Friday, February 5, 2010

Gut Shabbes Vietnam: Looking For Jews In Ho Chi Minh City

Continuing our survey of new films, we found another film, a 52 minute uplifting documentary, that is making the rounds of Jewish Film Festivals around the country.  A clash of cultures and a smile of recognition are at its core. A young Israeli couple set out to the Far East – not an unusual occurrence in contemporary Israeli reality. But this couple and their baby are no ordinary pair. They are emissaries of the Chabad Movement who are sent to Vietnam - on a one-way ticket- to encourage and create a Jewish community there.

The encounter with the frantic and exuberant life in Ho Chi Minh City is a source for much confusion and amusement. The search for a real Jewish community in Vietnam is also a point of contention – as they soon discover that the local Jews are only marginally interested in a Jewish connection and many of them are married to locals. 

In the face of much uncertainty Rabbi Menachem and Racheli Hartman are able to overcome their apprehension toward their foreign environment because of a deep belief in the magnitude of their mission. And so their meeting with a new and strange culture challenges them in ways that are both touching and baffling.

Menachem and Racheli arrive in Vietnam in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year. Frantic to have everything set up before the holiday begins; the couple embarks on an anxious journey to acquaint themselves with the local customs, while maintaining their own strict adherence to Jewish law. 

One of their chief challenges is finding the local Jews and persuading them to then attend religious services. The Jewish community in Vietnam is an eclectic mixture of ex-Israelis and Jews from other parts of the world who have little identification with their heritage. And so - as their worried families back home follow their acclimation from a far – Racheli and Menachem undertake the work of "bringing the Messiah."

So if you happen to be in Savannah next  Wednesday, February 10, drop in to the Jewish Educational Alliance and see this film.  Our California readers can find the film in La Jolla at the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre on Thursday, February 18.  As for the rest of us, we'll have to be satisfied with the clip below, and watch our local newspapers for announcements of local showings.


  1. Very good! One never quite imagines whatever these messianic guys are willing to go in their quest to show Jewish "superiority". It would be funny if it were not compassion, just rules!

  2., it's finally arrived