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Watch the movie trailer and more at the film's website!
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156 backers pledged $20,127 to help bring this project to life.

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The Chosen People? A Documentary on Jewish Identity

$20,127

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While the ancients struggled with what it means to be chosen, the feeling is that their answers are not ours. We must find our own. Perhaps it is the issue of our day.

- Rabbi Susan Stone, project advisor

Josh Gippin's film will be useful in the Jewish community (in synagogues and schools for adults and children) and in the non-Jewish community as a way of better understanding what Judaism is all about. I look forward to its completion.

- Rabbi David Horowitz, project advisor


I hope this film will be an act of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) by initiating a vital conversation that will help strengthen the fabric of Jewish communities around the world and, at the same time, bring us closer to our non-Jewish brothers and sisters.

- Joshua Gippin, filmmaker

If you haven’t already, please watch the brief video intro to this project. (above)

The Chosen People? documentary will take an in depth look at the doctrine that Jews are God’s Chosen Ones. The film will present a broad spectrum of views on this hotly contested topic. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews will all weigh in. We’ll also interview a diverse group of non-Jews, whose feelings toward Jews range from love and admiration to envy and hatred.

We’ll ask rabbis and Jewish scholars:

  • How important is the doctrine of chosen-ness? Why is it so important?
  • Historically, what are the various ways in which this doctrine has been interpreted?
  • In contemporary Jewish society, what are the various ways in which this doctrine is interpreted? How do you interpret this doctrine?
  • What does it mean to be chosen by God? Chosen for what?
  • Who gets counted among The Chosen Ones? All Jews? Who is Jewish?

We’ll ask Jewish historians, sociologists, and culture critics:

  • How does the chosen-ness doctrine relate to the historical narrative of Jewish exceptionalism? (the idea that the Jewish people has made an extraordinary and disproportionately large contribution to humanity)
  •  Is Jewish exceptionalism fact or fiction? Why? How does a belief in chosen-ness affect Jewish identity and behavior?
  • Historically, how has the chosen-ness doctrine been misappropriated and misused to fuel anti-semitic rhetoric?

We’ll ask a diverse sample of Jewish and non-Jewish lay persons:

What have you heard about the idea that Jews are The Chosen People? What does that mean to you? (The goal is to get a sample of the most popular, widespread beliefs on the topic.)

These initial questions are the seeds from which many more questions will sprout.

We need your support to bring this important project to fruition!

About The Filmmaker

Joshua Gippin is committed to producing documentaries that help make the world a better place. He studied cultural anthropology and caught the film making bug while working on his master's project back in 2002. The rest is history. His films have appeared on PBS and in film festivals around the world. Here is a partial filmography:

  • 2003 - THE RAISED MACHETE: FARM WORKER VOICES FROM ECUADOR (This film addressed the struggles faced by farm workers in a tiny South American country that must contend with powerful global forces.)
  • 2006 - THE GRIZZLED WIZARD OF WASTE NOT WANT NOT (This film calls for stewardship of the planet, as seen through the eyes of P.R. Miller, a local junk artist.)
  • 2008 - GOD AS WE UNDERSTAND HIM: A FILM ABOUT FAITH AND THE TWELVE STEP MOVEMENT (This film explores how people of various faiths and creeds work the 12 Steps and support one another in fellowship. This film is utilized in support groups around the world to help people overcome spiritual obstacles to recovery.)
  • 2008 - THE BIRTH OF AMELIA ROSE (This film documents the birth of the filmmaker's daughter. With over 1.5 million views, this film has proven to have a very calming effect on expectant mothers who harbor anxiety about child birth.)
  • 2009 - THE BUBBA BRIEFS: A MOTION PORTRAIT OF MY GRANDMOTHER (This film preserves the life stories of the filmmaker's grandmother, so they may be passed down to future generations.)
  • 2012 - NO ROADMAP: CAREGIVER JOURNEYS (This film features four families who reveal their insights about providing care for an elder family member. The film is utilized as an educational tool to help health care professionals understand and empathize with caregivers.
  • 2012 - PORTRAITS OF LIFE, LOVE AND LEGACY THROUGH PEDIATRIC PALLIATIVE CARE (In this film, seven families share intimate stories of unthinkable journeys caring for their own seriously ill or dying children. Their close partnerships with a pediatric palliative care team helps ease the suffering on many levels.)

About The Cinematographer

Shane Wynn is Joshua Gippin's wife and partner on many of his creative projects. An award-winning photographer with over 20 years of experience, Shane is charged with making this film aesthetically beautiful.

About The Advisors

The topic of this film is sensitive and deeply controversial, which is why the filmmaker has sought counsel from the two rabbis that he trusts the most in the world: Rabbi David M. Horowitz and Rabbi Susan Berman Stone.

Rabbi David Horowitz has dedicated his career to advancing progressive political, social and spiritual values through his work as a religious leader, political consultant, ethics adviser and guest lecturer. His portfolio of advocacy work concentrates on four core areas: 1. Jewish Religious Practice and Philosophy; 2. Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered Rights; 3. Interfaith Cooperation; 4. Race and Social Justice Issues.

"When I was a student at the seminary, I remember a classmate slipping me a note during class which read, "David, if we're the chosen people, do you think God would mind choosing another people for awhile?" Among those who are not Jewish, there are some who love the Jewish people because we are "chosen by God," and some who hate us for the exact same reason. I would suggest that both groups read the meaning of chosen people incorrectly. Josh Gippin's film will explore and clarify the definition of what chosen is truly about and will be useful in the Jewish community (in synagogues and schools for adults and children) and in the non-Jewish community as a way of better understanding what Judaism is all about. I look forward to its completion."

- Rabbi David Horowitz

Rabbi Susan Stone has worked in the rabbinate in a variety of settings. She has vast expertise working in the space where faith comes in contact with human struggle in the real world: providing counseling to persons with alcohol and drug addictions, and spiritual care to patients with life-threatening illnesses. In addition, she has extensive expertise in managing non profits, strategic planning, and development.

"Remember when we were kids there was a list of things we Jews weren’t supposed to talk about? Cancer. Alcoholism. Gay and lesbian family members. Slinging chickens over our heads before Yom Kippur.  Well – I am grateful that lots of those are now on the “sure, we can talk about it list." But there’s one other that’s still on the list: chosenness.

Yup, this one’s still in the closet. For most, I would venture to say, it is up there with slinging chickens: we’d rather not think about it. But we must. While the ancients struggled with what it means to be chosen, the feeling is that their answers are not ours. We must find our own. Perhaps it is the issue of our day: finding our own places in the midst of the Jewish people and in the midst of the world as a whole."

- Rabbi Susan Stone

Risks and challenges

The biggest risk has been this fundraising campaign! With the funding in hand, I am totally confident that I can complete this film in two years or less.

Over the past decade, I have produced dozens of feature length and short documentaries, which have appeared on PBS and in film festivals around the U.S. In addition, I have completed hundreds of other video projects for clients. I know what it takes to get the job done on time and on budget.

That said, there are definitely real risks. The biggest is that this film cannot get produced without the filmmaker. Health problems could delay the project's completion and loss of life would likely terminate this project. (Rest assured, the filmmaker is quite healthy.)

A big challenge with any documentary project on a controversial topic is convincing people to speak on camera. The toughest interviews, in this case, would be with individuals who are antisemitic. If I am unable to present any important perspective on this topic by direct interview, I will present those perspectives in other ways.

I have tremendous reverence for the ethics of journalism and hold myself to the highest possible standards of fairness and honesty.

The biggest challenge I see with this project has to do with my own expectations. I want this film to reach Jewish communities all over the world, and I know that it must do well on the festival circuit in order to reach the broadest possible audience.

That said, we can produce an excellent documentary film on a $20,000 budget that would serve as a wonderful resource for any synagogue, JCC, or Hillel to initiate an open, honest conversation on this vitally important topic.

Reaching our $20,000 goal will allow us to film about twenty interviews in the Akron/Cleveland area. I am confident that I can get amazing interview footage with brilliant, insightful people right here in Northeast Ohio.

Our $20,000 goal is the minimum we need to produce this film, but we would be thrilled to have a higher operating budget and would be so incredibly grateful if you would help us reach our STRETCH GOALS:

A $30,000 budget would allow us to film additional interviews in places like Pittsburgh and Columbus.

A $40,000 budget would allow us to film additional interviews as far afield as New York and San Francisco.

A $50,000 budget would allow us to film additional interviews as far afield as London and Tel Aviv.

$100,000 is our dream budget, which would allow us to interview anyone anywhere in the world and pull out all the stops in terms of cinematography and graphics. Also, this budget would allow for some promotion of the film: festival submissions, press releases and advertising in Jewish magazines and news sources, as well as outreach to Jewish organizations around the world.

In short, there is little risk that the filmmaker will complete the project. The challenge is to make the best possible film that has the potential of receiving critical acclaim and reaching the broadest possible audience. Can we make a powerful, thought-provoking film on a $20,000 budget? Absolutely! Should you still back the project after we've reached our $20,000 goal? Absolutely! The more funds we raise, the better the chances of this film's success on the festival circuit and beyond.

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    Thank you! Every bit of gelt helps. You’ll receive updates throughout production.

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    Todah rabah! Many thanks! You'll receive a DVD of the finished film, including additional content not available anywhere else!

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    L'chaim! Thanks a lot! You'll receive a DVD and a digital download of the finished film + choose any one of the following limited edition DVDs created by Joshua Tree Productions: The Grizzled Wizard of Waste Not Want Not, God as we understand Him: a film about faith and the 12 Step Movement, The Bubba Briefs: A Motion Portrait of My Grandmother

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    All my schmoozing must have paid off. Thank you for your generosity! You'll receive a DVD and a digital download of the finished film + Joshua Tree Productions DVD collection, which includes the following limited edition DVDs: The Grizzled Wizard of Waste Not Want Not, God as we understand Him: a film about faith and the 12 Step Movement, The Bubba Briefs: A Motion Portrait of My Grandmother

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    Wow! Thank you so much! You're a real macher. Here are your rewards: 1. Your name in the film’s ‘THANK YOU’ credits
    2. Invitation to events related to the project
    3. Two DVDs and a digital download of the finished film
    4. Joshua Tree Productions DVD collection, which includes the following limited edition DVDs: The Grizzled Wizard of Waste Not Want Not, God as we understand Him: a film about faith and the 12 Step Movement, The Bubba Briefs: A Motion Portrait of My Grandmother.

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    ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORTER:
    Shalom! I'm so grateful for your support! You are entitled to the following:
    1. Your organization's name in the film's 'THANK YOU' credits
    2. Two invitations to events related to the project
    3. Three DVDs and a digital download of the finished film
    4. Licensed for public viewing (without charging admission)

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    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    Are you meshuga?! That's a lot of money! Seriously though, it's going to a wonderful cause. Please accept these gifts in gratitude:
    1. Your name in the film’s ‘SPECIAL THANKS’ credits 2. Two invitations to events related to the project 3. Two DVDs and a digital download of the finished film 4. Joshua Tree Productions DVD collection 5. Limited Edition Photo Book compiled from film production stills, autographed by cinematographer Shane Wynn and filmmaker Joshua Gippin

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    ORGANIZATIONAL SPONSOR: I'm verklempt. This is such a huge act of faith and generosity. Here's what I can offer as a token of my gratitude:
    1. Your organization's name in the film's 'SPONSOR' credits
    2. Two VIP invitations to future events related to the project
    3. Five DVDs and a digital download of the finished film
    4. Limited Edition Photo Book compiled from film production stills, autographed by cinematographer Shane Wynn and filmmaker Joshua Gippin
    5. Licensed for public viewing (admission may be charged at your discretion)
    5. Skype with the filmmaker after a screening

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    INDIVIDUAL SPONSOR: Whether or not you are a blood relative I want you to know that I consider you mishpocha. You're family. Here's what I can offer as a token of my gratitude: 1. Your name in the film's 'SPONSOR' credits 2. Two VIP invitations to future events related to the project 3. Five DVDs and a digital download of the finished film 4. Joshua Tree Productions DVD Collection 5. 2 Limited Edition Photo Books compiled from film production stills, autographed by cinematographer Shane Wynn and filmmaker Joshua Gippin

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    Pledge US$ 5,000 or more About US$ 5,000

    Mazel Tov! Your contribution will pay for such a huge portion of this project that you've earned the title of ASSOCIATE PRODUCER, and that's how you'll be credited. If you represent an organization, we'll include your logo. You'll also receive:
    1. Four VIP invitations to future events related to the project
    2. Ten DVDs and a digital download of the finished film
    3. Limited Edition Photo Book compiled from film production stills, autographed by cinematographer Shane Wynn and filmmaker Joshua Gippin
    4. Licensed for public viewing (admission may be charged at your discretion)
    5. Private screening for your group with filmmaker Joshua Gippin (travel expenses not included)

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Funding period

- (30 days)