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Sister Rose's Passion

Director: Oren Jacoby

(Docurama; US DVD: 26 Jun 2006)

It takes a certain kind of person to stand alone in the face of the opposing masses, whether it be for the rights of others or in defense of your own rights.  In this case, that person is Sister Rose Thering, a Catholic nun of the Dominican order who is the subject of Oren Jacoby’s Oscar nominated documentary short and winner of the Best Documentary Short award at the Tribeca Film Festival.


Sister Rose, now 85-years old, dedicated her life to fighting anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church. Born in Plain, Wisconsin, at the beginning of the 20th century, she grew up in a town with no African Americans, one Protestant family, and no Jews. Raised firmly Catholic in a family with 11 children (six girls and five boys), Sister Rose was planted firmly in the middle and was raised in the enclave of working class, white middle America.


A product of the common proselytizing that “Jews are Christ killers” and people to be avoided and shunned at all costs, Sister Rose stood out, for even at a young age she begin to question what she was being taught. Why were Jews so ostracized, particularly by the Catholic Church? As she became a Dominican nun she carried her inborn inclination to challenge the status quo with her. 


Well into the 20th century, the Catholic Church has been unabashedly vocal in its anti-Semitism, and fighting this became Sister Rose’s Passion.  As anti-Semitism became increasingly pronounced in the American landscape, reaching its height in the ‘30s and ‘40s—informal quotas were established at universities that limited the amount of Jewish students accepted, and Jews were excluded from attending social clubs and living in particular neighborhoods – and Sister Rose became an increasingly vocal critic of anti-Semitism in both is public and clerical expressions.  She dedicated her life to challenging head-on intolerance towards Jews and Judaism, continuing her work even today as; most recently, she was opposed to the supposed anti-Semitism she found in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.


Including extras, the documentary is a mere 88 minutes long. The documentary itself is only 37 minutes, so to say that Sister Rose Thering’s incredible life and work is explored in-depth here is not the case.  But it does explore her decision to stand alone for what she thought was right, regardless of the consequences.


The DVD extras contain a number of interesting features: a filmmaker biography and statement, outtakes, Oren Jacoby on The Charlie Rose Show, Sister Rose at the Tribeca Film Festival, and a discussion with Sister Rose herself. In just under 40 minutes, Sister Rose’s Passion allows the viewer to take with them the spirit of her struggle to balance the Catholicism that she pledged her life to and her crusade against anti-Semitism.  Sister Rose is living proof of the adage that one person can make a difference.

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