PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- As Jewish faithful gather to celebrate traditional Passover Seders this April, many households will read a short fable of family, faith and tradition, a story passed down for centuries. The tale, known as "The Four Sons," has inspired countless spin-offs and alterations over generations. Allen Oren, a communications professor at Pace University, examines this timeless tale in his upcoming documentary, "The Four Sons And All Their Sons: A Passover Tale," which will air nationally on PBS.
An Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker, Oren received critical acclaim for his first faith-based film, "18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre," which was released in 2011. The documentary explains the sacred ancient chant and discusses its importance in the Jewish tradition. In his newest film, Oren explores one of the oldest, most well-loved Passover stories, sharing more than thirty versions of the tale in art, music and words.
"The Haggada, which is the book sung at Jewish Passover meals, contains a short story about four sons," said Oren. "One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and the other is silent. The story explains how the father treats each of the sons differently, and is a reminder how we need to understand each person individually and be respectful of that individuality."
What makes the story special, he explained, is how it has been passed down and adapted from generation to generation. "As I began going to other Seders, I discovered there were so many different versions of 'The Four Sons' story," said Oren. "Each take was different. I believe that what makes this story so appealing is that it explains how we pass down our beliefs to our children."
In the film Oren interviews faithful from ages 17 to 70, uncovers their unique Sader rituals, explains the tradition, and explores how the tale has been passed down in communities and families. Even for non-Jews, he believes the story's message still resonates. "Every faith contains the notion of passing on beliefs and traditions to the next generation, which is why what Jews do on Passover is applicable to other faiths."
Today, Oren sees an increased interest in familial history and culture, especially on college campuses like Pace. "More so in universities than anywhere else, people are becoming more interested in their own heritage, faith or nationality," he said. "Students care about their individual identity and are interested in other people’s as well."
To watch a preview of "The Four Sons And All Their Sons: A Passover Tale," click here.
For more information on the documentary and to see its full schedule of airings, click here.