It’s Complicated: American Jewish Identity Explored in Between Two Worlds


“Who is invited to speak for the tribe?” asks filmmaker Deborah Kaufman in Between Two Worlds, pondering the hijacking of the Jewish voice by dissent-stifling pro-Israel forces. Working with directing/romantic partner Alan Snitow, Kaufman’s essay film uses events such as the screening of a movie critical of Israel’s occupation at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival or the proposed building of a “Museum of Tolerance” in Jerusalem on the site of an ancient Muslim graveyard to reflect on essential dilemmas facing contemporary Jewish life. Allergic to any political movements grounded in moral absolutes, whether of the left or the right, the filmmakers ponder the fate of a young, increasingly diverse Jewish community, the possible solutions to an occupation they both oppose and, perhaps most pressing, what one interview subject calls the “neo-McCarthyism” that dismisses any criticism of Israeli foreign policy as anti-Semitic. Probing their own family histories in an attempt to discover what constitutes essential Jewish values, Kaufman and Snitow conclude that compassion for the oppressed and respectful intellectual debate are the touchstones of Hebraic life. Putting these values into practice, however, as a heated, riveting divestment hearing at UC-Berkeley makes clear, is a considerably more complex proposition.