“Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence” (Leviticus 18:22). These startling words toward homosexual behavior flash across the screen as the poignant documentary Trembling Before G-d begins.
Directed by Sandi Simcha Dubowski, Trembling before G-d is a documentary displaying the lives and struggle of ultra-orthodox and Hasidic Jewish gay men and lesbians.. It is hard to imagine two more conflicting realities than homosexuality and Orthodoxy. Few people realize how colossal this controversy really is.
The film interviews various gay men and woman concerning how they cope with their sexual orientations. Many are shown only in shadow or filmed from the head down to hide their identities. Each person acknowledged how wrong he or she feels for being gay and many discuss how he or she has gone about trying to eradicate themselves of these feelings.
At an early age orthodox Jews learn the consequences of coming out. A gay orthodox Rabbi in the film says that many children question him on how to rid themselves of gay feelings. He says that many children are turned away from Judaism because they feel shunned and many others chose to ignore their sexual orientation in order to stay in the community.
Elder Rabbis in the film simply cannot understand how a person can have sexual urges and Rabbis that do understand desire, allow no room for exceptions. Therefore many Rabbis often suggest therapy to purge homosexual tendencies.
David, a homosexual from California, approaches a Rabbi that is relatively understanding of his sexual urges, but nonetheless still believes that homosexuality is wrong. The Rabbi recommends extensive therapy to “cure” him. David who has been through many therapists decides that he must become celibate or accept his passage into hell.
Some actually chose to leave their orthodox communities, feeling it was the only option they had with their sexual desires. Israel, from Brooklyn, hopes to reconnect with his 98 year-old father whom disowned him because of his sexual orientation. Israel father’s beliefs are so strong that they had not spoken for 20 years.
There are many questions left unanswered in this documentary. Such as: why would one chose to subject him or herself repeatedly to such cruel treatment? There are organizations around the world that say they can help Jews, both Orthodox and otherwise, who wish to overcome homosexual orientations.
The film did not show any success stories from these organizations or the possibility that gay men and women might achieve successful and happy marriages to members of the opposite sex.
The directors point of view is quite slanted, however it is not shocking that Trembling Before G-d does not offer any suggestions because it seems as though there really aren’t any to give. All in all the film offers an interesting view of a problem not widely publicized but deeply felt by many.