Sunday, May 18, 2014

Movie with Abe: Next Year Jerusalem

Next Year Jerusalem
Directed by David Gaynes
Released May 16, 2014

The phrase “Next year in Jerusalem” is the final element of the Passover haggadah, something said after a lengthy retelling of the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt following their term of slavery under a cruel Pharaoh. It is meant to indicate a sense of hope that, in the future, all Jews can celebrate Passover in the Jewish homeland of Israel. The words are often sung jubilantly, with the symbolic notion of being in Jerusalem just as meaningful and impactful as the physical act of traveling to the place. In director David Gaynes’ new film, both meanings are equally compelling.

“Next Year Jerusalem” documents the lives of eight nursing home residents in Fairfield, Connecticut, all between the ages of eighty-two and ninety-seven. Some are Jewish, some are Christian, but they all have a personal and spiritual connection to Israel and Jerusalem. Several are Holocaust survivors, who recount their persistence and survival despite while they were being persecuted. With varying degrees of mobility and energy, each exudes a sense of positivity and a wonderful attitude towards the life they still have left to live.

As suggested by its title, this documentary charts the run-up to a remarkable pilgrimage to Israel undertaken by the residents and staff of the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield. For some, it’s the first time in several decades that they have been to Israel, and much has changed since the last time they were there. For others, it’s the first trip altogether. The expressions on each of their faces and the sounds of their voices are truly magnificent, and it means even more to see how the caretakers and staff react to being in Israel, often showing just as much wonder and amazement as the residents.

This is the kind of documentary that captures events as they happen, editing them together in a visually and structurally compelling fashion to tell a coherent story. It does not present an argument and try to prove or disprove it, nor does it offer any conflict. These people know that the majority of their lives have transpired already, yet they face the future with hope and optimism, celebrating the now. It’s a tremendously moving and inspiring concept, and the film is a sterling showcase of the resilience of those who have faced challenges throughout their lives yet refuse to let themselves be defeated by anything, and certainly not a nonagenarian international trip.


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