Milwaukee Film Festival 2016: There Are Jews Here
By Andrea Thompson
All things must end, the good as well as the bad. The documentary “There Are Jews Here” explores how some people are coping with a certain loss of Jewish communities in small towns such as Butte, Montana, Laredo, Texas, and Dothan, Alabama. Many of the now tiny congregations are fighting to stay alive, and each copes with the loss of their community in different ways. One is clearly about to close, and is forced to find new homes for their synagogue's history and Torahs. Others seem to be on a similar track, with one family seriously considering a move to the neighboring San Antonio, with its thriving Jewish Community Center that has the kids in awe. But some locations are coming up with creative solutions, such as offering families $50,000 to relocate. One family does, and “There Are Jews Here” shows how the town's policy has allowed the Jewish community to thrive and flourish. But most towns don't seem to have friends in high places. It's a painful story, and the documentary seems mostly interested in showing the fight to keep a certain Jewish way of life alive and the emotional roller coaster such a battle involves. However, it doesn't seem interested in investigating how this is an issue plaguing many small towns, most of which simply don't have the resources needed in today's economic climate. Are the issues affecting the people in the documentary also plaguing towns across the country? What does it have to do with politics or today's trends, since the remaining congregants are all older? “There Are Jews Here” is a touching love letter to close-knit small towns, but including a few more pressing issues of the present would've rounded it out nicely.