The Weekly Shtiebel Lens

Summer 2020: Newsletter #3

Dear Cinephiles and Ethicists,

Thank you for expressing interest in FilmShtiebel! This week’s newsletter will provide reflections about the final session of our launch, upcoming programs, as well as a few recommendations of films and events “around town,” digitally speaking.

- The FilmShtiebel Team

In the Shtiebel

August 26, 2020: Dating and Relating in Kissing Jessica Stein

In this session, we explored traditional Jewish perspectives on the ideal role of a partner, introducing the beshert, or fated one, and the ezer k’negdo, or helper, and considered how these concepts relate to rabbinic views on homosexuality, intermarriage, and Jewish continuity.

Kissing Jessica Stein could be considered an important historical touchpoint for the recognition of queer Jewish relationships in popular film, and the documentary Trembling Before G-D came out at a similar time. In addition to the way this film raises questions about views of relationships and community, it also begins a conversation picked up in a few other contemporary Jewish films about nuanced heterosexual relationships from the woman's perspective (for example: Fill the Void, The Wedding Plan, and Leona). Across these films, there is a sense that the protagonists have a difficult time expressing their desires, partially due to feeling intensely caught between their own interests and what they feel is expected of them. Perhaps this is not unique to Jewish women, but in these films, the main character is fairly inscrutable. Who is Jessica, really? What does she want?  

You could contrast this with the aggressive and high maintenance woman Ben Stiller is set up with in Keeping the Faith, where the director clearly wants to demonstrate that this is not what a man should want. Yet the films mentioned above show a different side to Jewish women where they are deeply sensitive, intensely private, and exceptionally creative. One could even argue that these are all versions of the same woman—an eshet chayil, or woman of valor—in different environments.

If you missed this session and want to know more about it, please drop us a line. We welcome your thoughts on the films from our pilot series as well as recommendations for future programming!

Upcoming: GatherDC Alt_YK partnership


GatherDC is launching its Friday Night Film Club with FilmShtiebel to connect to the intentions of the High Holidays through secular cinema. Over the course of three weekly 1½-hour meetups next month against the backdrop of “Crash/Burn/Rise”—GatherDC’s theme for High Holidays this year—the first Friday Night Film Club cohort will watch and discuss the following trio of films in virtual Shabbat gatherings:

The general GatherDC demographic is anyone post-college/pre-family in their 20s & 30s in the Washington, DC area who identify as Jewish—or "Jew-curious". If this sounds like something you or someone you know would be interested in, please complete this form by September 2nd.

Events Around the Digital Town:

Tuesday, September 1, 7:00PM MT / 9:00PM ET: Utah Film Center: The Condor & the Eagle [FREE]

Thursday, September 3, 6:30PM PT / 9:30PM ET: From the Ford: Viver Brasil [FREE]

Through September 9: Video on Demand from VTIFF: Jazz on a Summer’s Day [$12]

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