Below are two films with Jewish themes that are essential viewing for those interested in the genre.
Across this site, you’ll find more films with Jewish themes – some as well-known as these two, some much less so. So feel free to explore…and hopefully, discuss.
Based on the bestselling book by Chaim Potok which was published in 1967, this 1981 film effectively examines traditional vs. modern Judaism. The story concerns two teenage Jewish boys who form a friendship, even through they come from widely different worlds. One of the boys, Reuven Malter, naturally gifted with a mind for mathematics, wants to become a rabbi and follow modern methods of studying Judaism. Danny, on the other hand, is a son of a Hasidic Rabbi, and is being groom to take over his position as tazddik. The film, directed by Jeremy Kagan, stars Maximilian Schell, Rod Steiger, Robby Benson and Barry Miller.
Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993, paved the way for a Jewish film resurgence. Up until this watershed moment, getting serious movie fare that had Jewish themes made in Hollwyood was difficult indeed. It’s still difficult, but certainly made easier by this gentle masterpiece, that manages to transcend traditional past stories of its ilk to become more quintessentially about human transformation. The film centers around Oskar Schindler, a vain, greedy German businessman who – in the midst of a barbaric Nazi reign – does an about face, feeling compelled to turn his factory (filled with Jewish workers) into a Jewish refuge, ultimately saving over 1,100 Jews from extermination. It’s not an easy film to watch – nor should it be. Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Embeth Davidtz, and Ben Kingsley.