Dr Judith Guedalia

'Hollyvood' for the Orthodox?

For the first time in Israel the Haredi community has produced a movie for, by, and with ‘real' Haredi actors.  Well really two movies.  The first one, Ushpesin was a popular movie very professionally done and available to the public in the ‘standard' movie theaters around the country.  The second one "Veheshiv Lev Avot" (Turning Back the Fathers Heart), a more modest production is selling like hotcakes in Me'a Shearim, Bnai Brak and other Haredi enclaves.  It is formatted as DVD or Mpv (can be watched on a computer)  or VCR (cassette video-tape) and is sold for only 50 Shekel (about $12.00!!!)  The stories are totally different but the impact of this bold move is groundbreaking. 


Firstly Ushpesin - whose name is connotes the spiritual ‘guests' who visit the Succa, opened up a sensitive view of the usually closed (to the public) Haredi ‘shtetel' within the larger city of Jerusalem.  You are introduced to a middle aged Balei Teshuva childless couple who are preparing for Sukkot, building their Sukka and buying the Lulav and Etrog.  The story goes on to show a clash of cultures, the one left behind and the newly religious and spiritual one.  How the well-meaning, intense, and sensitively acted, ‘interactions' play-out is the  heart and soul of the movie. There have been many movies that have attempted to portray aspects of the Haredi life, but this is the first one that is written, acted and produced mainly by Haredim (with a little help from outside -i.e. non-Haredi ‘seed money').  The 'Chilonim' I spoke to found the movie an eye opener, they felt it was sensitive and a window into a world that they may never see and experience.  In particular one told me that the movie helped them get a sense for the pathos of buying the ‘right' Ethrog, they may see in the markets or on TV (Haredim looking at Ethrogim with magnifying glasses or a jeweler's ‘loop') as an expression of Hidur Mitzva (glorifying the mitzva).

The second movie was a more modest production.  Though it is not in the ‘movie houses', it was not meant to be.  It was meant to be shown in ‘homes' not houses.  The cover recommends that parents should watch the film with their children and talk about it.  It was goal was also that itto be shown in schools with the Rebbe or teacher in attendance.  "Veheshiv Lev Avot"  is the story of an almost Bar Mitzvah aged boy.  He learns in a Talmud Torah and has had a drastic drop school achievement and attendance.  We watch as he is leaving sign after sign of his pain, his drawings, his ‘chutzpadik' answers to his Rebbe, and of course the welt on his brow.  All these signs of domestic abuse go unnoticed, until he runs away from home.  The story of how his friends, his Rebbe and the communities Rav go about dealing with the issue demonstrates the power of this groundbreaking movie.

It was the ‘creative idea' and was produced by Noach Korman -Rabbi (and Toen Rabbani/Lawyer at the Beit Din) and Executive Director of Miklat Israel, with the untiring help of Mrs. Esti Pallant, the Shelter director.  Both head Miklat Israel a non profit organization that runs Shelters for Haredi married women and their children who suffer from domestic abuse (one in the Jerusalem area and a newly opened shelter in the center of the country).  The organization also runs two Hostels for Haredi children and adolescents, one for boys and one for girls in different parts of Jerusalem.

It is impossible to talk about these institutions without mentioning the name Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer.  Mrs. Fawer donated the ‘seed money' for Nefesh Israel's first Four Conferences (Nefesh Israel is a branch of Nefesh International a networking organization of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals).  Estanne was profiled in The Jewish Press a few weeks ago, but that was the tip of the iceberg!  I do not use the work ‘iceberg' accidentally, 90% or more, of an iceberg is hidden from the surface.  I have never met anyone with the vision and stick-to-it-ness and ‘putting-her-resources-where-her-ideas-are as Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer.  Not only does she have ideas, but she proposes these ideas with a vision of the ‘finished product'.  She saw the need ten years ago to help the speechless in pain, Haredi families, women and children that were suffering in a cruel silence of Domestic Violence.  What was needed was a shelter, a hostel for girls and adolescents and one for boys.  In less that a year those first apartments and then buildings were up and running, with the ‘moral' support of the Welfare Department!!  They are run with ‘class' and warmth that is unlike any other institution of its kind.  This is an amazing achievement and she is not done!! Estanne Abraham Fawer now wants to tackle Eating Disorders within the Haredi community, and mark my words she will bring the same incredible power and creativity to this new endeavor.

Look for both movies, "Veheshiv Lev Avot" can be ordered through P.O.B. 41247 Jerusalem or phone number 972-52-4767379.  Watch them yourselves, with your family and share them with friends.

As Estanne Abraham Fower says: "Don't miss the opportunity to change the world".

Tags: Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer | Mrs. Esti Pallant | Nefesh International | Nefesh Israel | Noach Korman | Veheshiv Lev Avot