6: Film excerpt, Edward Norton’s "Keeping the Faith," 2000.
In this excerpt from the 2000 film Keeping the Faith, Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) speaks after the cantor concludes his performance of Kol Nidre, confessing to the congregation that he secretly has been in a relationship with a non-Jewish woman.
Suggested Activity: Ask your students about the relationship between the rabbi’s sermon and the performance of Kol Nidre. What does the inclusion of the prayer tell them about the role Kol Nidre has in popular culture? What valences might it carry for the audiences watching the film? Why does the film only include the final few notes of Kol Nidre? How would it have been different if it had included the entire prayer?
Ask your students whether they see this as a reference to (or in conversation with) The Jazz Singer. Ask: how does this film address the notion of return and reconciliation with Jewish tradition? (You may want to share with your students that in The Jazz Singer, Jakie meets and pursues a relationship with the non-Jewish Mary Dale, a musical theater dancer who later discourages him from performing Kol Nidre, out of fear that his failure to sing on Broadway that night will ruin his career. She ultimately comes to hear him sing Kol Nidre at the synagogue and praises the performance as “a jazz singer—singing to his God”).
Source: Keeping the Faith, directed by Edward Norton (2000, Burbank, CA: Touchstone Pictures).
Excerpt: micosh888, “Keeping The Faith yum kipur,” Apr. 20 2012, video, 3:39, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9SKgq5XedQ.