Valentine’s Day isn’t exactly a Jewish holiday. In fact, in its current American form, a cobbling of Greek and Roman mythology with Catholic martyrdom, thanks to an assist from Chaucer, it’s about as goyish as you can get. However, that doesn’t mean Jews don’t enjoy a little romance! Who can resist the allure of candy hearts, chocolate and romantic candlelit dinners? Except, of course, for Saudi Arabia – they banned Valentine’s day – twice!
It’s up to you whether you take your sweetheart to dinner, go ice skating, or even bowling this Valentine’s Day. But if you want to stay in and cuddle up on the couch with a nice, romantic movie, we’ve got five picks that might be right for you.
1. For The Traditionalist: Fiddler on the Roof
There’s music, there’s romance, there’s ghosts! What could be more romantic than watching a young woman’s desire for true love win out over the arranged marriage system that would see her betrothed to a man twice her age? Featuring classic songs like “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “If I Were A Rich Man,” Fiddler is sure to please the traditionalist in any relationship. Though now over forty years old, the film actually holds up pretty well. And, yes, there is that downer of an ending, but Tevye the milkman does end up coming to terms with his daughters’ choices in love, and that’s a Valentine’s Day message that could warm any heart.
2. For The Whimsical One: The Princess Bride
Now, I’m sure some of you are saying, “Wait a second, what’s so Jewish about The Princess Bride?” And I’m saying, “Are you kidding me?!” The Princess Bride is, at its heart, the story of a Jewish grandfather (Peter Falk), telling his Jewish grandson (Fred Savage), a fairytale to make him feel better while he’s sick. The movie was written by a Jew, directed by a Jew, and positively teeming with Jewish actors (Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane, and Billy Crystal), some of whom are hardly trying to disguise their Jewishness amidst the fantasy surroundings. With comedy, swashbuckling, romance, and adventure, The Princess Bride is a true classic, sure to make any Valentine’s Day night a success.
3. For the Comedienne: Funny Girl
Barbara Streisand’s star-making turn as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl is still a performance to be admired. The movie is also wholly entertaining, featuring some great musical numbers, and some impressive clowning on Streisand’s behalf. A cautionary tale of love, Funny Girl sees Streisand’s Brice fall hard for Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif, of all people), a glittering man who turns out to be something less than golden, in his flawed allure. One of the greatest movie musicals of all time, Funny Girl is well worth spending an evening watching.
4. For the New Yorkers: Annie Hall
Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning masterpiece, Annie Hall is the quintessential New York romance. Starring Woody Allen as the hopelessly nebbish Alvy Singer who falls in love with the eponymous Annie Hall (played by the charming Diane Keaton who was quirky before Zooey Deschanel picked up her first ukulele), this film is ultimately about why a relationship failed, among other things, but it’s hardly depressing. It’s vibrant, funny, and more truthful than most movies can ever hope to be, and it’s rightfully been named as one of the greatest American films. Watching it on Valentine’s Day would be a wonderful way to examine love, and to reaffirm your own joy and laughter with your significant other.
5. For the Interfaith Couple: Keeping the Faith
JDate’s mission is to strengthen the Jewish community and ensure that Jewish traditions are sustained for generations to come. To accomplish this, JDate even provides a “willing to convert” option for those non-Jews who are curious about connecting with someone of the Jewish faith online. One of the best movies for someone in this position would be Keeping the Faith.
Written by a Jewish screenwriter, Stuart Blumberg, and directed by my non-Jewish neighbor, Edward Norton, Keeping the Faith tells the story of a rabbi and a priest who both crush on the same girl. The girl, Anna, played by Jenna Elfman, is not Jewish, but that doesn’t stop Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) from falling in love with her. The film deals with some serious Jewish issues. How does Jake tell his congregation that he’s dating outside the faith? How does he tell his mom? Who will Anna choose? And will she choose to convert? It’s a sweet, fun movie, and great date-night staple, especially for an interfaith couple on Valentine’s Day.
Whatever movie you choose to watch with your JDate on Valentine’s Day, we hope it brings you lots of love, and makes your special night all the more extraordinary.