THE RABBIS' INTIFADA tells the story of a Jewish woman who follows four Orthodox rabbis across the globe to find out why they support Palestinian liberation when most other rabbis won’t. Founded in Jerusalem 80 years ago, Neturei Karta objects to Israeli violence and Jewish statehood.
My name is Heather Tenzer and I'm an American Jewish filmmaker and the director of THE RABBIS' INTIFADA. I first met the Orthodox rabbis of Neturei Karta as a teenager. I was waving the Israeli flag, marching with my yeshiva (Jewish religious school) in the Israel Parade in New York City. “Down with Israel! Free Palestine!” the rabbis chanted from the sidelines. My teachers instructed me to ignore them, but I was perplexed – and fascinated. Why would Jews demonstrate against Israel?
Neturei Karta are Yiddish-speaking, socially conservative rabbis speaking out in support of Palestinian liberation. They oppose Jewish nationalism and the State of Israel. But why at a time when most American rabbis unconditionally support Israel are these rabbis engaged in an intifada (Arabic, meaning ‘uprising’) against Israel?
THE RABBIS' INTIFADA is a documentary that tells the story of my journey into the Neturei Karta community, which is usually closed to outside observers and not typically “American.” There, I encounter a Judaism that most yeshivas don't teach.
And in Gaza, I witness a connection between deeply religious Jews and Muslims that eludes other American supporters of Palestinian resistance. The film documents my quest to understand what motivates the rabbis’ resistance. I attempt to unravel the mystery of their activism, and their religious commitment to Palestinian freedom – a story I never learned in my yeshiva.
In THE RABBIS' INTIFADA, I follow four Neturei Karta rabbis inside their Jerusalem and New York communities, and on a journey through the Middle East. Through the lens of their diverse, intergenerational voices, the rabbis share compelling stories, offering a nuanced narrative about their history. Part investigative journalism and part memoir, THE RABBIS' INTIFADA is a provocative documentary about Orthodox rabbis who condemn Israeli militarism and support Palestinian rights.
It also documents Palestinian communities in Gaza, trapped with scarce resources under intense Israeli control, as they consider Neturei Karta’s offer of friendship.
Neturei Karta rabbis are condemned as ‘traitors’ by mainstream Jewish institutions. In their own voices, these courageous activists speak out in support of Palestinian human rights. The elders recall the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and Neturei Karta’s resistance at that time.
For Neturei Karta, whose moral compass is the Torah, Israel’s 70-year campaign of ethnic violence against Palestinians is the antithesis of Jewish tradition. “The genocide against the Palestinian people is a crime against humanity,” says Neturei Karta Rabbi Meir Hirsch of Jerusalem.
Alternating between funny, moving, and at times suspenseful, THE RABBIS' INTIFADA raises awareness about a censored topic and a marginalized people.
Director/Producer Heather Tenzer is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York City. She produces, directs, and edits documentaries, educational films, and other non-fiction work. She has earned Telly Awards, CINE Golden Eagle Awards, Freddie Awards and recognition by the American Library Association. Tenzer has been awarded grants from the Jerome Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Queens Council on the Arts. Her independent work has been broadcast on PBS-affiliate WNET and has screened at many festivals including: Next Frame, the Jewish Women’s Film Festival and Humboldt International Film Festival. Tenzer holds a Master’s degree in Documentary Film Production from Stanford University.
Cinematographer Melanie Aronson directed the short film, Refuge, which had its U.S. premiere at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival and its European premiere at the 2014 London Short Film Festival. Melanie received her MFA in Documentary Film from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. She currently works in Malmö, Sweden as a director, cinematographer, and photographer.
Cinematographer Sergio Yahni is a Jerusalem based filmmaker. He wrote and produced the award winning documentary Intramuros (2017), produced and shot For The Resistance: A Popular Movement in Palestine (2011) and Sheikh Jarrah (2011).
BOARD OF ADVISORS
We’re deeply grateful to our Academic Advisory Board:
Issam Aburaya, PhD – Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Seton Hall University; Author, "Islamism, Nationalism and Western Modernity: The Case of Iran and Palestine," International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society.
Daniel Boyarin, PhD – Professor of Talmudic Studies, UC Berkeley. Author of nearly 20 books including, Unheroic Conduct, A Traveling Homeland, and co-author with Jonathan Boyarin of Powers Of Diaspora: Two Essays On The Relevance Of Jewish Culture.
Emmaia Gelman – PhD Candidate at NYU American Studies Department. A queer activist and parent in NYC, she works most directly on public education equity, opposing racism and Islamophobia, and anti-Zionism.
Ahlam Muhtaseb – Professor of Communication Studies and director of the Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies at California State University, San Bernardino. She is co-director and executive producer of the film 1948: Creation and Catastrophe.
Yakov Rabkin, PhD – Professor of Contemporary History, University of Montreal. Author, A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism and What Is Modern Israel?
Brant Rosen – Rabbi of Tzedek Chicago and author of Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity.
Sarah Schulman –Novelist, nonfiction writer, playwright and historian; Author of nearly 20 books including, Israel/Palestine And The Queer International and Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair.
Irene Siegel, PhD – Independent scholar, educator, performer & community organizer. Author, "A Judeo-Arab-Muslim Continuum: Edmond Amram El Maleh’s Poetics of Fragments."
SUPPORT THE FILM
Grassroots support is EVERYTHING! Thanks to a whopping 354 backers from 22 countries, THE RABBIS’ INTIFADA recently raised over $25,000 on Indiegogo. We could not be more grateful for all the generous support!
If YOU would like to be a part of bringing this important but little-known story to audiences around the world, please join us. We can’t do it without you. Let’s tell this story together. Your donation goes towards the costs of finishing the film. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our fiscal sponsor, Women Make Movies. Click the DONATE button below. THANK YOU!!!
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