INTERVIEW: Discussing ‘Taharah’ and Queer Jewish Upbringings with Writer and Producer Jess Zeidman

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Jess Zeidman Tahara - But Why Tho

Tahara is a queer, Jewish coming-of-age film from director Olivia Peace and writer Jess Zeidman. I saw myself profoundly in this movie, and after spilling hundreds of words and much of my heart into my review, I had the chance to speak with Zeidman about how the movie came to be, the people that went into making it, and how life as a queer, movie-loving Jew shaped the movie in the end.

Zeidman begins by sharing her feelings about Tahara finally being out in the world, before sharing a history of how she began working on the movie during college and all of the steps it took to reach big screens. She also lauds the many friends and creative partners who were part of making her screenplay into the final, excellent product we can see today.

The bulk of our discussion revolves around how Zeidman’s Jewish, queer, teenage years informed the characters and the setting especially. She shares how foremost, she sees Tahara’s depiction of communal Jewish life as aspriational, especially as its synagogue is show to be racially diverse and genuinely inclusive. She’s hopeful that any teens, Jewish or otherwise, can pick up this movie and see themselves in its awkward encounters and its community alike. She also hopes it can be a window into a specific aspect of American Jewish teenagedom that most non-Jewish teens simply are not exposed to and do not understand, no matter how many Jewish friends they have.

Of course, this movie is for Jewish teens in particular as well.  Zeidman and I discussed the ways that underneath its top-most layer, Tahara is a movie that emobies the reality of so many of the Jewish teen spaces (and teen spaces perhaps generally: that they are over-sexualized and compulsarily heternormative, reinforced by peer pressure and unhealthy adult relationships alike. It’s not explicit, but Zeidman explains how this part of her Jewish teenage years was hugely formative, even if she was often on the sidelines of some of it.

Hear about all of this, how Jess Zeidman and I would fix Jewish communal life for teens given the power, and more in our full interview on the But Why Tho? Podcast feed.

Tahara is playing now in select theaters with more theaters coming soon.


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