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Bavaria Fiction shoots new moving documentary

Photo: Dirk Heuer

Munich - Bavaria Fiction is currently filming a 60-minute documentary about Rabbi Akiva Weingarten for 3sat, showing his journey from an ultra-Orthodox community in New York to a new, self-determined life as a liberal rabbi in Germany.

“Ultra-Orthodox: Rabbi Akiva’s Journey to Freedom” (working title) is executive produced by Emanuel Rotstein together with Leon Spanier. Rotstein is also the director and author of the film. The editors responsible for ZDF and 3sat are Harald Hamm and Dirk Heihoff. The film will be broadcast on March 6 at 9:45 p.m. on 3sat and will be available in advance from February 28 in the 3satMediathek. All rights outside Germany, Austria and Switzerland are held by Bavaria Fiction.

Emanuel Rotstein, Executive Producer and Head of Documentaries at Bavaria Fiction: “Our documentary tells the moving life story of Akiva Weingarten and his search for freedom and personal development. The repercussions he faced for leaving the ultra-Orthodox community have been severe. We take a look at the struggle for his children and his inner conflicts, but also show the diversity of Jewish faith, culture and traditions.”

Rabbi Akiva Weingarten: “The documentary project is very close to my heart, as I want to show those that encounter a similar situation that they are not alone on their path and that there is help available. At the same time, it is very important to me to show the incredible hurdles we face when we decide to live outside the ultra-Orthodox community.”

Natalie Müller-Elmau, Senior Vice President 3sat: “The film tells a personal life story and at the same time something universal, namely what happens when you have to break with traditions and constraints in the fight for your own freedom. We like to give space to such stories with extraordinary protagonists, because existential questions are explored here – profound but not top-heavy."

Akiva Weingarten, born and raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish Satmar community in New York, decides to break out of his world in 2014. He flees to Germany and begins a new life in freedom. But his escape comes at a high price: he has to leave his three children behind. A long and bitter battle to get his children back begins. Weingarten not only had to overcome the legal hurdles, but also the resistance of the ultra-Orthodox community. Today, Weingarten lives as a rabbi in Dresden and is the chairman of a liberal Jewish community that supports those who leave ultra-Orthodox communities and helps them to integrate professionally into modern society.