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Kabbalah Me    cover photo

Kabbalah Me 2014

Recommended

Distributed by First Run Features, 630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036; 212-243-0600
Produced by Steven E. Bram
Directed by Steven E. Bram and Judah Lazarus
DVD, color, 88 min.



High School - General Adult
Judaism, Mysticism, Spirituality

Date Entered: 06/11/2015

Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

Kabbalah, to me, is meant to help us evolve as human beings into our fullness… --Yehudit Goldfarb, kabbalahme.com

Steven Bram is 49 years old and living a comfortable, good life: happily married to Miriam and raising two lively young daughters with her; enjoying work as managing partner in a film production company based in Manhattan that specializes in sports documentaries. But as his fiftieth birthday approaches, Bram realizes something's missing: apart from transcendent moments while skydiving or rocking out at Grateful Dead concerts, he's lacking a spiritual dimension to his life. A chance conversation with a friend ignites his curiosity about the mystical side of Judaism. And in Kabbalah Me, he turns the camera on himself to record his journey into a deeper spiritual life with a deft touch and plenty of self-effacing humor.

Photos of himself growing up and interviews with his parents enliven Bram's narration of the spiritual side of his life so far—raised by parents who rejected conservative Judaism yet made sure Bram had a Bar Mitzvah at 13; married in a synagogue even though he and Miriam were not observant Jews. Miriam comments that while she is Jewish by heritage, she is put off by its rules and rituals; she's found greater spiritual fulfillment in Buddhism and Yoga.

Intrigued by Kabbalah, Bram spends time with rabbis adept in its study and practice, some of whom caution him that diving into Kabbalah without first having a thorough grounding in Jewish scripture is akin to skipping the meal and heading straight for the dessert tray. He visits the world headquarters of Chabad, which aims to make Kabbalah accessible to Jews regardless of their expertise in Torah; and The Kabbalah Centre in New York, which claims Kabbalah predates Judaism and should be made accessible to everyone regardless of their beliefs. He also reestablishes contact with family on his father's side—conservative Jews and students of Kabbalah—joining in their celebrations of Sukkot and Purim.

As Kabbalah study leads him to begin keeping Sabbath and observing dietary laws, Bram's family members, colleagues and friends fret that he's gone over the deep edge. Convinced that to really understand Kabbalah one must go to its source, Bram takes a "spiritual vacation" to Israel, meeting up with several rabbis with whom he's studied online via Skype. He visits Tsvat in the Galilee, the birthplace of modern Kabbalah and home to an amazing variety of Kabbalah teachers and practitioners. And at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Bram is moved to tears as he ponders the length of time it's taken him to learn to pray, to truly connect with God.

Six bonus shorts: Oneness, Good and Evil in Kabbalah, Women in Kabbalah, Science and Kabbalah, Kabbalah Celebration: Meron, and Meditation: Opening the Heart, give viewers more insight into the breadth and depth of kabbalah as it’s taught and practiced today. The Kabbalah Me website kabbalahme.com is a great complement to the film, offering more in-depth interviews with rabbis and teachers who appear in the documentary. A light-hearted, honest and engaging look at one man’s quest for a deeper spiritual life, Kabbalah Me is a fine choice for libraries supporting academic programs in religious studies, collections serving houses of worship, as well as public libraries. In English, Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles.