The Personalist Project

This Israeli movie has charmed my personalist socks off.  It now holds a coveted place on my list of top ten fabulous foreign films.  Jules and I heard about it from friend Scott Johnston and watched it together the other night.

Points I loved:

-  How universal human themes come through in the very peculiarity and strangeness (to us) of orthodox Jewish culture.  This is more proof (because we keep needing it) that hings don't become more "universal" when they're render more generic and unexceptional.  On the contrary.

- How raw and real the characters are in their expression of their emotions and in their relationships with each other, and with God.  Nothing theoretical or artificial about it.  

- The convincing depiction of conversion.  Conversion can be real and deep and true, even while it's incomplete.  

- The funny and touching mix of virtue and weaknes, faith and doubt, humanity and grace.

- The utterly unselfconscious acting.  These are real people.  The viewer is drawn into their world.

I'd love to know if others have seen it, and if yes, what you thought.

Comments (4)

Devra Torres

#1, May 9, 2012 12:00am

Max and I saw it on the recommendation of David Moss of the Association of Hebrew Catholics, and we loved it.  We saw it recently with a Messianic Jewish family, and they loved it, too. But I don't think you need any personal Jewish connection to appreciate this movie.  And here's another example of a a community, like the Catholic Church, which from the outside can look like a baffling collection of obsolete and rigid rules and regulations but on the inside has lots of room for the flourishing of individuality and as personal a relationship with the Holy One of Israel as anyone could want. 

Katie van Schaijik

#2, May 9, 2012 9:50am

I don't have any personal Jewish connection.  I wish I did--so much so that I'm susceptible to theories like that the Celts descend from the lost tribe...

Another thing I loved but forgot to mention was how much fulfilling the commands of God regarding the Holy Days coincided with their deep personal desires.  Why did they want the money?  Not for vanities, "worthless things", but so they could be good Jews, and make a good celebration.

Sam Roeble

#3, Feb 6, 2013 9:54am

Katie van Schaijik, May. 9 at 9:50am

the commands of God regarding the Holy Days coincided with their deep personal desires

 Yes, in my neighborhood--Bexley, Ohio--there are many families who celebrate sukkoth (the feast of booths).  They put up their rectangular tents all up and down our street.

As a gentile, I have yet to be invited into their tents for a meal or, like the movie, to be their guest.  However, I did speak with a family who just moved in town from Jerusalem.  The father was building the sukkoth when I met him: "hello sir, happy sukkoth".  "happy sukkoth" he replied.  "have you seen Ushpizin?"  "yes, good Israeli movie!  We just moved here from Jerusalem--my wife and son are in the house and we will eat out of doors tonight as soon as I get this sukkoth up".  "ah, ok, shalom!"  "Shalom!"

Sam Roeble

#4, Feb 6, 2013 11:23am

Our good friends and fellow Catholics live next door to Rabbi 'Mayor', his wife, and four sons.  Our friends were 'invited' to shabbat next-door, but they soon realized that the invitation was just out of politeness and not truly intended. 

So, the difference between Ushpizin and our neighborhood is that the guests of the movie--the two prisoners--were jews themselves and not gentiles.  Moshi, the main character, offered them hospitality because, though prisoners, they were still members of the chosen people.  Gentiles are not included.

While I have some respect for this stance, I also appreciate the inclusiveness of Catholicism all the more.  There is no dividing wall, so to speak, between me and my neighbors.  They can become members of the new covenant by their own choosing, not by biological birth.  Needless to say, as a result, the sabbath meals that me and my wife host are much more diverse in attendance: African American couple, Latino couple, Asian wife and European husban, Indian priest--just to name a few of our guests.  Like Abraham and Sarah, whom Ushpizin is based on, my wife and I have probably entertained angels unawares!   

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