Monday, May 01, 2006

Is Your World in Color, or Black and White?

Today I saw a film for a class that I'm taking. It was shocking, terrifying, and altogether disturbing. There was no blood, nudity, or foul language. In fact, it was made in 1940.

The name of the film was Jud Suss. It was made under Goebell's propaganda program, to show how decietful, hypocritical, dirty, and downright disgusting the Jews were, and how, in Martin Luther's words, one should "burn their synagogues and schools..."

I don't even know how to describe it. I never was all that good with words, but after I saw it, I was upset that such a film could ever be shown to anyone (incidentally, it was supposed to have been destroyed after WWII, but a Soviet film company copied it and sold it to a very large audience of in the Middle East - and the audience was not Jews).

But we can learn something from everything. So what was the lesson I took out of it?
The difference between black and white and color.

The film itself was a typical early movie - bad sound, bad picture, bad editing. The story and its blatant anti-Jewish message was pretty clear, but everything else was kinda fuzzy, especially the scenes of the Jews performing rituals. When I put myself into the position of my fellow classmates, they truly did seem strange, dancing frantically with huge objects (ספרי תורה), and chanting strange chants.

After the film, I came home and went to a shiur. It took place in a shul, and I was surrounded by people. These people, however, quite unlike the ones in the film, were full of color! The clothes, the hair, each unique and distinct face...vibrant with color and life.

And I realized the difference between the film I had seen and the reality I had witnessed. The film was made by an outsider, one unfamiliar with the Jewish world and its beauty, and, in fact, one who was looking for the bad and the strange within it. My shiur on the other hand, was attended by participants of the life, who see the wonderful reality of it every day!

When looking at Judaism (and especially the Orthodox brand, regardless of prefix), the question to ask is how you view it. Are you an outsider, seeing an ugly, fuzzy, noisy picture, or do you allow yourself inside, and open yourself up to the beauty and color within?

7 comments:

Stx said...

Nice post, important message.

Which shiur was it?

Amishav said...

The amazing thing is that particular film had such an impact on German society at the time. German filmmakers were capable of doing some truly great work, and yet that lump of garbage was incredibly poplular. It boggles the mind.

TRW said...

Stx: Tzipporah Heller. I only found out about it about 5 minutes before I went-it was through WIT. The subject? "Happiness." I decided it was important.

Amishav: Yes. In fact, it was the top grossing film of the year. They showed it to the guards at Aschwitz to help "inspire" them and to cities before they "liquidated" them of the evil Jew...

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Okee said...

it's weird to think how really, all those atrocities of the holocaust and wwII happened in color, and not in black and white. it was real, just as we are real. but i think, in connection to what you were saying, that it aided the nazi regime to show the black and white films-it dehumanized judaism and made it look unreal, odd, diffent than their civilized society. i wonder if color films of jewish practices, which truly may appear different, but for sure beautiful, would have had an equal effect on the propoganda success.

Jewish Thinker said...

That is a great take on things. It applies to even those inside the jewish world, and even to how we see ourselves

kasamba said...

I just found your blog and I got so excited to the Chofetz Chaim on your sidebar!

Judiaism from an outsiders perspective is almost surreal. I saw a gentile woman at a frum wedding looking at it as if it was a socialogical experiment.
I ADORE Rebbetzin Heller!!!
What a fantastic speaker!
Aren't you lucky to have her in such close proximity!