It's Not Easy Being a 'Rabbi's Daughter'

Racheli Wasserman Made Her Burden into a Movie

Having a rabbi for a father can be tough, something that Racheli Wasserman knows all too well.
Courtesy Racheli Wasserman
Having a rabbi for a father can be tough, something that Racheli Wasserman knows all too well.

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Published January 15, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When we think of children who carry the burden of having famous parents, we often think of the offspring of movie stars or politicians. But in the Religious Zionist sector of Israeli society, being the child of a prominent rabbi comes with some very heavy baggage.

Filmmaker Racheli Wasserman, herself the daughter of such a rabbi, carries this load, and decided to unpack some of it by making “The Rabbi’s Daughter.” The short documentary, which Wasserman made as a student at the Ma’aleh School of Television, Film & The Arts in Jerusalem, is an intimate and sensitive portrait of three young women who not only live in the shadow of their revered fathers, but who have also made the fraught decision to leave the religious life behind and forge new paths for themselves.

“The Rabbi’s Daughter” has caught the attention of Israeli film critics and the Israeli movie-going public alike. In December, it was awarded the best student film prize for the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum, and earlier last fall it won the award for the best short documentary at the 2012 Haifa Film Festival. In 2011, the film was awarded the Aliza Shagrir Prize for outstanding documentary. Exceptionally for a student film, “The Rabbi’s Daughter” has been viewed more than 45,000 times online.

The half-hour film follows three young women as they interact with their rabbi fathers and expose their previously private thoughts and feelings about their complicated relationships with them. Tamar Aviner, daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City (and who recently declared that women should not engage in politics or run for seats in the Knesset), is a free-spirited artist and sensitive soul who struggles with being thrust into the public eye. Still clearly a spiritual person, Aviner has adopted a hippy-like peripatetic existence, living in a van and working as a street artist.

For Tamar Tzohar, daughter of Rabbi Yoram Tzohar, dean of Ulpana Bnei Akiva Kfar Pines (a residential religious girls’ school), and for Ruth Katz, daughter of Rabbi David Bigman, who heads Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa, the struggles are more about religious observance. Tzohar, a talented photographer and graphic designer, feels she has no way to connect to her father and seems to linger on the periphery of her family’s religious life. On a visit to her father’s school, which she once attended, she notes the irony of her father’s serving as a father figure for thousands of girls, while she — his actual daughter — feels so distant from him.

Katz, married to a young man named Motti, confronts her parents for the first time about the disapproval she senses from them about her choice to move away from religious observance. She tearfully tells her parents how frustrating it is for her and her husband to feel they have to hide details of their everyday life from them.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.