Over the weekend Keleigh and I watched the new movie You People on Netflix. It’s more or less an updated version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? It stars Jonah Hill as Ezra Cohen, Lauren London as his fiancee Amira Mohammed, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny, Eddie Murphy and Nia Long as the parents of the couple. It was written by Hill and Kenya Barris, the creator of black-ish and grown-ish, and was also directed by Barris.
Akbar and Fatima Mohammed, played by Murphy and Long, are followers of Louis Farrakhan. At the in-law’s first meeting Akbar wears a kufi, essentially a Muslim kippah (and the two words are related), which he proudly says was given to him as a gift by Farrakhan. The ideology promulgated by Farrakhan, as you probably know, is anti-White and anti-Jewish and Akbar is, to say the least, not supportive of the couple’s plans to get married. The Cohen family are basically secular Jews and they at least on the surface have no issue with their son marrying a non-Jewish Black woman, but in their attempt to be ingratiating are overbearing, clueless, and unintentionally offensive.
I’ve never watched a movie which got such disparate reviews. Some reviewers bashed it and some loved it. Some of the criticism, especially in Jewish publications, was that the movie did not sufficiently condemn Farrakhan’s ideology. While there is some truth in that criticism, the movie is a romantic comedy and not a treatise on race relations, antisemitism, or the differences between Farrakhan’s “Nation of Islam” and the normative Muslim religion. I thought that the movie was quite funny, if cringeworthy at times, and Louis-Dreyfus and Murphy still have their comedic chops. I also thought the ending, a stereotypical one for a rom-com, was not well-developed. If you watch the movie, I would love to hear your thoughts and maybe we can find a way to have a discussion about it.
We are once again having a sponsored Kiddush after services this Shabbat. If you are planning to attend, it is really helpful for you to register at https://forms.gle/rjpgEFVeBurcBxVn8. If you have not registered and decide at the last minute to attend, you will of course still be joyfully welcomed. However, advance registration helps us to determine how much food to prepare for Kiddush without being wasteful. Your assistance is appreciated -- from weekly experience I can tell you that filling out the registration form literally takes less than 30 seconds.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian