OUT OF FAITH, a feature-length documentary (82:00), follows three generations of a family torn apart by conflicts over interfaith marriage. The family’s matriarch, Leah Welbel, and her husband Eliezer, both survived nearly three years in Auschwitz; however, in their minds, their grandchildren marrying non-Jews represents a posthumous victory for Hitler.
As filming for OUT OF FAITH commences, Leah and her first grandchild to “marry out,” Danny, have not spoken for six years. Although conflicted over what her stance is doing to her family, Leah genuinely believes that her position is morally imperative.
“My grandkids, I love all of them; they mean a whole lot to me, but I’m in touch with four, not with all five. . . as a Survivor, I paid the highest price possible for my Jewish faith, I paid it with blood, and that reminds me, stick to your faith.”
In spite of Leah’s stringent belief that intermarriage is a betrayal of one’s faith, family and people, when her second grandchild, Cheryl, marries a Christian, she takes a different approach: she showers Cheryl with love and attention, hoping that by keeping the lines of communication open she will be able to convince Cheryl’s husband, Matt, to convert to Judaism. Cheryl resists:
“I would like a Jewish family, but I’m certainly not going to impose on Matt and push all these things on him because that’s the worst thing you can do in a relationship. Because I know if he said to me, ‘Cheryl, I want you to convert to Christianity,’ I’d say ‘take a hike!’”
OUT OF FAITH follows the Welbel family for three years as they try to resolve these issues. The pressure mounts on Cheryl as people tell her that interfaith marriage is decimating the Jewish population; and pressure mounts on Leah as her grandson’s wife is about to have a baby – Leah’s first great-grandchild. Will Leah and Danny reconcile?
Can Leah continue to engage Cheryl without giving in to her belief that by doing so she is “betraying her family” murdered in the Holocaust? An unexpected family event changes everything.
OUT OF FAITH examines the complex and emotionally charged issues surrounding assimilation and interfaith marriage. The film compels Jew and non-Jew alike to reconsider the classic query of “melting pot or salad bowl?” Does this country of immigrants gain its strength from homogeneity or heterogeneity; i.e., are we a salad bowl of numerous subcultures, gaining strength from our diversity, or are we a melting pot that achieves greatness through the creation of an amalgam of cultures?
OUT OF FAITH examines these issues by capturing the intimate details of one family’s attempt to persevere in the face of a heart wrenching intrafamilial conflict; a conflict that impacts countless families in multicultural societies. Anyone who has ever struggled to remain loyal to cultural identity in the face of great societal pressure to assimilate will undoubtedly relate.