Trembling Before G-d Tour: A Personal Account
I saw the film Trembling Before G-d for the first time in England in 2001 whilst studying at the University of Cambridge. There I met the director Sandi Dubowski and the first openly gay Orthodox Rabbi Steven Greenberg. I was very moved by the film and the whole event and I asked them if they were planning to come to South Africa. They said it was on the agenda some time in the future and I offered to help bring the film out on my return home.
In October 2004, 3 months after returning to SA, I was contacted by a friend who said that Sandi and Steven were planning to come to South Africa in February 2005: could I help? I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to encourage discussion and debate concerning homosexuality in the Jewish community and so began organizing the tour. We put a lot of effort into the marketing and publicity of the tour. There were adverts in the Jewish report, we printed posters, flyers with the programmes and were provided with excellent newspaper, radio and TV coverage. Nevertheless, we were unsure as to the response of the public until the tour began.
After three hectic months, the tour finally became a reality on 13th February. I went down for the start of the tour to assist the team down in Cape Town, which was led by Sheryl Ozinsky.
It was a wonderful moment when it became evident that attendances were going to be very high for this tour. The afternoon had a half cinema and by the evening, the Labia Cinema was buzzing and virtually full. Rabbi Greenberg and Sandi Dubowski conducted a discussion after the film. There was a sense of overwhelming support for gay people from the audience, particularly, once it was discovered that Herzlia had refused to allow Rabbi Greenberg to speak at the school.
We also conducted a screening at the Triangle Project, an organisation that provides support across a range of South African communities to LGBTI people. One of the fascinating aspects of this tour has been the fact the reaction of non-Jewish people to the film: although the film has a very specific cultural frame, it has been fascinating to find that the universality of the struggles and pain depicted was something people from all backgrounds were moved by and responded to.