Jewish Teens on Gender and Tradition (USA, 2002, 27 minutes)
Stuart Z. Charmé, Writer & Director






     The Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem is the most sacred Jewish site in the world, representing what most Jews consider a link to the authentic traditions of their past.    Yet it is also a place where Orthodox rules for separating men and women are the norm.    This film explores how a new generation of American Jews make sense of the practices at the Kotel in light of the dramatic changes in the roles for Jewish women in recent years.

     Based on interviews with about 20 American Jewish teenagers from a variety of Orthodox and liberal Jewish backgrounds, the film explores their often ambivalent responses to the reality of gender separation and Orthodox control of the Kotel.   While Orthodox teenagers naturally defend what in fact is their own practice, how and why do liberal Jews maintain their respect for tradition without abandoning their own values of gender equality?   How do they suggest resolving a conflict whose solution had evaded even the Supreme Court of Israel?

     The film combines both recent and historic photos and illustrations of the Western Wall to demonstrate the changing nature of religious practices at an ancient site in Israel and its transformation from a symbol of Jewish unity to one embodying the tensions over the legitimacy of non-Orthodox values and practices.




Stuart Z. Charmé, Ph.D, is the writer and director of the film.   Dr. Charmé is Professor of Religion at Rutgers University [Camden] and an associate at the university’s Center for Children and Childhood Studies.   For over 10 years, Dr. Charmé has been interviewing Jewish children and adolescents about their religious ideas and their feelings about various Jewish issues.   In particular, he has focused on questions of gender in children’s understanding of Jewish history and practice.    Dr. Charmé is available to speak about issues of gender and Jewish identity in children and adolescents.




"Kotel:  Jewish Teens on Gender and Tradition" is available on DVD for $19.95. (plus $2 shipping)

Each DVD comes with a 20 page booklet of background information and suggested discussion questions.    To order, please send a check or money order (payable to Dr. Stuart Charmé) to:

Dr. Stuart Charmé
Rutgers University
Department of Philosophy and Religion
311 N. 5th St.
Camden, NJ 08102

To pay by credit card, go to PAY-PAL and make payment to "scharme@camden.rutgers.edu".
(You will need to open a free PayPal account to send money.)

For further information, contact Stuart Z. Charme