Once a Rabbi, Always a Rabbi

My late wife Marion and I worked together the way every director and film editor should—inside each other's heads. From our very first meeting, I was struck by Marion’s vast knowledge of literature, art and film and I thought…maybe we could work together.

Marion invited me to a screening of “Badlands" the first film she edited and I was overwhelmed. She introduced me to the executive producer, Max Palevsky and the director, Terrence Malick. They raved about Marion and what it was like to work with her. Max was particularly interested in my background. His grandfather, he said, had been a rabbi somewhere in Eastern Europe and left to join the Yiddish theater. He said that when we completed the film we were working on, he would like to talk to me. Max made big pictures with huge budgets and I was eager to step into that category. I told him that if there was anything we could do together, I would be delighted.

Marion and I went to Israel to make our first film together. Valor was a low-budget attempt to make a complicated war story. The shooting started off well, but in the last week of principal photography, we hit a serious snag. The army recalled our C-147s which were essential to the plot of our film. Unfortunately, there was an incursion on the Syrian border and those planes had to bring up a battalion of Israeli forces to drive them back. The battle was over within several days but the Army refused to tie up the transport planes again.

It seemed like a catastrophe at first, but Marion saved the film – and my ass – in the editing room. By using quick cuts, stock footage, unexpected sound stings and miniature mockups, she created the impression that the actors were actually inside the huge planes.

When we returned to Los Angeles, Max called and said he had seen a cut of the film at the studio and thought it was terrific. He reminded me that when we first met, I had said that if there was ever anything we could do together, not to hesitate to contact me. He didn’t hesitate. Naturally, I thought he wanted to talk about a film project. He didn’t. What he wanted was for me to officiate at his forthcoming wedding.

Once a Rabbi… The photo was taken at Max Palevsky's wedding, that I conducted with film director and screenwriter Terrence Malick as best man.

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