Many of us on this Torah centric walk are looking for wholesome entertainment that inspires positive thoughts and inspirational dialog. Center for Tanakh Based Studies (C4TBS) has comprised a list of 10 of these such movies. Many of these films bring up ethical dilemmas and motivate challenging thoughts when tying them back to Torah. As a recommendation, we think that these films could be used for small group discussions. There is no doubt that a group facilitator could lead a lively discussion on each of them. Nonetheless, we advise that all involve in these small groups template the Tanakh when rendering an opinion in order to get something out of the lesson.
Note: All film descriptions were taken from The Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
- The Chosen(1981) Trailer
In 1944, in Brooklyn, two Jewish kids become friends. One is from a very conservative family, and the other is more liberal. The issues of importance of tradition, parental expectations and the formation of Israel cause constant friction.
Aside from giving good insight into Jewish subcultures, the film addresses Zionist and anti-Zionist concepts. The belief for or against Zionism would make a lively group discussion. Please remember to keep it grounded in Tanakh.
- The Quarrel (1991) Trailer
Montreal 1948. On Rosh Hashanah, Chaim (a Yiddish writer) is forced to think of his religion when he’s asked to be the tenth in a minyan. As he sits in the park, he suddenly sees an old friend whom he hasn’t seen since they quarreled when they were yeshiva students together. Harsh, a rabbi, survived Auschwitz and his faith was strengthened by his ordeal, while Chaim escaped the Nazis, but had lost his faith long before. The two walk together, reminisce, and argue passionately about themselves, their actions, their lives, their religion, their old quarrel, and their friendship.
This film, with a follow on group discussion, will be shown at Sukkot 2017.
- Arranged (2007) Trailer
It centers on the friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common – not least of which is that they are both going through the process of arranged marriages.
This film takes a unique approach. Instead of pitting religions against one another, it looks at the encroachment of the secular world on religion. Where should the line be drawn?
- The Frisco Kid (1979) Trailer
A Polish rabbi wanders through the Old West on his way to lead a synagogue in San Francisco. On the way he is nearly burnt at the stake by Indians and almost killed by outlaws.
This film asks the question “How far are you willing to go for Torah?” and “Should physical religion overshadow humanity?”.
- Ushpizin (2004) Trailer
An Orthodox Jewish couple’s faith is tested after praying to the Lord for a child on the Sukkot holiday.
This film is a must during Sukkot.
- The Pianist (2002) Trailer
A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.
This movie begs the question “Should we resist civil law when it violates Torah and, if so, where is the line?”. One should consult Exodus 1:15-21 about the Hebrew midwives when rendering an answer on this topic.
- Above and Beyond (2014) Trailer
In 1948, a group of World War II pilots volunteered to fight for Israel in the War of Independence. As members of ‘Machal’ — volunteers from abroad — this ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war, preventing the possible annihilation of Israel at the very moment of its birth; they also laid the groundwork for the Israeli Air Force. ABOVE AND BEYOND is their story. The first major feature-length documentary about the foreign airmen in the War of Independence, ABOVE AND BEYOND brings together new interviews with pilots from the ’48 War, as well as leading scholars and statesmen, including Shimon Peres, to present an extraordinary, little-known tale with reverberations up to the present day.
This is an example of supporting Israel and the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant; Genesis 12:1-3 …I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.”, also Isaiah 62:1, 6-7, Psalm 122.
- Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Trailer
In pre revolutionary Russia, a Jewish peasant contends with marrying off three of his daughters while growing anti-Semitic sentiment threatens his village.
“Tradition!” Tevye musically exclaims to us in the movie’s beginning. Yet, aside from its great music and humor this movie has a lot to say about tradition. Thus a good question would be, “why is tradition important, and can it ever get in the way of Torah (Amos 5:21, Isaiah 1:11-16, Proverbs 15:8)?”
- The Riddle of the Exodus (2005) Trailer
Originally released in 2005, this is a re-edited and updated version of the documentary that offers vivid, visual evidence from ancient Jewish and Egyptian sources that support the Biblical account of 10 Plagues and the release of the Children of Israel from harsh bondage.
A must for Passover.
- Schindler’s List (1993) Trailer
In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans.
Oskar Schindler is an excellent example of a “Righteous Ger”. Many of these heroic gentiles surfaced during World War II, at the risk of their own lives, to save the Jews. Corrie ten Boom also serves as another excellent example.
Yet, there were many Righteous Gers that existed outside of the World War II era. Some actually can be found in the Tanakh. Please read the articles below, they will help to fuel a discussion on this topic.
Secondly, although many individuals took it on there own to save Jewish people, should this have been a national issue? Some might say this is why we fought World War II, but it wasn’t. World War II was about defeating Germany because of their conquests not because of their lack of morality (see the MS Saint Louis incident). If countries should have stopped Germany because genocide was wrong, how should it affect our current day attitude towards Darfur and ISIS.