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Trembling Before G-d (2001)

A cinematic portrait of various gay Orthodox Jews who struggle to reconcile their faith and their sexual orientation.

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8 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Credited cast:
Shlomo Ashkinazy ...
Himself - Psychotherapist
Steve Greenberg ...
Himself (as Rabbi Steve Greenberg)
Nathan Lopes Cardozo ...
Himself (as Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo)
Naomi Mark ...
Herself - Psychotherapist
Shlomo Riskin ...
Himself (as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin)
Yaakov Meir Weil ...
Himself - Psychiatrist (as Dr. Yaakov Meir Weil)


Built around intimately-told personal stories of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian, the film portrays a group of people who face a profound dilemma - how to reconcile their passionate love of Judaism and the Divine with the drastic Biblical prohibitions that forbids homosexuality. Written by up and out

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

gay | jew | faith | orthodox jew | lesbian | See All (190) »


The hidden lives of gay and lesbian Orthodox and Hasidic Jews.




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Release Date:

6 December 2001 (Israel)  »

Also Known As:

Drzac przed Bogiem  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$21,410 (USA) (26 October 2001)


$619,612 (USA) (22 March 2002)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


The spelling of the last word in this movie's title comes from the Jewish tradition of treating any written representation of the name of God with respect, and not writing it on any document that might be treated carelessly or accidentally or deliberately defaced, destroyed, or erased (a longstanding Rabbinical interpretation of Deuteronomy 12:3). Since this movie, like most, had posters, sales materials, contractual paperwork, DVD covers, and other ephemera with its title on them go out into public hands, the filmmakers used the G-d spelling out of respect and recognition that there was no way to know how the documents on which the name would be treated outside of their presences. See more »


Rabbie Meir Fund: ...so the Jew who is gay by choice... work like mad to overcome it... a Jew who is, as we might say, wall-to-wall gay... I will hold his hand, figuratively... and do the best I can to give him strength to serve G-d.
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Featured in SexTV: Trembling Before G-d/Midori (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

A poignant documentary about being true to yourself
16 February 2003 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

It is no secret that many Gays and Lesbians have turned their backs on religion because of its strictures against homosexuality, yet there are still those that want to be both Gay and religious. This is the subject of the poignant documentary, Trembling Before G_d directed by a Gay Conservative Jew, Sandi Simcha Dubowski. The film examines the beliefs of Orthodox Gay and Lesbian Jews who are struggling to bridge the gap between their way of life and the teachings of their religion. The film, which played for five months in New York and was named Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival, has sparked debate between liberals and conservatives, Gay rights activists, the media and spokespersons for organized religion.

Orthodox Jews hold that acts of homosexuality are punishable by death. The passage most quoted is from Leviticus 10:13: "A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination: they shall be p ut to death, their blood is on them". I do not know who wrote those words or what the circumstances were, but I do know that a just God who grants his love unconditionally certainly did not. Yet Orthodox Jewish Rabbis in their devotion to Jewish doctrine consider this the "truth", ignoring the humanity of the people they have been taught to serve. Even more moderate Jews believe that homosexuality is evil or, at the very least, a sickness. This is not far different than the beliefs of many Catholics, Mormons, or Muslims as well, but the film only concentrates on Jews, and only on those who are "orthodox" in their beliefs. [In the Jewish tradition, Orthodox means belief in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) as the written word of God, strict adherence to dietary laws, and following cultural restrictions such as not driving on the Sabbath].

Dubowski interviewed Gays and Lesbians in New York, London, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem, many coping with rejection from their families, issues of suicide and AIDS, and self-acceptance. It is unsettling to hear learned Rabbi's telling them that they must remain celibate, submit to therapy, or pray until their urges disappear. Some of the Rabbis do not even understand what is meant by oral sex and mutual masturbation. The urge to say, "please wake up" is overwhelming. One of the interviewees is David from Los Angeles, a bright and articulate man in his late 30s who, following the advice of a rabbi, tried for many years to change his orientation through therapy. He talks without bitterness about the advice given to him by various rabbis to eat figs, snap a rubber band on his wrist or bite his tongue whenever he feels the temptation to have sex with another man. Now twenty years later, David confronts the Rabbi who ordered him into therapy and tells him that his advice did not work.

There is also Michelle, a Hasidic Lesbian from Brooklyn who married under pressure from the family that now virtually disowns her. Many of the people interviewed are afraid to reveal their names and faces on camera because of fear of family and community rejection. Some openly state how afraid they are that their life style will prevent them from ever going to "heaven". One of the angriest is Israel, a 58-year-old man from New York who rejected his family after they forced him to undergo electro-shock therapy. Others interviewed include Rabbi Steven Greenberg, the first openly Gay Orthodox rabbi and author of the book "Of Wrestling with God and Men". Greenberg talks with hope about God being lovingly open to questioning and to learning from man. He says there is an alternate way of interpreting the passage from Leviticus but we are not told what this is.

Trembling Before G_d is about being Gay but is also about the need to belong -- to parents, to community, to a set of rules. It is heartbreaking when Israel says, "I'm 58 years old and I want my Daddy" and extremely moving when he finally telephones his 98-year old father after twenty years of estrangement. In an odd way, the documentary celebrates Judaism even while pointing out its flaws and it got me back in touch with the Jewish experience -- the songs, the feeling of community, and the struggle to understand God and His purposes. The real sadness was thinking about centuries of intolerance practiced by those who themselves have been victims. Trembling Before G_d illuminates the problem but does not show us a way out, yet if given enough exposure it just might become a wake up call to those still tied to an archaic belief system that long ago ceased to have any relevance or purpose.

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