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Religious Hope from the Movies: DEFENDING YOUR LIFE (1991)

DIRECTED BY: Albert Brooks

STARRING: Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep, Rip Torn, Buck Henry, Lee Grant



Hosted by Rabbi Josh Hammerman


DEFENDING YOUR LIFE, the 1991 comedy starring a typically neurotic Albert Brooks and a strikingly uncomplicated Meryl Streep, invites us to probe deep questions about death and the hereafter, as well as the choices we make here on Earth. Brooks’ character dies tragically in a car accident and instantly finds himself in a sort of ‘90s-L.A. version of purgatory called “Judgment City.” Assisted by his sort-of lawyer, played by Rip Torn, Brooks awaits a sort-of trial to determine whether he qualifies for a sort-of salvation or whether he needs to go back to Earth and try, try again. With a nod to eastern spirituality and reincarnation and Christianity’s focus on the redemptive power of love, the film also echoes major themes in Jewish thought, including soul searching, an especially timely topic with the High Holidays approaching. The film is prescient in imagining a world where technology enables every moment of our lives to be eternally replayed, reviewed and second guessed. Is such a world heaven? Or is it hell?

About the Host:

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman is celebrating his 30th year serving as spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Stamford. He received his B.A. from Brown University, Magna Cum Laude, where he twice won the university’s prestigious Bishop McVickar Prize in Religious Studies. He also received a master’s degree from NYU in journalism and was ordained in 1983 by the Jewish Theological Seminary. A noted author, journalist and blogger, he is past president of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut and a leading advocate for dialogue and coexistence in our community. Rabbi Hammerman loves surfing the Internet, rooting for the Boston Red Sox, a good, Israeli hummus, and all things Jewish. He lives with his wife, Dr. Mara Hammerman, a psychologist, two children, Ethan and Daniel, and their two standard poodles, Crosby and Chloe.




RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes






Carte Blanche: FREE
Nonmembers - $12
Members - $7
Students/Seniors (Mon - Thu) - $9




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