Trembling Before G-d

on October 24, 2001 by Bridget Byrne
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   Filmed in the U.S, Europe and Israel, this documentary attempts to explore the dilemma of gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews. Born and bred into a fundamentalist culture that views their sexuality as a crime of the highest order, they struggle to find ways to stay connected with a faith that rejects them.

   The stories told--some by subjects fully-lit, some obscured in anonymous shadows--are very compelling, interesting and often moving, but they do not and cannot explain the religious belief that those persecuted still want comfort from even as they challenge its dictums.

   The documentary makes the choices, desires and needs easy to understand for any viewer. The loss the gays and lesbians feel, cut off from their families--"The real truth is, I want my daddy," says one middle-aged gay man--is easy to feel for any viewer. But despite its talking-head interviews with rabbis and psychologists, it does not provide any real insight into the Orthodox faith for those who are not familiar with it. It is acceptable that a documentary can't provide answers, that it can only expose points of view, but nevertheless "Trembling Before G-d" is lacking the balance needed to have resonance beyond the intimate crisis of just these people embroiled in a sad hearts-and-minds conflict over the fate of their souls.    Directed by Sandi Simcha Dubowski. Produced by Sandi Simcha Dubowski and Marc Smolowitz. A New Yorker release. Documentary. English- and Hebrew-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 84 min.

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