American Judaism explored in new Israeli TV present ‘The New Jew’

2021-04-19 22:42:41

 Armed with what he calls “the standard weapons of the Jews – curiosity, doubt and humor,” Israeli comic/tv persona/actor Guri Alfi heads for the US to find other ways American Jews have of being Jewish within the documentary collection The New Jew on KAN 11, which runs Monday and Thursday at 9:35 p.m. and can be out there on The collection is in Hebrew and English with Hebrew titles.

Alfi presents himself as a typical Israeli secular Jew who doesn’t know a lot about faith, a pose a bit disingenuous – he appears to know greater than he lets on – however the gimmick works nicely.

Within the first two episodes launched to the press of the four-part collection, his focus is totally on Jews who’re religiously engaged however not historically Orthodox, primarily Reform and Conservative Jews and others who follow non-traditional variations of Judaism. This is sensible as a result of the Reform, Conservative and different non-Orthodox actions are far much less prevalent in Israel and provides Jews who don’t really feel comfy inside Orthodoxy – for every kind of causes, because the collection exhibits – methods to stay a Jewish life. Whereas the non-Orthodox Jewish actions are slowly making strides with the Israeli public, they don’t seem to be acknowledged by the federal government and Israelis could also be stunned to see the variety and vitality of those teams within the US.

The collection, which has extraordinarily excessive manufacturing values for a public broadcasting service documentary and encompasses a bouncy, klezmer-infused rating, follows Alfi as he crisscrosses America. Probably the most intriguing idea he explores is the concept Jews in America could be Jewish by alternative and what meaning for the way forward for the Jewish individuals, each in Israel and America. The primary episode opens with maybe the blandest encounter of the collection, as he visits with a bunch of younger individuals in a ski-resort city in Colorado who do a cool kabbalat Shabbat communal dinner. Alfi doesn’t appear to understand that this dinner is much like many such gatherings that happen each week throughout Israel, however are maybe extra widespread in Jerusalem and different spots than in central Tel Aviv, the a part of Israel the place Alfi is clearly most comfy.

You could be tempted to ditch the collection at this level however when you keep it up you’ll be rewarded with some extra fascinating segments. These embrace an interview with Angela Warnick Buchdahl, who’s the rabbi of the Central Synagogue in Manhattan, a big Reform congregation. Buchdahl, the daughter of a Korean mom and an American Jewish father, can be a cantor. She talks a couple of youth-group go to to Israel when she was in highschool, the place she felt alienated from Israelis who assumed she was not Jewish, though she had at all times recognized as a Jew, and in response to Reform follow, at all times was a Jew. Main Hanukkah prayers on the White Home in 2014, she requested president Barack Obama if he thought the founding fathers might have imagined {that a} feminine Asian-American rabbi would pray with an African-American president and she or he affords insights impressed by her distinctive background. A mohelet – a lady who performs circumcisions – in New York provides Alfi the chance you sense he has been ready for to crack a few jokes.

Alfi appears shocked to be taught in subsequent episodes that there are fairly a number of African-American and Latino Jews, a few of whom have grown up Jewish and others who’ve transformed, in addition to Jews of different backgrounds, who converse movingly about their struggles to slot in and outline themselves as Jews. One references the collection Orange is the New Black, the place an African-American inmate asks to transform so she will be able to eat kosher meals that’s tastier than the common jail fare, however finally ends up a honest convert, saying, “I feel I discovered my individuals.” 

He speaks with Jewish comedians, together with Tehran Von Ghasri, a Jewish stand-up comedian of Iranian descent, who jokes about being caught with that first title. Visiting Iranian Jews in Los Angeles, he exhibits a extra modest, susceptible facet to them than you’ll ever get to see on the well-known present, The Shahs of Sundown.

Rachel Freier, the primary hassidic lady to be elected as a choose in New York Metropolis, exhibits what is feasible when a conventional Jew embraces the secular world. In discussions about the way forward for Judaism and the way numerous Jewish life could turn into because it absorbs totally different influences, it’s Freier who strikes a discordant word, saying that she feels there isn’t a alternative for Jews besides to be Jewish, a place at odds with the concept American Jews select to be Jewish. She additionally emphasizes the necessity to root Jewish follow and identification within the Torah.

An upcoming episode will function an interview with Bari Weiss, the previous New York Instances op-ed employees author who courted controversy together with her politically incorrect opinions about social justice warriors and revealed a e book in 2019 titled How one can Struggle Anti-Semitism, which can doubtless be a enjoyable interview for Alfi. Alfi is at his most partaking within the moments when he will get severe and Weiss ought to be a very good match for him.

 This collection about “new” Jews will doubtless enlighten, entertain, annoy and offend viewers in several methods and whereas at occasions it might appear superficial, it does current a different and fascinating portrait of the variety of American-Jewish life.

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