In his documentary Trembling Before G-d, Sandi Simcha Dubowski examines the soul-shattering torment suffered by gays and lesbians hoping to reconcile their sexuality with their Orthodox beliefs. Dubowski seemingly touches on every facet of this complex dilemma with a restraint that’s admirable. David, a gay man from California, comes face to face with the rabbi who suggested he seek aversive therapy to cure his homosexuality. The rabbi is relatively understanding of David’s natural urges but the conflict remains—according to the Talmud, homosexuality is wrong (and punishable by death). For David, he must become celibate or accept his passage into hell. His guilt is chillingly evoked when David tells the story of how his father said he should be thankful that he wasn’t made into a bar of soap. Psychotherapist Shlomo Ashkinazy’s interview suggests the problem lies in the sheltered nature of the religion itself; elder rabbis seem unfamiliar with the instinctual nature of sexuality, let alone the existence of such practices as oral sex and mutual masturbation. Even if the rabbis understand the nature of desire, their rigid dogma leaves little room for exceptions. If anti-gay hostility naturally comes with this kind of extreme religiosity then it is no wonder many gays in Israel have come to shun God. For Devorah, it should never be an issue of either/or—the homosexual should be able to love his God without needing to renounce his or her sexuality. A fierce Brooklyn man named Israel (think Bea Arthur with a penis—seriously folks!) hopes to reconnect with the 98-year-old father that once rejected him because of his sexuality. The man’s beliefs are so strong that he distanced himself from his son for an entire lifetime. AIDS and suicide are the tragic endgames for many of these conflicted men and women. Trembling Before G-d really has no answers to offer because, perhaps, there really aren’t any. Until archaic dogma entertains the possibility that sexuality is immutable, gays will continue to tremble before God.
- New Yorker Films
- 84 min
- Sandi Simcha Dubowski
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