Contextualizing Orthodox Jewish life in film

by | Feb 8, 2024 | What’s Happening

Home: Thursday, February 22, 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm
Cinema Café Kemps River, $12

The mission of the Virginia Festival of Jewish Film, presented by Alma & Howard Laderberg, is to educate and engage diverse Tidewater communities, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, by presenting world-class films, repertory cinema, and associated programs that are inspired by Jewish or Israeli history, heritage, and values.

As such, the festival strives to offer broad portrayals of Jewish life, from modern secular Israeli cinema to films portraying religious traditions and characters to documentaries that are simply of Jewish interest with no specifically “Jewish” content.

One of this year’s films, Home, portrays a young Orthodox Jewish man in a Jerusalem neighborhood and his dream of opening a computer store. Based on a true story, the film tells the story of the at-times violent pushback against the store owner from the Orthodox establishment in the neighborhood.

The Virginia Festival of Jewish Film Screening Committee asked Rabbi Shlomo Eisenberg, rabbi at B’nai Israel Congregation, to view the film and share his thoughts. His message below has been edited for length and clarity.

As an Orthodox Jew in 2024, I am deeply concerned when social media, Hollywood, or any other form of influence portrays Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, negatively. As an Orthodox rabbi, I believe we have a mission to be a light upon the nations and to be a positive force in the world with our behavior and character. When a film projects ultra-orthodox Jews negatively, it has a tremendous impact on people’s perception of Jews. This can cause additional antisemitism or just a negative attitude towards us.

What bothers me tremendously about the movie, Home, is the negative connotation of Chasidim and Orthodox Jews. Although it may be based on a true story, the viewer now thinks this is the way that Orthodox Jews roll. That Jews are money-hungry and that we will fight and harm anyone who disagrees with us. However, there is nothing further from the truth. Although there are definitely exceptions, Jews are overwhelmingly generous, kind, and peaceful. Additionally, granted that there are sometimes religious disagreements, they are almost always handled in a respectful way, and, Heaven forbid, with violence.

For anyone who wants to experience an authentic Jewish Shabbat with some of the nicest and most generous people you will meet, I extend an open invitation to come to B’nai Israel for Shabbat.

Like all films, Home is art, and art is subjective. A film should challenge one’s preconceived notions, and the Festival Screening Committee hopes that community members will view all of the festival’s offerings with an open mind and within the context of one man’s story.

Tickets can be purchased at

Rabbi Shlomo Eisenberg of B’nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk, may be reached at or by calling 757-627-7358.

Hunter Thomas is director of Arts + Ideas at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. He may be reached at or 757-965-6137.

The Virginia Festival of Jewish Film is presented by the Alma & Howard Laderberg Restricted Fund of the Tidewater Jewish Foundation and funded in part by the citizens of Virginia Beach through a grant from the City of Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission.