Hiding And Seeking: Faith And Tolerance After The Holocaust

2004, Movie, NR, 97 mins


Shot on video and starring his family, Menachem Daum's latest documentary may be closer to a home movie than the usual theatrical release, but in its own quiet way, it's among the most important films you're likely to see this year. Although he considers himself a devout Jew, Daum, who was born in a German Displaced Person's Camp after his parents were liberated from a Nazi concentration camp, has grown increasingly uncomfortable with what he perceives as a growing insularity and religious intolerance among Orthodox Jews, particularly as he sees it manifested in his sons, Tzvi Dovid and Akiva. Both now live in Jerusalem as full-time yeshiva students, studying the Torah and the sacred texts, and while Daum is proud of the lives they've chosen, he's deeply troubled by their attitude toward gentiles. According to Dov and Akiva, Christians are not to be trusted, and if any proof is needed, simply look at the history of the Holocaust. In order to protect themselves, Jews must erect an "impenetrable barrier" that will protect them from gentile influence. Dov and Akvia in turn are dismayed by their father's willingness to see divinity in all people, but nevertheless agree to accompany Daum and their mother, Rifka, on a trip to the Polish countryside where Daum hopes to prove wrong their attitude — and the attitude of an increasing number of extremist rabbis who preach intolerance. Daum intends on delving into the past to uncover the story of Rivka's father and his two brothers whose lives were saved by a Polish farm family who hid them for over two years. Rivka's father had long lost touch with his protectors — he never once contacted them after the war ended, not even to thank them — so Daum must start from scratch. At first, Dov and Akiva are openly derisive of their father's sentimental journey, but the further they move into the country, the closer they get to a truth that will astound them all. The film unfolds like an adventure that's part road trip, part scavenger hunt and part philosophical inquiry into the true meaning of faith, tolerance and gratitude that carries an important and timely warning: "Every religion is in danger of being hijacked by extremists." It's not to be missed. Daum and filmmaking partner Oren Rudavsky envision this film as being the second film in a projected trilogy about Jewish responses to the Holocaust that began with their acclaimed 1997 documentary A LIFE APART: HASIDISM IN AMERICA. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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