Post­ed by Nat Bern­stein

Since the advent of talkies, Yom Kip­pur has become a crux of the Jew­ish Amer­i­can nar­ra­tive in film. So, though we usu­al­ly focus on books — don’t wor­ry, we have read­ing sug­ges­tions for the 5775 High Hol­i­days, too — we’d be remiss to neglect the approach­ing Day of Atone­ment in the movies. Com­e­dy to Dra­ma to Musi­cal to Romance, here are five films in which you might be sur­prised to hear the tra­di­tion­al Yom Kip­pur liturgy:

1. The Jazz Singer (1927)
Ok, this one shouldn’t come as a sur­prise. Al Jol­son stars in the first talkie as Jakie Rabi­nowitz, the son of a strict Jew­ish can­tor, who flees his par­ents’ home and com­mu­ni­ty to sing jazz as Jack Robin.” Over the years, Rabinowitz’s assumed per­sona achieves great suc­cess as a jazz singer but can­not gar­ner his father’s accep­tance, and when the aging can­tor falls ill on the Eve of Yom Kip­pur our hero is faced with the deci­sion of whether to return home and deliv­er Kol Nidre in his father’s stead or per­form in the open­ing of his own Broad­way show that same night.

2. Hol­ly­wood some­how felt com­pelled to remake The Jazz Singer with Neil Dia­mond in the star­ring role. Here’s hop­ing they left the black­face out the sec­ond time around.

3. Keep­ing the Faith (2000)
Ben Stiller and Edward Nor­ton costar as two cler­gy­men of dif­fer­ent faiths who are best friends and in love with the same woman. The young rabbi’s moment of truth comes, of course, on the Eve of Yom Kip­pur, when he address­es his con­gre­gants imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the Kol Nidre recita­tion. (Tough act to fol­low, amirite?)

4. Kiss­ing Jes­si­ca Stein (2001)
There was one thought run­ning through my head the first time I final­ly saw Jen­nifer Westfeldt’s break­out film: HOW HAVENEV­ER WATCHED THIS BEFORE? It is SO Jew­ish, in all the best ways. But more to the point: The movie opens with the protagonist’s moth­er and grand­moth­er ana­lyz­ing Jessica’s dat­ing life over our heroine’s head in the mid­dle of Yom Kip­pur ser­vices. Would you shut up? I’m aton­ing!” the harassed young woman final­ly bel­lows, draw­ing the star­tled atten­tion of the entire con­gre­ga­tion. Great scene.

5. The Believ­er (2001)
(Pre-hearthrob Ryan Gosling researched for this role at my friend’s bar mitz­vah.) Based on the true sto­ry of an Amer­i­can Nazi Par­ty and the KKK mem­ber who was secret­ly Jew­ish, The Believ­er sends its vio­lent pro­tag­o­nist to the bima on Yom Kip­pur, but not to repent. (Spoil­er alert on the clip!)

Hon­or­able men­tion goes to that cute inter­faith French cou­ple argu­ing over eat­ing on Yom Kip­pur in God is Great and I Am Not (2001). Man, the ear­ly aughts were great for fic­tion­al Jews on the Sil­ver Screen.

Nat Bern­stein is the for­mer Man­ag­er of Dig­i­tal Con­tent & Media, JBC Net­work Coor­di­na­tor, and Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and a grad­u­ate of Hamp­shire College.