- Movie 1: THE DIVIDE
- Movie 2: SUZIE GOLD
- Clip 1: THE TRIBE
- Clip 2: THE HEBREW MAMITA
- Clip 3: WHAT IS A JEW?
- Clip 4: WHEREVER YOU GO THERE'S ALWAYS SOMEONE JEWISH
Movie: The Divide (2011) – A film by Tzvi Yehuda Herling
Kobi has defied his parents wishes by joining the Israeli army. Now he returns home for Shabbat to find out that the army has issued an evacuation order to his family, requiring them to leave their home in a small settlement in Samaria. Not only that, Kobi really wants his family to come to the military ceremony celebrating the completion of his basic training, where he will receive a special award.
The movie is 20 minutes long.
Find and watch the movie
You can download and watch the movie from the Ma’aleh Film School website. For the month of November access to the movie is free. After that there is a small fee. Search for “The Divide” in the film catalogue.
Explanation of Movie
This is a movie about the tests of loyalty felt by Kobi, a young soldier in the IDF and the rest of his family. Living in a settlement in Samaria, Kobi’s home is considered illegal and in the background is the looming evacuation that his family is subject to. At the same time Kobi has decided to enlist in the IDF, against the wishes of his family. The movie tells the story of the competing loyalties felt by all the members of the family; to each other, to the State in which they live, to their home and community. Complicating the issues is the fact that Kobi has excelled in his basic training and received the award for Outstanding Soldier, an honor that he wants to share with his family.
The tension between Kobi and his parents is the animating drama of the movie. We feel their pain as it plays out questions of competing loyalty. Where does Kobi’s (or our own) loyalty lie when there is conflict between them? to his immediate family or to his extended family, which in this case is the army and by extension the Jewish nation, even if loyalty to the army and State appears to be directly harming his own family.
The movie is called “The Divide”, in Hebrew HaMavdil. The Hebrew term is drawn from the Havdalah ceremony which ends Shabbat, and in which we make a distinction between the holiness of Shabbat and the everyday nature of the rest of the week. The movie asks us to look at notions of sacred and profane and consider what distinguishes between them. For example, for Kobi’s father, the IDF uniform is profane and must be covered over, whereas for Kobi it is a symbol of pride that has a holy purpose.
Watch the movie (20 minutes) and start with the following questions:
- What are the central dilemmas or conflicts in the movie?
- Do any of those dilemmas/conflicts resonate with you?
- Which characters do you find most interesting or do you have empathy with? Who is/are the hero/es?
Then move onto a discussion focused on one of the core themes:
As we see in the movie, there are many competing loyalties at work in this story. Start by describing who feels loyal to who, or what. You could even sketch these loyalties out on a piece of paper.
The core conflict is between loyalty to one’s immediate family versus loyalty to the broader extended family, which in this case is the Israeli army and by extension, the State of Israel and the Jewish nation.
- How do you understanding the competing loyalties shown in the film? For whom do you feel most sympathy?
- Who do you feel loyalty to? Who is your closest “family” and in your “extended family”? Have you ever experienced competing ties of loyalty between them?
Between Sacred and Profane (Bein Kodesh L’Chol)
Consider the notions of Sacred and Profane in general. What are the characteristics of things that you consider “sacred” or “holy” and those that you consider “profane” or “secular”.
Where do these concepts find resonance in the movie? Who considers what to be either sacred or profane?
How do our families try to pass down notions of sacred and profane to us?
Movie: Suzie Gold
Synopsis of Movie
Suzie Gold is a 2004 British movie about 20-something Suzie Gold, a middle-class Jewish girl from North West London (where the Jewish community is concentrated). Suzie’s family is looking for a husband for her, but she is more interested in non-Jewish Darren than the highly eligible (and Jewish) Anthony Silver.
5:06 minutes – 11:30 minutes
Explanation of Clip
In this clip, Suzie and her family gather for Friday night dinner. Friday night is a good time to meet potential husbands, and Suzie’s family wants to match her with Anthony Silver. During Shabbat dinner, we see the Jewish London milieu and the concerns of the family.
On one hand it is very superficial; middle class, concerned with material things, talking about small concerns and other people. But on the other hand we see a family concerned with issues regarding the Jewish people overall; what it means to be part of a family, how we belong, what ties us together. This single family represents a wider family that is the Jewish People.
During the conversation, the question arises about happens if one falls in love with (and marries) someone who is not Jewish. The family members argue both sides, using Jewish history to argue the points. They bring Hitler into the argument, and although it sounds comical in the movie, it also contains a serious side, reflecting the burden the individual carries as part of belonging to the Jewish collective.
Who you marry and who you fall in love with is more than just an intimate choice, it is a decision that some people believe is a collective decision. Is it okay for the individual to walk away from the obligations of his or her ancestors?
The deeper conversation here is about the tensions between the “I” and the collective “we,” and the ways that we express our belonging through our families and communities.
How to Use the Movie
Show the movie clip to your learners. Discuss the following questions:
- How do the characters in the movie express their belonging to the Jewish community?
- How do you express your belonging to the Jewish People and community? What is similar or different? Do you see cultural differences (between the US and Britain, for example?)
Divide into small groups of 4-5 and have each group write a script for a short dramatic scene set around a Friday night Shabbat dinner table. Brainstorm different possible characters or scenarios and have the participants create, stage and act out their scenes.
You could incorporate different cultural backgrounds (Ashkenazic, Israeli, Sephardic etc., ), set the scenes at different times in history or have the writers address the tension between individual and collective belonging.
Clip: The Tribe
The Tribe is the 2005 creation of Tiffany Shlain, which tells the story of the Barbie doll and the Jewish people through animation, graphics and archival footage. It has won acclaim around the world and provokes the viewer to think about what it means to be a Jew living in America today and more broadly, what it means to be a part of any tribe.
Watch the Clip
(cue through 5:06 or watch the whole film.)
Explanation of the clip
The clip explores the meaning of being a part of a tribe as a way into the conversation of being a part of the Jewish tribe. Through a new visual style it introduces us to the different groups and subgroups within the Jewish community and starts to ask the question, what do all Jews have in common?
- Share your general reactions to the clip. What was surprising, funny or thought-provoking about the clip?
- With regard to the fact that Ruth Handler, a Jewish woman created the Barbie Doll (the most non-Jewish “looking” doll) the clip asserts, “One might say that the essential Jewish perspective is standing outside and looking in.” Do you agree? Is belonging to a Jewish collective belonging to a group of “outsiders”?
- The clip mentions that all Jews share something in common, “culture, heroes and stereotypes.” What are other aspects of Jewish life that you think all Jews share in common?
- If you were an anthropologist studying “The Jewish Tribe” from the outside, what do you imagine you would observe?
For a more extended activity on the topic go to The Tribe.
Clip: The Hebrew Mamita
Vanessa Hidary, also known as the “Hebrew Mamita” is a spoken word artist who brings her rich ethnic background (Latina and Jewish) to broadcast her proud Jewish identity. In this performance, when forced to confront the surprising response, “you don’t look Jewish, you don’t act Jewish” from a potential suitor, her answer firmly anchors her Jewish identity in the narrative of the Jewish people.
Watch the Clip
- What inspired you, surprised or made you think?
- What does it means to “look Jewish” or to “act Jewish”.
- Have you ever been told you don’t look or act Jewish? Describe that situation. Did it strengthen your resolve to identify with the Jewish collective (as it did for Hidary?) or did it have a different effect?
- She affirms at the end, when someone says “you don’t look like, or act like your people. Impossible, because you are your people.” What does it mean to “be” your people?
For a more extended activity on the topic go to Be Your People.
Clip: What is a Jew?
The clip is one in a series called “Sinai Speak” which includes 2-5 minute short videos to inspire participants who returned home after completing a Birthright Israel (or other program) in Israel. In this clip, Rabbi Moshe Zeldman, a teacher for Aish Hatorah (a program that reaches out to unaffiliated Jews) in Jerusalem brings together a fictitious character (non-Jew) and a Jew, to talk about what the nature of being Jewish is.
Watch the Clip
- Rabbi Moshe Zeldman likens the Jews to “the biggest dysfunctional family ever.” Is that a compelling and true way to describe the Jewish people to you? Is there a different way you would describe the “Jewish people?”
- If you were posed with the question “What is a Jew” how would you answer the question? However you chose to answer that question, would you see yourself as a part of that group? Why or why not?
For a more extended activity on the topic go to The Jewish Family.
Clip: “Wherever you Go there’s always someone Jewish”
This song, written by Rabbi Larry Milder, back in 1994 became a hit song at Jewish summer camps across North America. It’s a catchy tune and simple lyrics struck a chord of collective belonging that touched a generation.
Watch the Clip
- Ask participants to share their overall reactions to the song – do they find it to be true? Is it comforting? Do they remember in what context they first heard the song?
- The song has it that on Friday night when Jews welcome Shabbat that all Jews feel connected to each other. Do you find this to be true? Are there other Jewish rituals you experience which make you feel connected to other Jews? Share them with the group.
For a more extended activity on the topic go to Wherever You Go, There’s Always Someone Jewish