8 of the Best Movies to Stream for Jewish-American Heritage Month

published May 20, 2024
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May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and one of the best ways to learn about Jewish culture and traditions is by watching it unfold on film. There are hundreds of movies out there that explore a range of perspectives, from facing antisemitism to honoring (and even questioning) traditions to building family bonds. Looking for a movie night recommendation? Here are eight movies made by or about Jewish people to watch this month. 

Fiddler on the Roof

While this musical film is over 50 years old (and the Broadway show it’s based on is even older!), its story and message are more relevant than ever today. Set in the fictional Ukrainian town of Anatevka at the turn of the 20th century, Fiddler tells the story of a traditional Jewish father grappling with pogroms (antisemitic raids and massacres) in his village, as well as daughters who want to adopt a more modern lifestyle.   

How to Watch: Stream on Tubi

Yentl

Barbra Streisand was the first woman to win a Best Director Golden Globe for Yentl — and she starred as the title character. Like Fiddler on the Roof, Yentl also delves into issues that are still prevalent with the addition of iconic songs. Yentl is a Jewish woman living in Eastern Europe in 1904. She has a strong desire to study the Talmud (a text of Jewish practices and laws), but can’t because she is a woman. After her father, a beloved Talmudic law teacher, passes away, she decides to disguise herself as a man to get the education she craves. The usual situation unfolds — Yentl falls in love with a fellow student, who doesn’t know her true identity, and Yentl has to figure out how to tell them the truth while living her own.  

How to Watch: Stream on Tubi

An American Tail

In An American Tail, Fievel Mousekewitz and his family (all mice, of course) flee their antisemitic home in Russia for a better life in America (specifically the Lower East Side of Manhattan). This animated film beautifully explains why many Jewish families in Eastern Europe saw America as a better opportunity. Fievel’s big ballad, “Somewhere Out There” is always a crowd-pleaser — and a tearjerker!   

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon Prime

Keeping the Faith

In many Jewish families, there can be pressure to marry someone else who is Jewish. Keeping the Faith explores why — even for the most devout Jews (such as a rabbi) — that’s not always a reasonable expectation. Jake (Ben Stiller) is a rabbi, and his lifelong best friend, Brian (Ed Norton), is a Catholic priest. Things become complicated when their childhood crush, Anna (Jenna Elfman), comes back into their lives, and both have feelings for her, which neither can act on. Overall, Keeping the Faith is a great conversation starter on how religion and love intermingle.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon Prime

Funny Girl

While films like Yentl and Fiddler on the Roof portray Jewish women trying to break free of outdated Jewish traditions, Funny Girl’s Fanny Brice (also played by Barbra Streisand) is strong, confident, and unapologetic from the moment you meet her. It’s a musical portrayal of a Jewish woman going after what she wants in life and pushing through boundaries to get there. Don’t you dare rain on her parade.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon Prime

School Ties

While School Ties is set at a prep school in the 1950s, the story is as relatable as ever. Brendan Fraser plays David Greene, a talented football player on scholarship. He hides that he is Jewish from his classmates and teachers because he fears they are antisemitic — and unfortunately, it turns out his fears are justified.

How to Watch: Stream on PlutoTV

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg is arguably one of the most famous Jewish storytellers and filmmakers in cinematic history, and one of his most revered films is the Academy Award-winning Schindler’s List. But in 2022, Spielberg released a deeply personal and autobiographical film called The Fabelmans that tells the story of how his Jewish upbringing — including going up against antisemitic bullies — influenced his career.  

How to Watch: Stream on YouTube

You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah

The bar/bat mitzvah is one of the most treasured Jewish rites of passage. When Jewish children turn 13, they’re then seen as “adult” in the eyes of Judaism. They celebrate the coming-of-age moment first with a special service in a temple, and then a huge party. And  all the planning and preparing that goes into a bar/bat mitzvah occurs during the emotional ups and downs of puberty. You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, starring Adam Sandler and his own daughters Sadie and Sunny, perfectly shows how this monumental time in a young Jewish adult’s life is just as meaningful and special as it is awkward — and drama-fueled!

How to Watch: Stream on Netflix