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There Are Jews Here

Jewish Film, Jewish Highlights, American Culture, American History, Religion
Brad Lichtenstein and Morgan Elise Johnson
90 minutes

Accolades

World Premiere San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Official Selection
Milwaukee Film Festival
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

An emotional film… highlights the inspiring role women play in preserving these communities. - Jewish Exponent

A tender avalanche! - The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Article: This Filmmaker Captured Vanishing Jewish Communities Across America via The Forward

Article: Room for Jews via Tablet Magazine

Trailer

Synopsis

An intimate look at four once thriving American Jewish communities now fighting for survival. In Latrobe, PA we witness the closing of the synagogue through the story of longtime member Mickey Radman who keeps the doors open long enough for the Bat Mitzvah of the shul’s oldest member’s granddaughter. In Butte, MT, we meet the indefatigable Nancy Oyer who tries to maintain her community while struggling with her personal health. In Laredo a young interfaith couple is torn between reviving their fading community or moving to a thriving one in San Antonio that can nurture the spiritual growth of their young family. And, in a twist, we meet a Los Angeles family who takes up Dothan, Alabama’s bold offer to provide Jews up to $50,000 to relocate to Dothan’s Jewish community.

“When you have a small congregation, it’s not just a congregation. It’s a family.” - Brian Balk (Latrobe, PA)

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!”

Director

Director

Brad Lichtenstein (Director, Producer) is an award winning filmmaker. His 2012 PBS Independent Lens documentary As Goes Janesville was nominated for an Emmy. His work on the 2015 Kartemquin­produced series Hard Earned for Al Jazeera America earned him a Dupont, as did his 2001 film Ghost of Attica. His first virtual reality film, Across the Line, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. He's the president of 371 Productions, a media company based in Milwaukee that produces content for a variety of outlets and platforms.

Co-director

Co-director

Morgan Elise Johnson, Producer/Co-director is an independent filmmaker and writer. There Are Jews Here is her first documentary feature film and directorial debut. With 371 Productions she associate-produced the VR film and Sundance New Frontiers selection, Across the Line (produced with Custom Reality Services and Emblematic Group); and the award-winning 6-part documentary series, Hard Earned (produced by Kartemquin Films). Morgan also recently co-founded TheTRiiBE.com, an online publication centered on reshaping the narrative of Black Chicago through journalism, documentary and creative content. She has a BS in Radio/Television/Film from Northwestern University.

EDU

For Educational Pricing contact: edu@7thart.com

Discussion Guide (PDF)

“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.
– Lee Shai, History Professor Emeritus from the University of Louisville

“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. – 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.


“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. – 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).

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Discussion Guide (PDF)

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