Between Two Worlds
A personal essay revealing the passionate debates over identity and generational change inside today's American Jewish community.
Directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman
Produced by Snitow-Kaufman Productions
Editor: Kenji Yamamoto
Music: Fred Frith
Principal Cinematography: Marsha Kahm
Principal Sound: Philip Perkins
[Note: Community screenings of BETWEEN TWO WORLDS can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"[A] beautiful, passionate, and riveting personal documentary."
Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History, UC Davis
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS is a groundbreaking personal exploration of the community and family divisions that are redefining American Jewish identity and politics. The filmmakers' own families are battlegrounds over loyalty to Israel, interpretations of the Holocaust, intermarriage, and a secret communist past.
Filmed in the United States and Israel, this first-person documentary begins with a near riot at a Jewish Film Festival in San Francisco, reveals the agonizing battle over divestment from Israel on a university campus, and shows the crackdown on dissent in Israel itself.
Grade Level: College, Adults
US Release Date: 2011
Copyright Date: 2011
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-813-9
"Riveting and moving...This brave and original work jettisons shrill argument, and illuminates today's furious debates over Jewish politics and identity."
David Biale, Professor of Jewish History, UC Davis
"Between Two Worlds is a film about the most important questions that are currently shaping American Jewish life. There are many answers in the film, but its real purpose is to show how these questions are as deeply personal as they are communal, as important for policy as they are to claiming a Jewish identity. The filmmakers challenge, incite and provoke, insisting that viewers engage with the issues and talk to others about them."
Riv-Ellen Prell, Professor of American Studies, University of Minnesota, Author, Women Remaking American Judaism
"Between Two Worlds is an explosive behind-the-scenes exploration of the contemporary civil war within the Jewish community over the question of the lessons of the Holocaust and the reality of Israeli policies toward Palestinians. Here, we find Jews of Conscience struggling to find their own voice and speak it. How refreshing it is to hear and see this voice on film, as it is our Jewish future, if we are to have one worth bequeathing to our children."
Marc Ellis, Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of History, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies, Baylor University, Author, Encountering the Jewish Future
"Between Two Worlds couldn't be more timely...I hope many American Jews will see it and come out, as I did, provoked, educated, and, as usual, torn apart...[A] beautiful, passionate, and riveting personal documentary."
Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History, UC Davis, Author, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America
"Who speaks for American Jews? Who decides which views on Israeli-Palestinian issues are beyond the pale of discussion and debate? Part personal memoir, part social critique, and part history lesson, Between Two Worlds addresses these thorny questions with sharp insight and impressive ethical passion. Sure to arouse strong emotion, this courageous and eloquent documentary should be seen by anyone who cares about the fractious state of the Jewish community today."
Michael Staub, Professor, Department of English, Baruch College, Author, Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America
"Between Two Worlds has the exhilarating energy and fierce commitment of Jewish conversation itself. The film brings history, nuance, and insight to political arguments roiling campuses today."
Naomi Seidman, Professor of Jewish Culture, Graduate Theological Union
"A passionate, poignant and beautiful film...A must see not only for American Jews, but for anyone who has experienced the turmoil of generational change. Linking intimate family stories with insights about current community conflicts, it will open up a space for much-needed dialogue."
Diane Wolf, Professor of Sociology and Director of Jewish Studies, UC Davis
"Between Two Worlds presents a poignant and perceptive look at the difficulties of discourse within the Jewish community. At a time when civil discourse around Israel and social justice has become increasingly difficult, this film offers much-needed inspiration to open up space for conversation within our community."
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
"Provocative, nuanced, and insightful...A brave and very interesting film project. It succeeds in presenting intense battles over Jewish identity. The authors give voice to prominent Jewish secular and religious leaders and opinion-makers for both sides of the debate...Suitable for those interested in Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish identity, political anthropology, peace and conflict studies and family communication."
Dobroslawa Wiktor-Mach, Cracow University of Economics (Poland), Anthropology Reviews Online
"Thought-provoking...Provide[s] an engaging forum for addressing these weighty matters...Ask[s] tough questions about the future of American Jewry...A must-see for anyone interested in continuing the conversation."
Amy Weiss, New York University, American Jewish Archives Journal
"Probing...Filmed in the U.S. and Israel, the production thoughtfully explores complicated and vital issues relevant to the Jewish community."
"A choice pick of multiple film festivals...Between Two Worlds is a close and critical examination of morals, ethics, religious and cultural identity, and what it truly means to have a dialogue about all these things, and is worthy of the highest recommendation especially for high school, college, and public library collections."
The Midwest Book Review
"The film's graceful, seamless, thoroughly engaging blend of family and communal history is sure to stimulate thousands of provocative conversations about the challenges of Jewish identity in the post-Holocaust era."
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Author and Founding Editor, Ms. Magazine
"One of the best films I've ever seen about the contradictions of American Jewish life."
Peter Beinart, Author and Journalist
"Few if any films deal so directly with the dilemmas confronting American Jews today...It behooves those Jewish and non to witness this film and decide which side you're on."
Ed Asner, Actor, former President, Screen Actors Guild
"Remarkable...fearless...Between Two Worlds is often shockingly personal, placing issues of historic and global dimension in the context of the lives and words of individuals."
Bradley Burston, Columnist, Ha'aretz
"Provocative...Address[es] a vast array of personal and political themes, from the community's anxieties over assimilation, to intermarriage, to post-Holocaust anti-Semitism...There are clearly no easy solutions."
Eleanor Bader, Truthout
"Between Two Worlds is at once a film about freedom of speech and about the ethical questions facing Jews today. Appeal is not limited to Jewish audiences...the tendency to totalize issues is a global one...The value of the film will be in the conversations it sparks."
Sound on Sight, Toronto
"The film's most powerful sequence shows Snitow's exploration of his mother's membership in the Communist Party...She refused, her son says, to believe reports about the purges and gulag, but finally left the Party over the 1939 Soviet-Nazi Pact...Snitow expresses discomfort with the purge, and with leftwing groups that 'intimidate dissent in the name of liberation.' As you watch, you'll feel compelled to ask whether you have ever pushed facts or questions aside to keep your ideals uncomplicated."
Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect
"A forceful work that draws power by raising questions that don't find any neat resolutions."
The Jewish Daily Forward
"[T]he movie seems to suggest that the belief in ideals is a beautiful thing, but the consequences on the ground of those ideals don't always remain the same over time, and require flexible rather than fixed - and certainly not knee-jerk - responses. Snitow and Kaufman juxtapose respect with criticism, and provide a model we'd do well to follow."
Lisa Katz, Ha'aretz
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Includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
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Website for the film
Awards and Festivals
CINE Golden Eagle Award
Honorable Mention, Columbus International Film + Video Festival
Jerusalem Film Festival (in competition)
Middle East Studies Association Film Festival
Philadelphia Film Festival
Dallas Video Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
Toronto Jewish Film Festival
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Stranger than Fiction, IFC Center, New York
Columbus Jewish Film Festival
Denver Jewish Film Festival
Washington DC Jewish Film Festival
Good Works Film Festival, Eugene OR
Shreveport Jewish Film Festival
Westchester Jewish Film Festival
Maine Jewish Film Festival
Jewish Film Festival Berlin
Citizenship and Civics
Middle Eastern Studies
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"It's enough to make your head spin but these filmmakers went at it without boundaries or filters. Private-shmivate. The couple laid their own lives bare in order to uncover the truth of the American Jewish experience, in the media and around the dinner table."
Leigh Cuen, New Voices, the national Jewish student magazine
"It should be difficult for a film to capture the impossibility of talk, the breakdown of communication, but Kaufman and Snitow handle the task with masterful subtlety."
Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine
"[A] powerful new documentary...the talented and award-winning filmmakers take on the arduous task of tackling several loaded questions that are not easy to answer_great moments of great potency and passion_it will likely get your blood circulating."
Alan Zeittlin, NYBLUEPRINT
"Allergic to any political movements grounded in moral absolutes, whether of the left or the right, the filmmakers ponder the fate of a young, increasingly diverse Jewish community, the possible solutions to an occupation they both oppose and, perhaps most pressing, what one interview subject calls the 'neo-McCarthyism' that dismisses any criticism of Israeli foreign policy as anti-Semitic."
Andrew Schenker, Village Voice
"[T]he difference between [interviewees] seems to be a difference between two worlds, so separate and intractable as to seem irreconcilable...the film submits [that] Jewish communities, like Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Martin Luther King, Jr., are still watching, waiting, and dreaming."
Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters
"This is an important - and timely - work, something that deserves to be seen widely and debated in the Jewish community. BETWEEN TWO WORLDS reminds us that we need to rethink, retool, not just for Israel's sake but for our own."