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Jenn Lindsay: Documentary Films and Videos

Dr. Jenn Lindsay is a social scientist and documentary filmmaker who has been crafting compelling stories about social and religious diversity since 2005. She is based in Rome, Italy, and teaches as a Lecturer in Sociology and Communications at John Cabot University, Saint John's University, and the University of California Education Abroad Program.

She completed her PhD in the Social Science of Religion at Boston University in 2018. She holds a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, a BA in playwriting from Stanford University, and a certificate in arts management from Yale School of Drama. In 2017 she completed a Master course in Sociology from Università Roma Tre.

As a social scientist, Jenn specializes in the study of religious difference and interfaith dialogue.

For a decade prior to graduate study, Jenn worked in the film and music industries as a composer, film editor, performer and documentary filmmaker. Her ten studio albums are available on Spotify, iTunes and at JennLindsay.com.

Dr. Jenn can be contacted via jlindsay@johncabot.edu.

FROM ALEF TO ZAYIN: A Secular Jewish Education

Boston Workmen’s Circle (WC) is a center for Jewish culture and social justice in Brookline, MA. A community and spiritual home for secular Jewish life, the WC welcomes participants of all “Jewish background, whatever the faith, ethnic, or gender diversity of your family” (website). Many WC families are interfaith, multicultural, and LGBT. The organization promotes progressive Jewish values and Yiddish culture, largely through their cultural Sunday School program offered for K-7th grades. The 7th grade year focuses on Spiritual Identity and culminates in a secular Bar Mitzvah ritual wherein the students present personal statements on their Jewish Identity.

My Hebrew School students are learning about religion in a secular, and self-identified radical, liberal, feminist, pro-union, leftist, socialist, atheist Jewish community setting. The flavor of Judaism found at WC is hardly traditional, but is still strongly Jewish in ethnic and cultural terms. Nevertheless, the young members of the Bar Mitzvah class are each asked to articulate something new and different in tension with a norm.

What does that mean to the kids? What exactly ARE their Jewish identities? How do the kids negotiate their family’s departure from the dominant norms of progressive/Reform Judaism? I follow them as they articulate their young adult commitment to their families’ minority religion, and their personal interpretation of what that means and what they can offer to the community.

This is a short film piece about the class that I filmed during the final month of the final school year as the kids were getting closer to their Bar Mitzvah. It is a non-commercial educational tool made to address the issue of identity development for kids in non-traditional religious contexts. The film also follows the process of developing contemporary rituals and the creative process of the kids.

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