Jewish filmmaker brings together Christians, Jews, liberals, conservatives with Genesis documentary

Nolan Lebovitz
Nolan Lebovitz

By JASON REYNOLDS

Tennessee Christian News

One man is calling for a revival in America. It’s not a revival with tents in fields and guest speakers from visiting churches thundering out a message from the New Testament.

No, this revival-caller attends a synagogue, and the scripture he is quoting is from the Torah — more specifically, the Book of Genesis. (The Jewish Torah includes the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, but of course, well predates Christianity.)

Call for revival

Hollywood filmmaker Nolan Lebovitz is pushing for a 21st century revival, using his gift of movie-making and the Internet instead of tents. He is traveling from city to city to screen a documentary that makes the case that Genesis holds the key for America “to lift itself out of its current decline and return it to prosperity, promise and accomplishment.”

The documentary is “Roadmap Genesis: The Map for Mankind.” Lebovitz said he hopes to show the film in Nashville in late July. More details will be announced soon.

Nashville is only one of many cities that Lebovitz has been traveling to with his message. He screens the documentary at churches, synagogues and theaters.

Broad religious appeal

The documentary has been endorsed by both Jewish and Christian leaders, from former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis) to Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
In the documentary, Lebovitz travels the country conducting 26 interviews with leaders like Huckabee; Ham; Cardinal Francis George, archbishop emeritus of Chicago; and Rabbi David Wolpe.

“The amazing thing is that after watching the screening, people are shocked there is so much agreement between them,” Lebovitz said. “For one example, they are shocked that everyone in the film wants to protect the environment. People on the left are surprised that Huckabee said it’s our job to take care of the earth. Conservatives are shocked to see that liberals are shocked. Why? We’re taught today to approach everything with the most divisive question possible first.”

Shared values

To get beyond heated rhetoric, people need to use a joint narrative, and Genesis is humanity’s oldest shared narrative, Lebovitz said.
“We can look back on these common values and how to use these values to help our families and communities move forward,” he said.

The Book of Genesis is the very foundation of America and is what made the country so unique, Lebovitz said.

“To remove the Judeo-Christian ethic from this country and have moral relativism is what leads us into trouble,” he said. “We have no values we are willing to stand up for. People around the world … who oppose us have no problem expressing what values they want to stand up for, and their kids have foundational texts going back hundreds of years. Genesis gave birth to all of Western Civilization, and to turn our backs on Genesis now would be a mistake of catastrophic proportions.”

Lebovitz was not always focused on biblical history.

Hollywood connections

He has worked in Hollywood for many years making movies and sitcoms. His last major movie was “Tortured” in 2008, which he wrote and directed; the thriller starred Laurence Fishburne and James Cromwell.

During his filmmaking days, Lebovitz got married, had children and started to question the world around him.

“I had my first child, and things started to look different for me,” he said. “I became addicted to the Bible, and it’s dangerous to read the Bible,” he said of Torah, which Jews call the Bible. “I tell people it sent me on a different course. When I picked up the Bible … it read totally different than the childhood stories read to me in the synagogue as a child. I couldn’t believe it could speak to me as a husband, father and adult citizen.”

Rabbi in training

The Bible spoke so strongly that it changed Lebovitz’ life.

“In the Jewish faith there are lots of rabbinic commentaries on different pieces of the Bible. I decided to study to be a rabbi.”
That news was quite a shock for his wife. But moving ahead with his plans, Lebovitz began studying at the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University near Los Angeles.

In 2013, the family lived for a year in Jerusalem as well while he studied there. In late 2012, Lebovitz began working on his documentary.

Now, he serves as the rabbinic intern at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. He writes a blog for JewishJournal.com, which is titled “Israel, Torah and Me.” Lebovitz lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Blair, and their three children. He will be ordained as a rabbi next year.

The documentary is available for download or on DVD from Lebovitz’ website, RoadmapGenesis.com.

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