The Chosen (1981) Based on the novel of the same name, this film touches on every major theme of 20th century Jewish life: the Holocaust, the founding of Israel, assimilation, the transmission of values within families and the challenge of maintaining traditions. It also explores conflicts within Judaism itself, deepening our understanding of modern Jewish life.
Enemies: A Love Story (1989) This remarkable retelling of the novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer about a Holocaust survivor and the women in his life renders aspects of the Jewish experience with compassion and a respect for the complexities of the post-Holocaust human psyche.
Everything is Illuminated (2005) This film surprised me by being better than the book. It is heartening when a film makes a serious effort to deal with Jewish identity, in this case the complicated emotional journey one young man takes to come to terms with his family’s past.
Unsettled (2006) This documentary turns its lens on the Gaza disengagement. Adam Hostnick, a young American director, shows all sides of a highly polarized issue.
Paper Clips (2004) In this documentary, students in Tennessee collected one paper clip for each person exterminated during the Holocaust. Although it’s not about Jewish people (a few Holocaust survivors make short appearances), it’s of huge interest to both Jewish and general audiences.
Kathryn Bernheimer is the author of The 50 Greatest Jewish Movies: A Critic’s Ranking of the Very Best.