13: The Musical Is the Perfect Jewish Family Night Movie – Kveller.com

Posted By on August 13, 2022

The phrase Josh Peck plays a rabbi in it could get me to watch literally anything. But Netflixs 13: The Musical is more than just a good avenue for the Jewish dad to show off his Hebrew skills (a hearty kol hakavod to him) its also the perfect Jewish family night movie.

Regardless of denomination, being Jewish is all about family, chosen or genetic. I mean, what other religion has this many holidays that revolved around a family meal in addition to weekly Shabbat dinners?! Considering that, the modern family tradition of the movie night feels like it should be super Jewish and yet there just arent a lot of explicitly Jewish movies to watch.

In fact, back in January of this year, I tried to make a list of Jewish movies for Jewish family nights. Sharing my love for movies with my kids brings me so much joy. But only a few family-oriented movies actually have Jewish themes the basketball drama Full-Court Miracle which centers on Hanukkah, An American Tail about a Jewish immigrant mouse (though you could easily miss that tidbit), The Prince of Egypt, the Rugrats holiday specials (all very very good) and perhaps, also Fiddler, make up the entirety of explicitly Jewish, specifically family-oriented films on that list. I will not even go into the amount of Christmas kids and family movies out there, because do we have the time?

Enter the protagonist of 13: The Musical: Evan Goldman, played by Jewish actor Eli Golden. Here is a Jewish character who plainly loves being Jewish. There is no conflict for him about whether or not he wants to have a bar mitzvah, or whether a bar mitzvah is cool. In fact, he calls it the Jewish Super Bowl is there anything more exciting than that?

Evans entire concern during the movie is getting in with the cool crowd in his new small town so that he can have the same exciting over-the-top bar mitzvah that he imagined having in New York before his parents divorced and he and his mother Jessica (played by Debra Messing) had to move back to her childhood home. And while the bar mitzvah at the culmination of the movie is hardly the expensive opulent party his Manhattan crowd is used to, it is grand.

Many bar and bat mitzvah scenes in TV and film skip over the actual Hebrew part of the service, let alone the reading of the haftorah the weekly portion. But in 13: The Musical, Evan beautifully sings a line from Isaiah in Hebrew in a way that feels so reverential and beautiful, and it, along with the movies final song, really brings it all home.

13: The Musical is plain good Jewish representation. No character is reduced to a Jewish stereotype. Thats especially true when it comes to the two main Jewish mothers of the movie Messings Jessica and Rhea Perlmans grandma Ruth.

Jessica, particularly, is a full-fledged character, trying to find her footing after her divorce and revisit her childhood dream of being a writer while also trying to figure out how to best parent her teen in his new social environment.

Both Jessica and Ruth are very involved in their kids life which yes, sometimes can translate into being overbearing. But they are ultimately incredibly close and care about their childs happiness more than anything.

At Jessicas most difficult moment, the place she wanted to be was in the comfort of her mothers loving gaze (which Perlman really aces) at home. Theres something so lovely about that.

Then theres Rabbi Shapiro, played by the aforementioned and very iconic Josh Peck. Theres no way not to be obsessed with this snarky, affectionate, tell-it-like-it-is rabbi character. The surrogate father figure that he becomes for Evan in a turbulent post-divorce time is really sweet, and the truths he dishes about prep for your bnai mitzvah are pretty spot on you find a 6000-year-old language confusing, now I see the problem, he says in one scene. You thought this would be easy, thats just bad intel.

13: The Musical is a movie about Jewish family, Jewish pride and Jewishlove. Its also about making mistakes, learning from them and acknowledging that you can still make more. Judaism is all about that every year at Yom Kippur, we have to come to terms with the wrongs we have done to others and apologize. Jessica, Evan and the other kids all mess up and try to do better.

After he finishes chanting his haftorah, Evan sings A Little More Homework to Do, a song about how his learning and growing isnt over and isnt that what Jewish thought and Jewish tradition is all about? (OK, Im oversimplifying it, but also, this is a kids musical were talking about.)

As Jews, we havent gotten a lot of movies catered to us that also celebrate Jewish joy (there are plenty of somber Holocaust movies out there). 13: The Musical has enough Jewish reverence and specificity to entice a Jewish audience, and enough fun storytelling and music to entrance the non-Jewish crowd as well. For non-Jews, its also a nice primer about what a bar mitzvah is really about. As Messing told me in my interview with her: This is the first time that a Jewish kid, you know, has to perform, and they have to do it alone. And the movie really brings that point home.

Is 13: The Musical a perfect movie? No, hardly. Nitpickers may find the dialogue schmaltzy, the choice of buying your bagels at Zabars sus (thats me! Im the nitpicker!) or find other flaws in what is, without any doubt, no arthouse film.

And yet, watching a kid wearing a kippah being celebrated in a big Netflix musical, singing his heart out and finding joy in Jewish ritual while making all the Jewish kids like him our kids feel seen? Thats priceless.

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13: The Musical Is the Perfect Jewish Family Night Movie - Kveller.com

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