Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: You attend some sort of Jewish event, lik a lecture, or maybe a film festival, and the topic of Israel comes up. Tempers are tested. Tones rise. Before too long, any chance at conversation is drowned by the din of shouts and insults. Most of us suffer such indignities silently. Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow made a movie about it entitled Between Two Worlds, and it opens today at Manhattan’s IFC Center.
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. By piecing together fragments of contentious events—including divestment talks at Berkeley, a heated Jewish film festival in San Francisco, and the controversy surrounding the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s wish to build a Museum of Tolerance on the site of an ancient Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem—the filmmakers avoid the steely traps of ideological absolutes, and nimbly point out the dangers of censorship and the value of debate.
“We were coming from the idea that a lot of people in the Jewish community, especially young people, feel unentitled, inauthentic, not Jewish enough,” Snitow told me. “What we wanted to communicate is that there are a lot of interesting ideas and thinkers and people out there, and raising these questions, being able to debate, is what has to happen. We didn’t want to have just the screaming matches. We wanted to take it in a different direction.”
You can catch a glimpse of that direction from the exclusive clip below.