Reviews from Scholars
Michael Hoberman, Fitchburg State University Author of How Strange It Seems: Jewish Cultural Life in Small-Town New England (UMASS Press, 2008) and A Hundred Acres of America: The Geography of Jewish American Literary History (forthcoming from Rutgers University Press).
“The Are Jews Here is a lively and moving portrait of small-town Jewish life in the new millennium. By telling the stories of people whose devotion to Judaism and the Jewish community is undying, it manages to convey unsettling truths about changing Jewish demographics without despairing for the Jewish future. I highly recommend this film to general audiences and scholars of Jewish American culture for its poignant and honest depiction of the changing shape of modern Jewish life in America.”
Lee Shai Weissbach, University of Louisville Author of The Synagogues of Kentucky: Architecture and History and Building, Identities: Detroit Synagogues and the Patterns of American Jewish Life; A Jewish Life on Three Continents, an edited and annotated version of his grandfather’s memoir, which Professor Weissbach translated from the original Hebrew, and Jewish Life in Small-Town America: A History.
“There Are Jews Here provides an excellent window into the plight of many small-town Jewish communities as they face dwindling Jewish populations and attempt to plan for their futures. Along the way, the film touches upon related topics such as the declining role of Jewish merchants in small-town America, the impact of intermarriage on Jewish life, and the way small communities cope with the absence of regular clergy. Moreover, by highlighting one individual or family in each of the four towns that are the focus of this documentary, the film introduces an often moving human interest element into its narrative. Ultimately, “There Are Jews Here” is very successful in providing insight into a significant reality of early twenty-first century Jewish life in America, the gradual disappearance of many small-town Jewish communities.”
Matthew Boxer, Brandeis University Author of The Effects of Jewish Community Size on Jewish Identity: Judaism as a Contact Sport (forthcoming from Springer) and member of the national advisory board of the Center for Small-Town Jewish Life at Colby College.
“There Are Jews Here” lovingly illustrates the joys and challenges of Jewish life in small communities. Through the stories of four such communities, it shows many of the ways that Jewish life in small towns differs from the large cities in which the vast majority of American Jews live. How do parents ensure that their children can have a strong Jewish education without the resources of a large community? How do congregations survive and thrive, even without trained clergy? How do synagogues in small communities provide for their members’ current needs while simultaneously planning for an uncertain future? As one of the central characters says, “It’s easy to leave… It’s harder to stay and make it work.” I recommend this film to anyone interested in contemporary Jewish life in the United States for its honest depiction of small-town Jewish life.