by Izzy Kalman (July 2006)
Ushpizin (2004, Giddi Dar) is an Israeli movie in Hebrew with English subtitles, so be forewarned in case you can’t stand reading subtitles. It is a morality tale that takes place in the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood called Meah Shearim (translation: One Hundred Gates) in Jerusalem. You don’t have to be Jewish to like the film; the message is universal. And it has an additional anthropological benefit in that it gives you an insider’s look into a world that many people find strange but few people are privy to. Personally, I am familiar with this culture so I had no difficulty understanding the details, but if you aren’t, you will get some exposure to and understanding of some traditional Jewish practices and thought. So I would like to invite you to get a nice peek into a subsection of my own ethnic group.
What the movie is really about, and why it is of such interest to me, is that it shows the power of the Golden Rule, though that rule is never mentioned by name in the movie. The Golden Rule can be extremely hard to practice, and this story demonstrates this so clearly. A couple of the sub-themes of the movie are 1) the importance of anger control and 2) preventing people from getting in trouble with the authorities/police. Ushpizin presents my Bullies to Buddies rules nicely, so I give it my whole-hearted recommendation.