“HINENI: Coming Out in a Jewish High School”


Amos Lassen

When I first heard about this movie, I looked everywhere to try to get a copy. No matter where I looked I found brilliant reviews and powerful reactions but I could not seem to locate the film. I finally made contact with a group in Boston named Keshet (Hebrew for rainbow) which produced the film. Keshet is a support group for Jewish gays and lesbians and if this movie is an example of the kind of work they do then they have made quite a mark on the lives of our community and have done something that they can really be proud of. I. personally, have only had minor problems reconciling my Judaism with my gayness and I arrived at inner peace after a great deal of soul searching, self pity and inner conflict. I, finally, was about to make peace with myself and G-d, but when I watched “Hineni”, I wished that a film like that had been around when I was dealing with my issues.

“Hineni” which is Hebrew for “here I am” is the story of a young girl’s attempt to establish a gay/straight alliance at a Jewish high school in Boston, Massachusetts and how that attempt affected everyone around. But even more than that, it is a study of conflict between homosexuality and religion and the story of an entire community having to deal with openly gay issues and having to formulate a new definition of pluralism and diversity within the concept of Judaic thought. As I sat and watched the film my eyes constantly teared for several reasons—I was proud to be wo I am, I was proud of Shulamit Izen, the 9th grade Jewish lesbian who spearheaded the whole thing, I was proud of her fellow students, her community, her rabbi and proud of Keshet. I was amazed to see the strength of the teachers and the compassion of Shulamit’s fellow students but more than everything else I was proud of my religion for allowing me to be who I am.

When Shulamit enters the 9th grade at the New Jewish High School she did so because she was searching for a closer connection with her faith. She also did so as a lesbian. She wants to embrace the Jewish concept of pluralism—a concept that is integral to the Jewish religion but was afraind that the concelt did not include lesbianism. During her investigation, she is swept up in a community trying to find itself as it faced the concepts of Jewish tradition and social change.

Looking at the concept of “hineni” or “here I am” presents a question, If I know who I am and I am here beside you, then who are you and what do you represent? If I can be me then I expect you to be you and look at me and accept me for who I am just as I do for you,

“Hineni”, the film,  is not just about being gay but creating a place that allows one to be gay and be safe, where important problems can be openly discussed. For so long Jewish gays and lesbians have been told by rabbis that they cannot be religious and be gay. Rabbi Daniel Lehmann who shows his uneasiness with the issue at the beginning of the film presents the thesis of the ssue when he states, “the core of our tradition is to bring together those conflicting opinions not in an attempt to somehow resolve them or create harmony,but to actually live in the tension of those differences.”

In looking back at my own experiences when dealing with my issues of being gay and being Jewish and trying to relate to what was going on with Shulamit in Boston, I was taken aback yet again when I realize how far we have come in the world today. When I realized I was gay, I thought I was the only one. I had no one to talk to, I was filed with self guilt and the proper definition of the word gay hardly applied to me. Today it is so easy to be gay and youngsters today come out a good deal earlier and do not suffer from the problems we had when coming out to both ourselves and our community. What Shulamit Izen did was something oa miracle, she courageously took on not just a community but a religion that for so long said that we have no place. She created a place for us but more important she created a place fot young Jews to feel at ho,e. When I came out I would not have dared to do what she did.

  1. #1 by Bonnie on March 25, 2011 - 3:39 pm

    Hi Amos,

    Thanks for the thoughtful review and kind words about the film. Since Keshet is a small nonprofit, it took a bit of time to get the DVD produced. I wish we had it out sooner too!

    I’m happy to say, we have many more educational resources like Hineini that promote an inclusive Jewish community, such as companion curriculum guide for the film as well as a “Safe Zone Kit” with a book, film, poster, stickers, curriculum, and guide. All of our resources are now available online: http://transitmedia.net/shop/index.lasso?fsid=Hineini

    We have several other resources also in the works!

    Thanks again,

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