Who’s in? Who’s out? What’s a Jew? Why I Need to See “Between Two Worlds” AGAIN

MEPC Film Series - Between Two WorldsBy Rabbi David J. Cooper

[NOTE:  “Between Two Worlds” will be shown at Kehilla on Saturday, January 25, 7pm.]

Again? Yes I’ve seen it before and am looking forward to a refresher viewing surrounded by my synagogue community.

 Why? The arguments about how Jews should respond to the political realities in Israel/Palestine are ripping the fabric of the Jewish community in many ways. Kehilla is an important presence in this community and how we decide to act has impact within and outside Kehilla. The debate as to who is or who isn’t within the umbrella of the community is not an academic exercise but infects the entire discourse within the Jewish world about issues far beyond those concerning the Middle East. It isn’t just about politics and strategies, it is also about who is welcomed to identify as a member of the Jewish community in a time when Jewish identities are becoming ever more manifold and as young people are deciding whether it is worth it to be Jewish-identified at all.

 As an increasing number of Jews, in many different ways and from different perspectives, is opposing the Occupation, the leaders of the established Jewish community — often in response to threats of funding withdrawal —  have put out guidelines demarking what is acceptable discourse which can be sponsored or co-sponsored by organizations receiving funding from their institutions.

 It is within this milieu that Kehilla is functioning with its heart open to the fears of Jews and Israelis, to the oppressions experienced by Palestinians, and to the hopes of everyone. This open-heartedness can be difficult to negotiate in the presence of the polarization we see about us.

 And it isn’t just about open-hearts, it’s about open-mouths and open-minds. Rabbi Sid Schwarz, a respected observer of the Jewish American environment and a committed Zionist, recently characterized the tactics to limit internal discussion as “McCarthyite.” I myself know people working in mainstream Jewish organizations who have silenced their own criticisms of Israeli policy – no matter how mild they may be – in fear for their jobs and/or their funding.

 Documentarians Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow, Kehilla members, highlight these issues in their film and use their own family legacies to examine three generations who have defined and redefined their identities within the Jewish and the American experience. The lives of the Snitows and the Kaufmans are as interesting as everyone who comes to the film that night. Bring your story with you. See you there.

Learn more about the event here.

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