The Rabbi’s Daughter


I cried watching this film.

Not just because it is about three daughters who choose to break with the chinuch they received from their parents, from the ways of the Torah. Not just because of the additional irony and tragedy that each one is the daughter of a major figure in the Israeli dati Leumi world. [Warning to potential viewers. The daughters dress at times like dropouts, not like their mothers.]

I cried because so much pain was visible and palpable, because it slides off the celluloid so easily that the viewer is left with no choice but to hold on to it.

It is a disturbing film, for all the questions it raises without answering them. How did it all come to pass? How widespread is the problem? Can it end differently? What possessed the parents to allow their pain and shame to become part of the public domain? Did they do it as a concession to their daughters, or did they hope for an even greater good? Could parents in the haredi world (where dropouts are no less prevalent) bare their souls the same way?

Many things did become clear. The parents were not bad parents, nor were the daughters bad daughters. There was no lack of love on either side. The commitment of the fathers was manifest; they were not shallow figures, deceiving the public. The adulation of the public was well-deserved.

Confusion and denial abounded. Parents were not fully in touch with how far off their daughters had drifted. The daughters showed more tentativeness about their thinking than firm resolve. Their husbands and boyfriends showed at times more understanding of the women’s unresolved doubts than the women themselves.

In this relatively short piece, the film as a medium displays its power to the skeptic. All of us are familiar with the phenomenon of off-the-derech kids. Yet more is conveyed by a wrinkled brow, a pause in midsentence, a facial expression changing from confidence to worry than in a page of prose.

Some scenes and lines are revelatory. The bond restored by the introduction of a grandchild. The challenge by a father: “So if you want to talk, when will you be ready to do so not on camera?” Or “You want us to accept you for whom you are. Can you accept us for who we are?” Or one woman’s reminder that she was the only one of eight children not faithful to the beliefs of her family, and that it was G-d Himself Who gives us free will.

And perhaps the most important line of all, the one that cuts to the chase of so much of the off-the-derech phenomenon. “So it isn’t really about rabbis – it’s about parents.”

Watching this will be doubly painful by the film’s end, because many of us will be forced to confront our own inadequacies.

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3 years 17 days ago

it says that you need a password to view the video. does anybody have an idea what the password is?

Emes L'Amito
3 years 19 days ago

Hmmm. Lots of people commenting with some harsh words about this piece, calling it unworthy of publication. I wonder if they noticed that 1637 people recommended the piece via Facebook. Presumably, some/most of them “recommend” when they like the piece, not hate it. Maybe all of them are ignorant and stupid.

Shades of Gray
3 years 19 days ago

“Maybe our acceptance of OTD people reflects a lack of awareness as to the importance and absolute imperative of keeping Torah”

The question is what does “acceptance” mean?

Two years ago, Hamodia had a supplement called “Kids of Hope”(Peasch 5770, available online), which included the following excerpt of an interview with the Noverminsker Rebbe:

“Speaking of those who are already off the derech…Some recommend unconditional love; others disagree.”

There are no absolutes.

On one hand, the door should always be open. On the other hand, if maintaining an open door can cause damage to other children in the family, then, unfortunately, he’s not… Read more »

Joe Hill
3 years 21 days ago

“You really see no ethical distinction between stealing and say eating treif?”

Chardal: No. Both are violations of the Torah.

3 years 21 days ago

i am struck by the 2 streams of comments here that can be boiled down to essentially 1] an approach of sakol yisakel –they should be stoned 2] a resignation that people live their lives and make their own choices. this classic tearing kriya approach of course means the end of that child’s relationship with familyand maybe judaism—but from the tone of the commenters , one fears they would recommend thee same approach if the child shifted from haredi to mizrachi…
the 2nd approach is… Read more »

L. Oberstein
3 years 21 days ago

What possessed the parents to allow their pain and shame to become part of the public domain? Did they do it as a concession to their daughters, or did they hope for an even greater good? Could parents in the haredi world (where dropouts are no less prevalent) bare their souls the same way?So if you want to talk, when will you be ready to do so not on camera?” Or “You want us to accept you for whom you are. Can you accept us for who we are?”

You pose very important questions. I think that the ansswers… Read more »

3 years 21 days ago

Joe, well said. Maybe our acceptance of OTD people reflects a lack of awareness as to the importance and absolute imperative of keeping Torah. maybe it shows a lack of commitment in our lives.

3 years 21 days ago

I find it curious that you conclude it couldn’t have been the parents’ fault simply because the parents love them. There is a lot more to parenting than loving, and indeed, love is the easiest and most natural part.

3 years 22 days ago

Really Joe Hill? You really see no ethical distinction between stealing and say eating treif? If anything, recent history has shown that thieves are much more likely to be accepted in frum society than, say, mechalelei Shabbat.

3 years 22 days ago

The daughters are each extraordinary in their own way, yet all three articulated the desire for more time and connection with their fathers and felt that their fathers’ public position interfered with their own personal connection. Who’s to say if this is a fair complaint or not, or how (or if) this contributed to the daughters’ shift from their parents’ religious path. We also certainly saw genuine love and engagement on the part of the fathers with their daughters.

For me, the film underscored that I need to make quality time with my children sacred, demonstrating presence in the moment. Even… Read more »

Allan Katz
3 years 22 days ago

I agree that we must help those with artistic talent to find their path in Torah and that relationships with parents and teachers play an important role in keeping kids on the derech , more than banning internet

the test is that even when kids decide on a different path, the relationship in intact

the high profile story of the Philip family in Israel – Menachem Phillip and his 4? siblings who left the derech was a combination of both problematic parenting and not finding a placde for artistic talent. Today Mani (menachem ) is an aclaimed film producer

Here is… Read more »

Joe Hill
3 years 22 days ago

How would a parent feel if their child “chose” a path in life of being a professional burglar? However such a parent feels, these parents should feel the same.

Mr. Cohen
3 years 22 days ago

As a baal teshuvah, I believed for many years that I could never be equal to FFBs.

But if FFBs are so great, then why are some of them going off-the-derech,
as shown in The Rabbi’s Daughter?

Apparently, the superiority of FFBs is not as great as I previously believed.

3 years 22 days ago

I thought Shlomo’s understated point, above, was excellent. There are many ballei teshuvah in our community. Their choice is in most cases not meant as an indictment on their parents, but only that they’ve chosen a different path for themselves. Indeed, there are so many ballei teshuvah, from so many different backgrounds, that perforce we must say it’s not the “fault” of the parents, but simply the choice of the child. There’s no real reason why we shouldnt look upon those dropping out of religion in exactly the same way. Looked at from that perspective, your penultimate line should be… Read more »

3 years 22 days ago

Question: Of whom would a typical American MO or Charedi family be more embarrassed as son or son-in-law:

The frum, but bummy-looking neo-Breslover brother of Kfar Pines Tamar or the non-frum, but conventional-looking, law school student Moti Katz, son-in-law of Rav Bigman?

And why would that be?

E. Fink
3 years 22 days ago

Here is what I think is the most important thing we can learn from this film:

(From my comments on this film on my blog:)

I think that it is very important that the parent / child relationship not depend on religious observance. It is hurtful to parents when children diverge from their parents’ way of life. But that pain cannot be more prominent than the love of a parent for a child and a child for a parent.

Every child needs to feel accepted by their parents. Every child needs to know that they are loved for who they are even if… Read more »

Shades of Gray
3 years 23 days ago

The film was fair to both sides, showing the parents as caring about their children despite their choices of lifestyle(Ma’aleh, the school which produced the film, was one of several different kinds of film schools for religious Israelis recently profiled in the NYT article, “Filmmakers Who Are Ultra-Orthodox and Ultracommitted”).

I thought that one of the touching scenes was when the bare-headed landlord offers Halachic pointers about building a Succah, which he learned from R. Aviner, and adds that he was the “kindest, most, wonderful man”. This sounds like the sort of scene… Read more »

SL Zacharowicz
3 years 23 days ago

The easiest conclusion to reach after watching this film is that there are no easy conclusions. A powerful, thought-provoking film.

3 years 23 days ago

Another thought comes to mind: What role did the mothers of these 3-4 daughters play in their upbringing? Were the moms approachable? Were they aware of what was happening? Could they have played a different role? Would have liked to have heard from the other two moms..

3 years 23 days ago

Could parents in the haredi world (where dropouts are no less prevalent) bare their souls the same way? The answer is SURELY NOT!!

Excellent film, personal, painful, distressing, loving and full of turmoil from the daughters and fathers.
Parents in places of prominence particualarly in Rabbanus, Chinuch and Religious Leadership roles do find their children cast into a hot cauldron of Peer Pressure, Congregational Commments and 24/7 observations. It takes a special kind of parenting and emotional health to ignore the “outside world”. There seems to be a large group of “challenged youth” from these catagories (past and present).

3 years 23 days ago

Why is the topic of teens-at-risk rarely judged from the Torah’s perspective? What does the Torah say about someone who knows the mitzvos and their obligations and does not keep them because of personal reasons? How are we supposed to treat such people? How is a person who was abused/neglected/mistreated/ignored supposed to approach Torah, Teffilla and Emuna? We hear all kinds of psychological explanations and ideas from ‘experts’. Is that advice derived from the Torah? If someone would have us treat these people with just love and understanding, how will they explain the various condemning passages in the halacha about… Read more »

Daniel Rubin
3 years 23 days ago

This is a remarkable film. Very heartfelt and heartbreaking.

For filing in the Department of What Might Be the Answer, one thing I noticed is that two of the three daughters are clearly quite artistic and creative. Add the director herself and it’s actually three out of four. I can’t help but wonder if that provides a clue as to why these girls went off the derech when their siblings didn’t. Frum Judaism can be a little stifling for anyone, let alone someone a little more free-spirited.

The free-spirit angle also shows up when you look at how two of the… Read more »

Rabbi Harry Zeitlin
3 years 24 days ago

Perhaps most important is to keep the profundity, sensitivity and insightfulness of Torah alive. That means not fossilized, not routine-ized, but truly alive, filled with growth, sparked by love as well as by curiousity. It’s not a matter of making an observant life “appear” attractive–this isn’t marketing strategy–but to live it that way. As best as we, imperfectly, can.

3 years 24 days ago

You wrote

“What possessed the parents to allow their pain and shame to become part of the public domain?”

I agree that the parents have pain, but why do you think they also have shame? Why should parent’s be ashamed if their children choose a different lifestyle? Disappointed yes, but why shame?

[YA – Just a guess. The film opens with a father asked whether he found his interview embarrassing. While he responds in the negative, I read his body language and his facial expressions differently. Not that I disagree with your point in the slightest. Yet, many parents do feel… Read more »

Harry Maryles
3 years 24 days ago

Very well put! I wrote about this very important and powerful film a while ago and had the same reaction you did. And so did most of the readers that commented. That post generated 118 comments!

You asked why the parents agreed to be filmed in this very vulnerable way. I think the answer is contained in the film itself. These parents love their children. It’s as simple as that. They realize that there is pain on both sides and that the issues are real. The children needed to express themselves this way and the loving parents agreed to it,… Read more »

Menachem Lipkin
3 years 24 days ago

I think the most important take away message of this poignant film is the way the parents dealt with this. These three significant rabbinic figures are setting the example that it is no longer our way to disengage, or worse, from children who choose not to follow our straight, and increasingly narrow, ways. They didn’t “tear kryia”, throw their daughters out of the house, or otherwise cut them off. They exhibited tenderness, love, and expressed a desire to understand.