“A Jew is somebody who questions. Somebody who challenges.”
These are the words of Aaron Samuels, one of the three progressive Jews featured in our docuseries. He along with many Jews across the globe have a challenge for the Jewish world and the world at large…Their challenge is to create a more inclusive Jewish space that welcomes the diversity and ever-changing landscape of the Jewish people. Each of the stories in our docuseries depicts their fight to shake up traditional institutions as they define what it means to be Jewish in the face of racism, gender inequality, and gender identity discrimination.
Today, you can help us share these stories in order to create a more tolerant society. By joining our filmmaking journey, people of all walks of life will find their place in Jewish life. And once they do, the Jewish culture, religion, and lifestyle will be strengthened as a unified space.
About the Docuseries: A Jewish Life
The Jewish people have faced thousands of years of antisemitism. But today, there are people in our community who find themselves struggling with Jewish discrimination in additon to other aspects of their identity. That’s why we at Gross Grove Films, decided to focus the lens on these unique Jewish stories.
A Jewish Life is a new limited docuseries following the lives of three young progressive Jews fighting for equality. We follow one woman’s journey to become France’s first orthodox female rabbi, a genderqueer trans person’s identity affirming steps, while becoming an adult B-Mitzvah, a gender-neutral approach to the Jewish coming of age ritual, and the efforts of ‘Not Free to Desist’, an initiative by Jews of Color and allies and to combat racism within the Jewish world.
You can learn more about each of their stories here.
Why Support this Docuseries?
As Jews, we are encouraged to ask questions and to challenge the status quo. We believe this is an urgent topic that must be exposed to the world and shared with our loved ones. As hate rises we all choose to navigate our lives in an openly Jewish way. This story aims to help illuminate what that means.
Together, we can shine a light on these vital portraits of Jews of all backgrounds. The more screens these stories reach, the farther we can move towards a sense of kinship and understanding. Humans tend to turn away from that which they do not identify with. But when we take the time to get to know someone’s story, even the ones most far removed from our own, our worlds can intersect and an equal community can emerge.
Insights from A Jewish Life Creators & Collaborators
“Judaism is like the attic of a hoarder who’s been hoarding things for three thousand years. There is literally everything in three thousand years of Judaism. There is every kind of idea and practice and ritual that you could possibly want. And it is all yours. There is no form of Jewishness or Judaism that uses all of that or even more than a small fraction. So you just go there and you see what works for you and you make it into something that’s alive for you.” —Dr. Joy Ladin, Commentator
“In 2017, the night after Charlottesville, we all woke up to new videos now seared into our brains, white young college aged youth proudly and and loudly chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” It wasn’t in the shadows, it wasn’t in black and white, it was in full HD and the message was clear, White nationalists may hate BLM, but they blame the Jews for it. There is a long history of blaming Jews and there is no denying the rise of its return. Charlie Hebdo/Hyper Casher in Paris, Tree of Life, Monsey, Halle Synagogue Shooting in Germany, Austria a few weeks ago. But besides hate crimes rising to a terrifying degree, maybe even worse so is a rising misunderstanding of the Jewish identity. Not only do non-Jews misunderstand Judaism, Jews exemplify even they lack an understanding of what a Jewish identity can be.
Instead of following the hate, I wanted to make a documentary that follows the light. A Jewish Life examines a Jewish life today, but when doing so asks people who largely haven’t seen themselves in Jewish stories before. People who show up to synagogue or to the Beit Midrash and instead of being welcomed, are questioned or denied entry all together. I wanted to invite commentators to give depth to their experiences, and show the wide berth of Jewish perspective. What is transpiring and what I need your help to raise the budget to complete, is a character driven documentary series chasing the changes to this 3000 year old religion and conversation happening in real time.” —Ari Beser, Creator/Director
“Not only am I honored to work with such a remarkable team, but I truly feel like I’ve made some new friends in the process. Friends that are creative and dedicated storytellers, with open and trusting hearts to all people.” — Bonnie Cutler, Producer/Editor
The Team Behind A Jewish Life
Creator/Director, Ari Beser’s grandfather Jacob Beser was the only man on both planes that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ari spent over 10 years working with atomic bomb survivors to inherit and convey their testimonies. Ari became a Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow, member for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Student Academy Award semi-finalist for his documentary ‘The Nuclear Family’ is creator, show runner and executive producer. His photography has been published in French Vogue, National Geographic, The Nation Magazine, PRI’s The World, EFE, Spain’s El Diario, Harvard Law School, and Huffington Post.
Producer/Editor, Bonnie Cutler has 20+ years experience as an award winning documentary film editor and story producer. Starting out at CBS News working with Bill Moyers, her work has gone on to appear on most major networks including but not limited to: ABC, CBS, PBS, CNN, Discovery and The National Geographic Channel. She has been honored with 3 EMMY nominations in the Best Editing category, and took home the EMMY for Best Editing for “The Pigeon Murders”, originally broadcast on National Geographic Explorer.
Director of Production Deborah (Debbie) London-Harrington is a senior executive leader in the global multimedia market, overseeing business development and production for National Geographic, Discovery, Al Jazeera Networks Worldwide. Debbie previously oversaw more than 150 hours of factual programming every year as Senior Vice President and acting President of National Geographic Partners at the global headquarters in Washington DC.
Executive Producer Caroline Christopher has over 20 years of experience producing and leading creative development of documentaries at media companies that include ABC, NBC, and National Geographic, creating content ranging from news & current affairs features to longform documentaries to 360 experiences. She is an experienced leader of production and has served as the head of all Creative Content & Development for Verizon Media. As an innovative storyteller and hands-on creative consultant, Caroline delivers engaging content across multiple platforms for global media brands, driving new revenue streams and younger audiences.
Producer/ Director of Photography Hannah Roodman is passionate about telling stories that simplify and illuminate complex subjects. My production experience includes both domestic and international projects in Kenya, Nigeria, the UK and Israel. Working in a range of roles (writing, directing, editing), She has developed content and campaigns for diverse audiences in a variety of forms, including scripted and unscripted branded content films, short documentaries, interactive video, educational content, and music videos. Hannah’s independent social-issue films and academic research have been recognized internationally, including at TED, INK, and CUMULUS Conferences.”
Composer Alberto Anaya is a classically trained Spanish composer with experience in visual media, video games, and teaching. His love for jazz and contemporary music has led him to accrue a lot of experience as a composer as well as a performer. His music for visuals is completely tailored to the picture, and his ability to write in any given style/genre makes Alberto one of the most well-rounded musicians around in the business. Being a Fulbright Scholar in New York (2018-2020) provided Alberto with the connections and the experience for succeeding as a composer in his field. He also recently won “I Oskar Rieding International Competition for Composers” (Slovenia, 2018) and got his work premiered in “Festival de Música Manuel de Falla” (Cádiz, 2017) by “Taller sonoro” ensemble.
The Road Ahead
Thank you for Your Support!
All of your donations will go to our fiscal sponsor, From The Heart Productions, a California 501(c)(3) Non-Profit. For donations of $126 or more you will get this Maimonides Nutz collection face mask.
For a donation of $360 or more, you will get a director selected poster from the production, and the ability to honor a teacher, commemorate a simcha, or remember someone who has passed in a credit at the end of the documentary.
The challenge of all people is to carve out a space where they fit into this world. Together we can help make that happen for our fellow Jews. No matter where they come from, how they identify, or what space Judaism takes up in their lives, all Jews deserve to share their story. All Jews deserve to feel the pride and comfort of being a part of this tribe.