Kosher Love’s director Evan Beloff, left, with Michael Gamliel, his wife, Miriam. (photo from cbc.ca/firsthand/episodes/kosher-love)
To all those who believe in marrying for love, Montreal-based matchmaker Rabbi Yisroel Bernath asks, “What happens when the romance fails?”
Bernath is spiritual director at Chabad of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and a chaplain at Concordia University. Known by some as “the Love Rabbi,” he is at the centre of the documentary Kosher Love, which can be see at this year’s Vancouver Jewish Film Festival on Nov. 5, 4 p.m., at Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
The film’s mostly light tone and creative compilation, which includes animation, make for an interesting peek into the ultra-Orthodox world and how its members meet one another, marry and start a family. Bernath seems like an affable man, even though he divides North America’s Jews into only three groups – those who watch Seinfeld and eat bagels, those who are Orthodox and those who are Chassidim – never mind the scores of other affiliations and levels of observance.
What is particularly compelling is that Bernath is open to hearing, if not being swayed by, different points of view. There is one scene between the rabbi and a married couple he matched, in which the woman is comfortable and confident enough to strongly present her opinion that love is a vital part of a relationship. She doesn’t back down when Bernath accuses her of being overly romantic, but rather digs her heels in and tells him, with some vehemence, that she doesn’t agree with him.
Viewers also meet a nightmare mother and son. The mother, whose daughters have both married, is quite obnoxiously desperate to marry off her 33-year-old son. But the man-child YoNatan, a DJ, is clearly more in love with himself and his music than he could ever be with anyone else. YoNatan was never going to add to Bernath’s total of 50-plus successful matches.
As the Montreal Gazette noted in its review, “Regardless of the personalities in Kosher Love, it really transcends religion in touching on universal themes. It is the view of Bernath that love develops over time, but that in today’s fast-paced world, few have the patience to wait.” When and how love develops, and how it can be nurtured, are all worthwhile ideas to consider, and director Evan Beloff offers a charming and engaging introduction to some Jewish thoughts on the subject.
Beloff will be at the film festival’s Nov. 5 screening. For tickets and the festival schedule, visit vjff.org.