‘The Chosen People?’ premieres June 25 at Main Library
— Are the Jews really God’s chosen people? This question has followed Akron filmmaker Joshua Gippin throughout his life as he struggles to understand his Jewish identity.
The result of his pursuit is a documentary, “The Chosen People?” which will debut this Sunday, June 25 at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Library.
Raised as a reformed Jew, Gippin walked away from the religion after his bar mitzvah because of the label placed upon him as being one of God’s chosen people.
“There was nothing calling me to Judaism,” says Gippin, who admits he felt wrong about this label because Judaism is not just a religion but also an ethnicity. He didn’t choose to be Jewish; he was born into it.
Now settled in Akron with a wife and two young children, Gippin decided to explore aspects of Judaism once again so he can teach his kids about their roots. To do that, he must come to terms with the questions that troubled him. Gippin used his passion for filmmaking to create a documentary that explores the philosophy behind God’s chosen people.
“I always saw film as a tool for social change,” he adds. “It’s part of my activism.”
Does God favor God’s chosen people? Or does it mean these chosen people endure more difficult trials? Does it imply superiority? These age-old questions aren’t unique to Gippin’s personal journey, so he raised funds through Kickstarter to begin the project.
Describing himself as an up and coming filmmaker, Gippin began the challenging process of collecting interviews from what he refers to as “rock star rabbis” and other religious professionals to include in his film.
He presented the first rough cut for the documentary a year ago, and an unexpected obstacle presented itself. The biggest criticism of his film turned out to be a lack of objectivity. Gippin had to overcome his own bias and incorporate more points of view in order to start his journey.
“Can I say that we can answer these questions? Maybe not,” he adds. “These are deeply seeded beliefs and it goes deep into the human psyche.”
Judaism isn’t the only religion that refers to its followers as God’s favorites. Because this concept exists across many walks of life, Gippin made the film to apply to all religions to reflect upon.
“I have to tell my story about my religion, and hopefully people of other religions will take these lessons,” he says.
Gippin’s journey currently stands at a crossroads of science and religion. “Why is this such a deeply seeded belief in the 21st century with everything we know about science and people, just looking around us? We’re all just people,” he adds.
Gippin’s film doesn’t condemn religion. He sees the value of faith as it gives people a sense of purpose. His says his positive outlook on the belief of being chosen by God is that it often drives people to do good because they feel like they’re on a divine mission.
However, he knows the topics addressed in the film will make some uncomfortable. “It’s an uncomfortable topic because people have strong convictions,” he adds. “People will get offended, but it’s important to have these conversations.” Gippin describes his documentary as a project for peace. “What does a peace process look like? It’s not people standing in a circle shouting kumbaya. It’s hard conversations.”
Joshua Tree Productions plans to submit “The Chosen People?” to various film festivals, ranging from Sundance to Toronto.
The final force that drove Gippin to complete his documentary, he said, was pain. “Pain from just trying to feel comfortable in my own skin, resentment from this label put on me.”
“The Chosen People?” will be shown Sunday, June 25, 2 p.m. at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Library. The showing will be followed by a Q&A with Gippin and some of the people featured in the documentary.