The Rabbi Goes West
Watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/34904217
Dates to view film: Monday-Wednesday, August 2-5, 2020
Live Zoom Discussion: Thursday August 6, 2020
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THE RABBI GOES WEST focuses on one Chabad rabbi, 34-year-old Chaim Bruk, who moved from Brooklyn to unlikely Bozeman, Montana, to bring his brand of Judaism to the American West. Part of his Chabad mission is to place a mezuzah, an encased prayer offering, on the doorpost of every Montana Jew. That’s less than 2,000 families spread across a state fourteen times larger than Israel.
As he travels across this “big sky” landscape, Chaim confronts a terrifying neo-Nazi threat. He also faces objections to his proselytizing from some skeptical Jews and the state’s rabbis, both Reform and Conservative, though they all acknowledge that he is beloved by his congregants. If you liked the Israeli TV series, Shtisel, this one’s for you!
Rabbi Chaim Bruk
A Chabad-Lubavitcher, Chaim Bruk endorses a Torah-prescribed form of Orthodox Judaism.
His Bozeman congregants, educated and often liberal, look past any ideological differences with their Hasidic rabbi, who came to Montana from Brooklyn. They embrace his goal to connect all Jews, observant and unaffiliated, to their Judaism, and they are impressed that Chaim and his wife, Chavie, have adopted five children.
Rabbi Francine Roston
In South Orange, New Jersey, Francine Roston broke the “stained glass” ceiling as a
Conservative woman rabbi to a huge Jewish congregation. In 2014, she moved West to
Montana’s Flathead Valley to start over as rabbi to the small, diverse Jewish community.
Rabbi Allen Secher
When Allen Secher moved to Whitefish, Montana in 2000 in order to retire, he discovered he
was the only rabbi in the state, motivating him to perform Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, funerals,
wherever he was needed. With the arrival of other rabbis in Montana, Allen managed to
semi-retire while retaining his status as the state’s senior rabbi. He is a friend of Rabbi Chaim.
Rabbi Ed Stafman
Formerly a trial lawyer in Florida, Ed Stafman began a second career when he moved west to
Bozeman to become the rabbi at the non-Orthodox temple, Congregation Beth Shalom. Ed is an unabashed liberal activist and, in a debate shown in our film, he articulates his very different religious and political beliefs from the Hasidic tenets of Chaim.
Co-Director/Writer - Gerald Peary
Gerald Peary is the director-writer of two acclaimed feature documentaries, FOR THE LOVE
OF MOVIES: THE STORY OF AMERICAN FILM CRITICISM (2009) and ARCHIE’S BETTY
(2015), both of which played at film festivals, museums, universities, and were televised on the
Documentary Channel and WGBH-Boston. He was a film studies professor at Suffolk University,
a veteran film critic for THE BOSTON PHOENIX, and acted in the 2013 feature film,
COMPUTER CHESS, which premiered at Sundance. Currently, he writes reviews for the
website, THE ARTS FUSE, and is the programmer of the Boston University Cinematheque.
Co-Director/Producer - Amy Geller
Amy Geller is a long-time producer whose credits include: the PBS/BBC broadcast docudrama
MURDER AT HARVARD (2003), the Sundance Institute-supported narrative STAY UNTIL
TOMORROW (2005), the four-hour PBS mini-series, THE WAR THAT MADE AMERICA (2006),
and the documentary feature, FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES: THE STORY OF AMERICAN FILM
CRITICISM (2009). From 2012-2014, Geller served as the Artistic Director of the Boston Jewish
Film Festival, where she received a young Jewish leadership award. Her feature-length
directorial debut THE GUYS NEXT DOOR (2016), co-directed by Allie Humenuk, has won jury
prizes and audience awards at film festivals across the country. She currently teaches
production and fundraising classes at Boston University.
Cinematographer/Co-Editor - David Reeder
David Reeder is an award-winning filmmaker who has worked as an assistant director, editor
and cameraman on feature films such as DRIVING MISS DAISY, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES,
ROBOCOP 3, ACE VENTURA 2 and nationally broadcast public television documentaries. He
has been a professor at Suffolk University and Emerson College, where he has taught a variety
of digital filmmaking and post-production courses. He co-edited and did the graphics for Gerald
Peary’s feature documentary, ARCHIE’S BETTY.
Co-Editor - Lucia Small
Lucia Small is an award-winning independent filmmaker best known for her daring,
boundary-pushing first person non-fiction work — MY FATHER, THE GENIUS (2002), THE AXE
IN THE ATTIC (2007), and ONE CUT, ONE LIFE (2014). She also works as an editor and story
consultant. Her credits include Brittany Huckabees’ AFTER FIRE (2016), Gerald Peary’s
ARCHIE’S BETTY (2015), Lyda Kuth’s LOVE AND OTHER ANXIETIES (2010) and Fiona
Turner’s EAT UP (2019), for which she won an editing award at the Independent Film Festival
Composer - Rob Jaret
Rob Jaret has contributed music and orchestrations to over fifteen PBS productions and
independent films, including EDGAR ALLAN POE: BURIED ALIVE, HENRY FORD and
episodes of American Experience. Feature films he’s scored include the documentaries
TOUCHDOWN ISRAEL! and THE WAY HOME: TIBET IN EXILE. He’s a recurring collaborator
with Urbanity Dance, and has provided music, sound design and audio production for video
games such as Children of Liberty and the upcoming Earplay release, The Orpheus Device.