During David Lazar’s tenure as a liberal rabbi at Stockholm's Great Synagogue, a conflict begins to arise within the congregation. The Jewish tradition of dissent is tested under his leadership – he regularly criticizes the holy texts, prays with Muslims, and even marches with the Pride parade. His progressive actions face strong criticism from members the Liberal/Orthodox congregation.
Many begin to question his methods – a development Lazar really can’t handle. Some ask whether he is even suitable as a Rabbi. Nevertheless, his worship services are more popular than ever. This is not the first time that Lazar has faced setbacks.
In the year of 1973, a young David revolted against his liberal-feminist hippie parents in Los Angeles and became orthodox. Friends during this era describe Lazar as one of the most religiously orthodox people they knew.
He moved to Israel, refused to shake hands with women, joined the military and settled on the Gaza Strip.
The questions are many: what happened? How has he changed so radically since then? After studying at the Jerusalem University, Lazar has an epiphany: The bible is written by men, for men. This is a crucial turning point for him and his family. He begins to attend a liberal synagogue where both women and men sit next to each other and eventually he evolves into the liberal (masorti) rabbi that he is today. This journey, however, does not happen painlessly. He loses close friends, his children are forced to change schools and, above all, his wife must make a sacrifice and follow his path.
Eventually he becomes an advocate for the LGBT community as he starts to visit and even bury AIDS patients. Numerous LGBT people describe the ease with which Lazar was suddenly on their side. Back in Stockholm, Lazar receives the QX- gala: Hetero of the year award. Lazar's statement, actions and changes disturb the congregation’s management and they refuse to give Lazar permanent employment - only a 2-year probation. Despite a media storm around the news, Lazar does not get to stay. Lazar is determined: either a permanent employment or nothing. After negotiations, Lazar loses his job as rabbi in Sweden, leaving a huge gap for many. It also creates various unanswered questions: Did Lazar really want an agreement with the congregation? Why did he not accept the offer for a two-year extension? What will happen to interfaith families and other families who have just begun a journey into Jewish traditions? Lazar finally gets a permanent employment in Palm Springs in a liberal synagogue.
The New Rabbi is a story about a man in search of change in a world based on traditions and tensions between minority groups.
Title: The New Rabbi Genre: Documentary
Length: 90 minutes
Spec: 16:9 / HD Color
Format: Documentary & Animation.
Director: Irene Lopez
Producer: Irene Lopez
Editor: Erika Gonzales
Photography: Gabriel Mkrttchian, Malin Korkeasalo & Loa Bie
Composer: Olle Markensten ( and more).
Co-Producers/Financiers: Chamdin & Stöhr, Film i Väst, Ljud & Bild.Media, Apricot Stone, Proventus (confirmed) and Swedish Film Institute (in progress)
Distributor: Aristoon (Denmark, confirmed), SVT (Sweden, in talks)
Status of production: In editing, awaiting final financing for post-production.