Bintel Blog

Yom Kippur on the Big Screen

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Would you shut up? I’m trying to atone!” That line comes in the opening scene of “Kissing Jessica Stein” delivered by the titular character, as she sits in the pews on Yom Kippur and tries to fend off her relatives’ too-eager advice about snagging a man before next year’s Book of Life is shut. Jessica, the wound-up-way-too-tight artist-turned journalist whose dating travails will soon lead her to enter a same-sex relationship, reaches her boiling point to the backdrop of the rabbi’s voice, as mom (played by Tovah Feldshuh and grandma point out the single guys in the congregation and, in loud whispers, wonder why Jess hasn’t dated anyone in a year.

This isn’t the only time the Day of Atonement has been played for laughs: There’s a memorable “Entourage” episode in which power-agent Ari runs in and out of shul on Yom Kippur, hiding his cell phone and disturbing the congregation — all in an effort to hustle a role on behalf of his ex-client, Vince. Assisting him in his hi-jinx is neurotic producer Nick Rubenstein, played by Adam Goldberg, another atoning Jew who barges in on a studio head at different synagogue to try and make the deal happen. “Jesus Christ! It’s Yom Kippur!” says Ari’s exasperated wife as the two talk business in the synagogue’s lobby. The episode includes the immortal line spoken by Ari to his daughter: “That’s the beauty of Yom Kippur: As long as you apologize by sundown it doesn’t matter what you do.”

Of course, not all Yom Kippur scenes are set up for yuks: 1927’s “The Jazz Singer”), and its many remakes, features an emotional and climactic scene at a Kol Nidre service when famous Jazz singer Jack Robin, played by Al Jolson, returns and sings the “Kol Nidre” prayer in his dying father’s stead, abandoning the opening night of his Broadway show to reunite with his estranged family.

The High Holy Days provide a fitting backdrop for movie or TV scenes, with their dramatic imagery of white-clad rabbis, well-dressed congregants and the ringing sound of Shofar and prayers. And, of course, the dramatic symbolism of renewal and repentance doesn’t hurt either. But despite this, these were the only big scenes I could recall that took place specifically during the Days of Awe (bar mitzvahs, on the other hand, are everywhere in pop culture). Are there any other memorable onscreen references to the High Holidays that we’re missing here?


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Al Jolson, Ari Gold, Entourage, Jeremy Piven, Kissing Jessica Stein, The Jazz Singer, Yom Kippur

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
Sharon Baumgold Thu. Sep 24, 2009

In response to your question, "Are there any other memorable onscreen references to the High Holidays that we’re missing here?"--"Keeping the Faith" in which Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller)falls in love with a non-Jewish woman (who later converts) and explains, “Yom Kippur is kind of like the Superbowl of the Jewish calendar.” Jarringly, the movie has Kol Nidre playing in the background while the congregants take their seats.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.