Trembling Before God
Orthodox Jews and their struggle to be accepted as gay.
Iím quite glad I didnít pay for this film but got it through my rental site. I think it would appeal more to a religious person. To be honest, I found the Jewish stuff far weirder than the gay stuff, and Iím thinking God might agree with me. The whole thing is such an anachronism to my western secular life that I found it quite uncomfortable to watch.
Itís not a particularly stunning thesis: religious fanatics donít like homosexuality.† Iíve always been curious why homosexuals donít form their own religions, but I guess theyíre having too much fun to bother.
To be honest, Iím totally unqualified to review this film as I think most religions are at best a waste of time and at worst dangerous. So, to see people torn up inside because the religions they want to follow wonít accept them leaves me a bit cold. Watching this was like watching someone whip themselves: you have to ask yourselfÖ why?
If you are into gay studies or gay history or writing a paper on gay in society, then certainly this will give you food for thought. If youíre into the hobby mainly to see pretty men get it on with each other then I suggest you give it a miss. Iíll be burnt in hell for saying it, but to be honest, given the way most of these ultra-religious types look, no self-respecting gay man would want them anyway.
This documentary explores the conflict experienced by gay Orthodox Jews with a tradition that says they are an abomination before God, punishable by death.† Rejected by church and family, they are outsiders.† Which would be fine if they didnít want† so badly to be inside.† I donít pretend to understand their dilemma.† As an atheist it is incomprehensible to me that men and women want to belong to a faith that treats them so badly.† Itís the same for any fundamentalist religion, as we see in Latter Days.
Thereís a sad story of a man who for 40 years struggled against his desire- marriage, 12 children, work as a teacher in a religious school- then he felt forced to give up his vocation when he fell in love with a boy.† He knows he can never act on it, and his wife accepts her husbandís love for her will never equal his love of the boys.† To struggle with desire like this and know you can beat it is held up as a shining example to all gay men.† Sorry, I donít buy that.† For a start what about his wife?† Why should she have to accept being second best?†
Openness however is on the increase even in the Orthodox community.† As religious leaders meet more gay people who come to them for help and guidance itís harder to take refuge in strict teaching.† These are human beings they deal with; to get it wrong can lead to suicide.†
There are no easy answers.† But the film shows one way that helps many gay Jewish people is to come together for their own observances and rituals in place of the families who reject them.† Yet still they worry their sexuality will deny them their reward for leading a good and faithful life in every other way but one.†
I felt so sorry for David, a man who struggled for 12 years to change before finally accepting it was impossible.† His plea to the rabbi who 20 years earlier sent him to therapy that surely he isnít expected to live celibate and alone, unloved, met with the response, that, sadly, yes, that is the only way.† To give the rabbi his due, he genuinely looked uncomfortable that he could offer no comfort to a desperately unhappy man.† And Israel, a man of 58 who desperately wanted his elderly father to give some of the love heís been denied since coming out and being cut off from his family.† It wasnít enough that he had a loving partner of many years.
That many of the interviews and filmed activities couldnít show faces is telling.† A sad film.†