Last night I watched an interesting Hallmark film with my mom. It was about a woman from a Traditional (Orthodox) Jewish community (Leah) whose husband had passed away, and her husband's brother who was not observing Judaism at all. (He offered her an apple and a slice of cheese, saying that one of these must be kosher...)
The premise of the story is that when the husband dies, if he leaves no children, then his widow is supposed to be married to his brother in order to carry on his name. Despite being in some sort of relationship already, the brother decides that he actually wants to take this tradition, because to not take his husband's widow as a wife would seem like denying his brother's existence, something he didn't want to do.
So the widow agrees to move to Georgetown with her brother-in-law, though they insist on living as "roommates" instead of as husband and wife. Now, eventually the couple ends up falling in love and making a happy marriage, but there are a few things that I found interesting.
First of all, we can see how a woman who is not observant of the traditional practices regarding dress and modesty feels uncomfortable by wearing a short dress, while in a room of women wearing longer clothes. There was also a point made about the segregation of men and women at the funeral which might have seemed to some to be overkill. It looked to me, however, that an attempt was being made to show the Traditional Jewish community as being weird by being so "religious."
What ends up happening is that instead of bringing her new husband more towards faith, Leah actually ends up leaving many of her own customs behind. She decides to uncover her hair for instance, while shortening her skirts. She doesn't leave her faith entirely, but begins attending a Reform Temple (something that really upset her mother.)
I couldn't say for sure, but it seemed that there was a subtle message that it was better for her (according to the filmmakers) that she be less strict in her religious observation. Every time she encountered a new situation she would use religion as an excuse for her awkwardness. At times it was endearing and at times it was... obtuse.
I wonder why it is that Americans so love to see religious communities being assimilated into the mainstream. Why is it that religious observation is seen as oppressive and backwards? Overall that's what bothered me about the film.