A feature documentary that takes you to places where most never imagined Jews existed.
There Are Jews Here follows the untold stories of four once thriving American Jewish communities that are now barely holding on.
Most American Jews live in large cities where they are free to define themselves in any way they wish. But almost invisible to most of the country are roughly one million Jews scattered across far-flung communities. For them, Jewish identity is a daily urgent challenge; if they don’t personally uphold their communities and live affirmative Jewish lives, they and their legacies could fade away forever.
In the Mexican-American city of Laredo, Texas we follow a young, interfaith couple trying to reignite their community’s Jewish life amid a dominant Catholic culture. In Montana we immerse in the beauty of the mountains where a spiritually committed woman lay leader tries to keep her community afloat even as she struggles with personal health. We go to Latrobe, Pennsylvania where the synagogue’s leaders hold on to keep their doors open just long enough to host the bat mitzvah of the congregation’s oldest member’s granddaughter. And in a twist, we follow a family’s move from Los Angeles to Dothan, Alabama where we discover the bold relocation project that community’s undertaken, offering financial support to Jews who move to their town.
There Are Jews Here is both a celebration of their tenacity and a cautionary tale: a warning that their histories, synagogues, cemeteries, and sacred possessions (i.e. Torahs, prayer books, memorial plaques, etc.) could vanish without a trace.
Ultimately, There are Jews Here weaves these stories into a deep exploration of the age-old question of Jewish/religious identity, the value of Jewish continuity, and the relevance of faith and community in the 21st century.
Producer and director Brad Lichtenstein said, “I didn’t know 1 million Jews live in small American communities. I discovered a new world in making this film. A Jew myself, what I knew was my experience growing up in Atlanta and living in New York and Milwaukee — large cities where we are free to define ourselves Jewishly in any way we wish. But for Jews living in small communities, identity is a daily urgent challenge; if they don’t personally uphold their communities and live affirmative Jewish lives, they and their legacies could fade away forever.”
Morgan Elise Johnson, a producer and co-director of the film who is not Jewish, said “One thing that struck me was how no matter where I went, I heard the same prayers and songs. They may sing them in a different tune, but there is this strong tradition and that’s something that’s radically different from what I’m used to in Christianity where you can walk into a church and it can be completely different from what you’ll get at a different church.” A daughter of a preacher and member of her church choir, she goes on to say “I learned every song!”