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AJS Film Program

December 16-23, 2022

Trembling before G-d
Babi Yar. Context
New Israeli Shorts:
    Ha-mesima Hebron/Mission Hebron
    I’m from Jaffa/Ana min Yaffa
    Dmei Hanukkah/Dreidel on Fire
    Tesha Yarichim/Nine Moons

From the Film Committee

As usual, the Film Committee will share with AJS members an exciting program—“the best of” recent films that can be adopted for classrooms and public programming. Our selection includes a seminal documentary Trembling before G-d, which brought  gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews trying to reconcile their sexuality with their religion to the big screen for the first time. The screening will take place in conjunction with the panel “ Trembling before G-d: A Twenty Year Retrospective” celebrating the film’s twentieth anniversary. Another groundbreaking documentary, Babi Yar. Context tells a tragic story of the Holocaust of Ukrainian Jews using hitherto unseen archival footage. Today, with Ukraine again the site of mass atrocities, the film has a renewed relevance. For this year's AJS conference, the film will be screened in conjunction with the plenary “Memory in the Time of War.” We conclude with a program, “ New Israeli Shorts: The Full Range,” which represents a sampling of diverse themes, genres, and viewpoints characterizing Israeli cinema today. These short films correspond perfectly to the many panels dealing with aspects of Israeli society and culture at the AJS, and are particularly good fit for use in a classroom. The entire program will stream online, before, during, and after the conference. We hope that this schedule will give everyone a chance to watch the films.

The Film Committee also brings you a pedagogical session, "Teaching through Film," which this year will focus on the theme of refugees, a timely subject in light of the current wars, conflicts, and climate crises that have caused mass displacement. In this panel, we explore how instructors can use film to help students make sense of the political, ethical, and social complexities of forced mass migration. We look forward to seeing you at the screenings and at the pedagogical session. Together, they celebrate the importance of cinema and media in scholarship and teaching. See you at the movies!

The Film Committee: Olga Gershenson, Slava Greenberg, Daniel H. Magilow, Catherine Portuges

Trembling before G-d, Sandi Simcha DuBowski, 94 minutes, 2001, Israel, France, U.S., documentary 

Access online 12/16–12/23 (AJS member login required)

Trembling before G-d was the first documentary to portray gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews trying to reconcile their sexuality with their faith. The film follows the lives of several of them in the US and Israel and includes interviews with rabbis and psychotherapists about Orthodox attitudes towards homosexuality. Among the interviewees is Rabbi Steven Greenberg, known as the first openly gay Orthodox-ordained Jewish rabbi. The film won numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the 2001 Berlin and Chicago film festivals.

For educational sales contact the filmmaker:

Babi Yar. Context, Sergei Loznitsa, 2021, Netherlands, Ukraine, 121 minutes, documentary

Access online 12/16–12/23 (AJS member login required)

On September 29–30, 1941, Germans and their local auxiliaries murdered 33,771 Jews at the Babi Yar ravine in Kyiv. This slaughter, which returned to the headlines after Russian forces bombed the memorial site on March 1, 2022, is the focal point of Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa's observational documentary Babi Yar. Context. Collaged from archival footage, much of it in color, Babi Yar. Context recounts the events that led up to and followed this largest single massacre of Jews during the Holocaust in rich and disturbing detail.
For education sales, contact the filmmaker:

AJS members are also invited to view an interview with the filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa that Oren Stier conducted.

New Israeli Short Films: The Full Range

Program curated by Olga Gershenson

Sponsored by the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies and the Institute of the Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Paradise, Asaf Saban, 32 minutes, Israel, 2021, narrative

Access online 12/16–12/23 (AJS member login required)

Ali, a young Palestinian, comes to Israel for a home visit after a long absence. Following a cold welcome, he decides to seek peace for a few days in the desert of Sinai, Egypt. But instead of peace and quiet, he finds himself embroiled in an unexpected identity crisis. Paradise creates a nuanced portrayal of the Palestinian position in Israel—which is always in-between and never fully accepted. 

For educational sales contact Go2Films

Plumot/Fledge, Hani Dombe and Tom Kouris, 15 min, Israel/France, 2021, narrative animation

Access online 12/16–12/23 (AJS member login required)

This highly original stop-motion animated film brings together elements of Slavic mythology with a realistic coming-of-age story. An immigrant teenage girl with feathers on her body is torn between the need to belong and her own identity. 

For educational sales contact the producer Amit Gicelter:

Ha-mesima Hebron/Mission Hebron, Rona Segal, 24 minutes, Israel and European Union, 2020, documentary

Six Israeli men who served in the army give an account of their mission in Hebron, a Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The young soldiers were tasked with protecting Jewish settlers from the city’s predominantly Palestinian population, and were given complete control of public life in the area. Based on the duties defined in their military handbook, the six ex-soldiers describe their mission, both official and unofficial.

The film is available on the IDFA website or at the New York Times website.

For educational sales contact the filmmaker:

I’m From Jaffa/Ana min Yaffa, Rachel Shor and Yuval Abraham, 16 min, Israel, 2022, documentary

In this engaging documentary, Amoneh Asfour, a young Palestinian Israeli born and raised in Jaffa, leads us on a tour of her city, revealing its rich history and complicated present. The film is produced by Sadaka-Reut, a non-profit organization founded by Palestinian and Jewish Israeli students, which works with youth on issues surrounding identities and inequalities within Israeli society.

The film is available on Sadaka-Reut YouTube channel.

For more information and screening rights reach out to

Dmei Hanukkah/Dreidel on Fire, 8 min, Aviad Shtachelberg, Israel, 2021, narrative

Access online 12/16–12/23 (AJS member login required)

Matti is the best dreidel spinner in town. On the seventh night of Hanukkah he tells his boss, the head of “the casino” that he wants to leave. His boss makes him an offer he can't refuse.

For educational sales contact The Sam Spiegel Film and Television School:

Tesha Yarichim/Nine Moons, 8 min, Alma Ben Zeev, Israel, 2021, documentary animation

Access online 12/16–12/23 (AJS member login required)

An intimate diary of a young woman whose pregnancy causes her to suffer from enhanced nightmares, connecting to family history.

For educational sales contact the filmmaker: