Trembling Before G-d begins with ultra-Orthodox Jews wearing sack-cloth, a traditional symbol of mourning, over their black suits. They line a sidewalk shivering. It appears to be cold. They are protesting a hearing for a gay rights bill. The men are cursing homosexuals, denouncing them as “evil and immoral people.” They say the AIDS epidemic is a plague sent by God to punish homosexuals. Some hold hand-lettered signs that read: “Homosexuality is a revolt against the creator.”
If Trembling Before G-d sets out to make any point, it is that the statement on the signs is false. This award-winning feature documentary by the director Sandi Dubowski chronicles the struggles and triumphs of gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews.
Over the course of five years of filming, in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, London, Jerusalem, Miami, and San Francisco, Dubowski interviewed a diverse cross-section of the gay Orthodox world: men and women, some who are closeted and married and some who are flamboyantly out, and modern Orthodox as well as Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews. (The film’s title is an allusion to a Hebrew term for ultra-Orthodox Jews, haredim or “tremblers,” which refers to their “trembling” reverence for God.)
Read the full story from 2002 in New Voices.