There Are Jews Here
Directed by Brad Lichtenstein, Morgan Johnson • Documentary • 2016 • 89 minutes
THERE ARE JEWS HERE takes you on a journey to places where most never imagined Jews existed, following the untold stories of four once thriving American Jewish communities that can now barely hold a minyan. Most American Jews live in large cities where they are free to define themselves Jewishly in any way they wish. But almost invisible to most of the country are roughly one million Jews scattered across far-flung communities where they are barely hanging on. 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, it weaves these stories into a deep exploration of the age-old question of Jewish/religious identity, the value of Jewish continuity,...