Pork and Milk

By Steven Zeitchik

Published January 13, 2006, issue of January 13, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Breaks from tradition also weigh on the mind of Valérie Mréjen, director of the pleasingly low-key French documentary “Pork and Milk.” Through a series of interviews, Mréjen throws a light on a number of young Israeli men who also happen to be have left the fold of ultra-Orthodoxy: a chef, a cantor with the radical sect Neturei Karta, a soldier and one female rugby player.

If the film sometimes smacks of the self-congratulation that plagues Eshaghian, it’s also saved by moments of remarkable nuance. The hero of the ensemble cast is a former religious man, who, far from flaring his nostrils at his former life, genuinely tries to make sense of how to resolve two irreconcilable worlds. He describes the “mutual lie” he and his parents perpetuated when they first found out about his secularism. There are few villains or victims here, just the confusion that comes when religion and relatives mix.

Other characters can be more single-minded. The chef who gets much of the airtime has a tendency to long-windedness that leaves out the best parts. He tells of two sisters who followed him out of the fold, but he never explains what happened. Nor does he elaborate on whether he feels triumph or guilt over his unexpected influence. The film also offers very little glimpse into the world these people are coming from, and the effect is to hear about exile without seeing any of its precipitating conditions.

For the most part, though, “Pork and Milk” avoids easy answers. In one scene, a cantor dons his old garb and begins chanting, easily slipping back into his former life. The film remains intriguingly vague about whether it means to show the grip held by the past or the ease with which appearances deceive in the religious world.

In the movie’s strongest moment, the man who tells of the mutual lie describes how the secular world can be filled with just as many preconceptions as the religious world, and how pointing out to secularists their own contradictions about intermarriage or Yom Kippur still fills him with religious pride. At its best, “Pork and Milk” evokes the gay-religion documentary “Trembling Before God” — only with a refreshing lack of topicality and greater subtlety.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • 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.