Nine Jewish Movies to Watch in Quarantine

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You’re at home, and you can’t go out. Not to work, not to school, not to hang out with friends. It’s one of the biggest crises of our lifetimes, but you also have a lot of free time. You’re in luck, though, because we’ve got a list of Jewish films to watch while you’re stuck at home. We’ll spare you the most obvious movies for the season — “The Prince of Egypt” (1998) and “The Ten Commandments” (1956) — and get to business with this collection.

“An American Tail” (1986)

Here’s a cartoon for the family about the journey of a young mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz. Watch for cute quotes like Henri the Pigeon saying, “This is America, the place to find hope. If you give up now, you will never find them. So never say never.”

Pro: Singing along to “In America There Are No Cats”

Con: The animation would not hold up to today’s standard.

“A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” (2010)

For a foreign-language animated film, check out “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai.” This story follows a young girl named Rina and her younger brother, Mishalli, who flee to Shanghai from Europe. It’s a bit heavy, and not American, but as Rina says at the end, “It’s necessary that our children learn our story.”

Pro: Diversity

Con: You’ll have to read subtitles.

“Yentl” (1983)

Barbra Streisand disguises herself as a boy so she can enroll in a yeshiva to learn Talmud in this musical. This one is chock-full of feminism, good quotes, and love.

Pro: Streisand’s voice when she sings the line “no matter where I go” in “A Piece of Sky”

Con: If you’re not a musical theatre kid, you may lose interest.

“Foxtrot” (2017)

Follow a moving story about an Israeli couple informed that their son, a soldier, has died. The drama unfolds when the Israel Defense Forces refuse to inform the distraught parents where and how he died, or if his body has been recovered, thus leading to more complications.

Pro: It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival.

Con: It is rated R, so save this for a more mature audience.

“Full-Court Miracle” (2003)

This Disney Channel original movie, based on a true story, tells the story of a boys basketball team at a yeshiva in Philadelphia. For a made-for-TV movie, it has a thoughtful script. At one point, the coach mentions how, when Judah Macabbee was asked by his companions “How can we, few as we are, fight back against so great of a multitude?” Judah replied, “It’s not the size of our army, it is the strength of our faith.”

Pro: Thoughtful parallels between Chanukah and basketball

Con: Disney acting

“Denial” (2016)

This movie follows the history of a lawsuit involving Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, who was sued for libel after she called David Irving a denier. Rachel Weisz plays a Lipstadt who doesn’t back down from saying things like “I’m not attacking free speech. On the contrary, I’ve been defending it against someone who wanted to abuse it. Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want. What you can’t do is lie and expect not to be held accountable for it.”

Denial, Courtesy of Beeker Street
Denial, Courtesy of Beeker Street

Pro: Courtroom dramatization

Con: Courtroom dramatization

“Incitement” (2019)

Blending biopic drama with real historical footage, “Incitement” tells the story of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s final days from the perspective of his assassin, a radical Yemenite Jew named Yigal Amir.

Pro: Character development

Con: It hits a political nerve.

“Little White Lie” (2014)

Many documentaries explore Jewish identity, but this 65-minute one uniquely approaches the intersection of Judaism and blackness. At one point, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz, who thinks her dark skin and hair are from a Sicilian ancestor, said, “It never occurred to me that I was ‘passing.’ I grew up believing I was white.”

Pro: In an interesting tidbit, Schwartz thinks of changing her last name, having never liked it, but ultimately kept it because in Yiddish “schwartz” means “black.”

Con: It’s a complex topic.

“Hester Street” (1975)

An adaption of the 19th-century novella “Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto,” about Russian immigrants who settle in New York, this movie deals with themes of assimilation in the early 1900s.

Pro: Heavily features the voice of women

Con: It’s in black and white. 

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