November 13, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Forward Newspaper Online: New Film Peers Into the Teenage Jewish Closet

Forward Newspaper Online: New Film Peers Into the Teenage Jewish Closet

The movie focuses on the story of Shulamit Izen, a gay student at The New Jewish High School (now Gann Academy), and how she brought the issue of homosexuality to the forefront of discussion and sought a place for herself and for other gay students in her school. Initially a personal account of Izen reconciling her sexuality with her faith, the film quickly shifts focus and portrays her struggle to form a gay-straight alliance.

As Ariella Wortzman, another student portrayed in the film, says, the issue was "not just 'I'm gay; create a space where I can be gay.' It's 'I have needs. I have things that I want to talk about. Create a space where I can be open and where I can talk about things that matter to me.'"

An exemplary moment comes when Izen reflects on her encounter with the school's headmaster, Rabbi Daniel Lehmann. "I wanted to tell him my story," Izen tells viewers. But, "I left the meeting feeling really defeated... what I got from Rabbi Lehmann was that I can't be holy and gay."

A key voice in the film, Lehmann strikes an interesting balance between his role as an administrator and his personal ambivalences. Lehmann admits feeling uncomfortable when Izen first approached him with her story. At other times he comments on the things that a headmaster must take into account when approaching an issue that divides the community. However, in the end it is perhaps Lehmann who articulates the film's theme most precisely and most eloquently by noting that "the core of our tradition is to bring together those conflicting opinions not in an attempt to somehow resolve them or create harmony, but to actually live in the tension of those differences."

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