Choosing to Be Jewish

February 23, 2011 | By

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Derek’s parents are divorced. He lives with his mother in Colorado, where they’re converting to Judaism. He’s nervous, hopeful, and incredibly well-spoken about their plans–”I love being a Jew,” he says. “I think this is what God wants me to do.” Sometimes, he visits his non-Jewish father in Texas. There, Derek’s taught how to fry bacon and sings in a church choir.

The four families profiled in Leap of Faith, a new documentary, come from vastly different backgrounds. There’s a couple in their 70s who were both raised as fundamentalist Christians. A young woman from Trinidad watches Matisyahu perform, marveling: “I’m a black woman who’s becoming a Jew, watching a white Hasid play reggae music. I never thought my life would look like this.” Another family spent years building their own house in a rural mountain area, only to be told by the rabbi who was supervising their conversion that they needed to live in a Jewish community. Heartbroken, but nonetheless determined, they moved to the closest city.

The subjects of this movie endure personal struggles and upheaval. Converting to Judaism impacts many parts of one’s life, from the friends you make to the food you eat, and most non-converts have never really thought of what it entails. This film tells the story of these converts’ very specific leaps of faith…but it also allows us to leap inside their lives.

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