested in becoming the senior rabbi, a position his congregation isn’t sure if he is ready for because he isn’t married. Their friendship is tested when they find themselves fighting over Anna and torn between love and their religious beliefs.
From 31:17 minutes – 36:36 minutes
Explanation of Clip:
In this clip Jake is trying to encourage his congregants to approach their traditional prayers in new ways. He has finally decides to bring in a gospel choir to shake things up. Things appear to go well, but not all the synagogue members are happy with the innovation. The senior rabbi tries to explain to Jake that some people are very happy with the traditional ways and find comfort in them.
The tension between tradition and change is a core question here. The movie deals with how the characters receive traditions that have been passed down for generations, and how they negotiate the balance between accepting those traditions, and finding great value in them, and changing them or finding new ways to find personal meaning. What demands does the Jewish past make of us? How do we respond to those demands? What responsibility do we feel to the People as a whole? If every individual, or even every community, chose for itself new rituals, what would be left to unite the Jewish People as a whole? Peoplehood is activated when everyone takes responsibility to be part of something bigger. This is how you take part in the Jewish people.This clip from the movie raises several peoplehood-related themes, particularly relating to mutual responsibility. The mutual responsibility here is not to take care of other Jews, but is rather about the commitments we have to the past and to tradition.
Another, related, question is about sources of authority. As a rabbi Jake has a leadership role. He functions as an authority for his congregants, but when he starts to date the non-Jewish Anna, he realizes that he can’t be an authority any more. What balance do we look for in our lives between our own autonomy and the authority of rabbis or others?
How to Use the Movie:
Show the clip to your students.
What is the dilemma, or dilemmas, that is being presented here? Start by focusing on the movie clip, with these questions:
- To what extent does this dilemma resonate with you?
- If you were the director of the movie, how would you continue the scenes you saw in the clip?
- Who, if any, of the characters, do you identify with?
Then, once you have discussed the movie, expand the conversation by choosing one (or more) of the thematic questions in the section above.
For more ideas for using this movie clip, see the Peoplehood Education Toolkit.
Many thanks to Galit Roichman for the insights and resources discussed here.