Trembling Before G-d
To be gay and an orthodox Jew who wants to express his or her sexuality while remaining Orthodox is to be in a Dantean circle of hell. The two identities can’t be reconciled, according to strict Orthodox law and custom. Yet there are, in God’s universe, gay men and women who are fervent in their love of the Torah and Judaism, and committed to keeping both their sexuality and their Jewishness alive despite the struggles involved. How a handful manage to find places for themselves in a community that rejects who they are is the compelling subject of Trembling Before G-d (the devout don’t spell out the holy name).
Documentarian Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s compassion for the people who open up to him — he is himself gay and Jewish, from a Conservative background — results in a number of affecting interviews, some conducted in Brooklyn, London, and Israel. A few, including rabbis who parse Talmud teachings to support the prohibitions of tradition, are seen directly; others are obscured or blurred or protected by pseudonyms. Yet while the compiled testimony is strong, some larger context is missing. As it is, the combined interviews provide no more nuanced, coherent insight into the religious conundrum facing gay Orthodox Jews than the deposition of any one man or woman, each in a private world of distress about which a non-Orthodox audience can do little more than murmur, how awful.