I attended the New Jersey Jewish Film Festival recently, the twelfth installment of the well-attended festival sponsored by the Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University. It was a Sunday, so I simply attended what was playing, not a typical behavior for most movie-goers. But I always enjoy the festival offerings, and know I might be entertained by what I would see. It was with this nonchalant attitude that I entered the theater for a showing of Auf Wiedersehen: Til We Meet Again. It promised to be a Holocaust film of the now common variety—survivor returns to his/her place of origin with family members.
As the film unfolded, I half-expected this to be a rerun of Out of Faith (a film that begins as a Holocaust film and ends up as a film about how the protagonist’s granddaughter marries someone who is not Jewish, which causes friction and creates a distance between grandmother and granddaughter). At the outset, one of the film’s writer/producers Linda Mills, mentions that while she is Jewish, her husband (the other writer/producer) Peter Goodrich is not (turns out he hails from an Anglican background that he has left behind). She never returns to the topic. (Spoiler alert!) Instead, the film reveals the contrast between how Linda’s mother and aunt react differently to the same experiences of the Holocaust. Ostensibly, all of this is to expose Linda and Peter’s son to the Holocaust and the running away forced upon Linda’s mom and aunt, as well as the running of Linda and Peter—particularly their son—on September 11, 2001.
But the question for me was really not about the memory of the Holocaust. Instead, the question that was mostly avoided by the filmmakers (and only touched upon by a bold question from a viewer in the audience in the post-screening discussion with the filmmakers), was “How are you, as an intermarried couple, raising your children (or, in this case, your child)?” This is essentially the question of post-Holocaust American Judaism.
The film has given the audience, along with Linda and Peter’s son, a lot to grapple with. Perhaps there is a program in JOI’s For the Men Initiative that might be of interest to Peter? We’d welcome all of them into our programs.