Two young American Jews – Simone Zimmerman and Eitan – are raised to defend the state of Israel at all costs. Eitan joins the Israeli military. Simone supports Israel on ‘the other battlefield’: America’s college campuses. When they witness Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinian people with their own eyes, they are horrified and heartbroken. They join the movement of young American Jews battling the old guard over Israel’s centrality in American Judaism, and demanding freedom for the Palestinian people. Their stories reveal a generational divide in the American Jewish community as more young Jews question the narratives their synagogues and Hebrew school teachers fed them as children. The film also features voices like Jacqui, a Jewish educator who says “Judaism is Israel and Israel is Judaism”, and former Anti-Defamation League President Abe Foxman, who claims voices like Simone and Eitan’s represent a small minority. Thought leaders like Peter Beinart, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Noura Erakat, Cornel West, and Noam Chomsky also weigh in.

About the documentary

Directed by two first-time Jewish filmmakers who share a similar story to the film’s protagonists, Israelism is produced by Peabody-winner and 4-time Emmy-nominee Daniel J. Chalfen (Loudmouth, Boycott), executive produced by two-time Emmy-winner Brian A. Kates (Marvelous Ms. Maisel, Succession) and edited by Emmy-winner Tony Hale (The Story of Plastic), Israelism uniquely explores how Jewish attitudes towards Israel are changing dramatically, with massive consequences for the region and for Judaism itself.


Israelism’s release comes at a key moment for Israel and its relationship with the US and the Jewish diaspora. Protests in Israel against the right-wing ruling government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary system and further undermine democracy dominate today’s news from the region. Even longtime defenders of Israel like New York Times columnist Tom Friedman have grown increasingly critical of the Israeli government and anxious about its direction. American Jews are more willing to criticise Israel than at any time in recent memory, with 25% of all American Jews and 38% of Jews under 40 agreeing with the statement “Israel is an apartheid state.”

The Trump era and the rise of the alt-right, the recent removal of Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a battle over Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, and efforts to define certain criticism of Israel as antisemitism in the context of civil rights enforcement, among many other news stories all have sparked debate about what is and isn’t antisemitism and the changing nature of American Jewry’s relationship with Israel. Israelism looks at how we got here, what the debate in the Jewish community is like at this moment, and where it might go from here.

Front of poster IsrealismIsraelism poster

About the filmmakers

Erin Axelman – Director/Producer

Erin is a queer, Jewish filmmaker, based out of Somerville, MA. Israelism is their directorial debut. Erin and Sam founded Tikkun Olam Productions, a nonprofit filmmaking collective that focuses on documenting and supporting movements for justice. Erin has produced videos for Senator Ed Markey, as well as Congressman Jamaal Bowman. In addition to Israelism they are currently producing the upcoming feature documentary Generation Green New Deal.

Sam Eilertsen – Director/Director of Photography

Sam worked for a decade as a cinematographer and editor on narrative and documentary projects before directing Israelism, which is his directorial debut. He is also directing the upcoming documentary Generation Green New Deal, which follows the youth climate movement, and Vs Goliath, a documentary series on frontline environmental justice activists, which was selected for the prestigious CNN/Film Independent 2023 Docuseries Intensive.

Daniel J. Chalfen – Producer

Daniel is a Peabody and duPont-winning and multiple-Emmy nominated film and television producer and a co-founder of Naked Edge Films. His recent films include Loudmouth (executive produced by John Legend, for Showtime/BET); Boycott (from Just Vision); Captains of Zaatari for Hulu; the Netflix Original Pray Away (executive produced by Ryan Murphy); the Sundance 2019 award-winners The Infiltrators and Always in Season; the Tribeca 2018 award-winner United Skates (executive produced by John Legend) for HBO; and Bathtubs Over Broadway executive produced by Jason Blum & David Letterman and released by Focus Features.

Nadia Saah – Producer

Nadia is a Palestinian-American media professional, producer and activist, with decades of experience in entertainment and educational media, from Discovery Communications to Warner to Nintendo, and with credits on highly acclaimed Palestinian projects including “Mo” on Netflix, the Oscar nominated feature Omar, the Oscar nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras, Speed Sisters, Amreeka, and Miral. She also served as the Deputy Director of the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU). Most recently, Nadia launched Project48 to broaden awareness of the Palestinian Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) in the US.

Brian A. Kates – Executive Producer/Supervising Editor

Brian is a two-time Emmy award-winning editor, who has worked on Amazon’s ‘The Marvelous Ms. Maisel’ and HBO’s ‘The Plot Against America.’ He has been involved in Israelism for the past three years, and is both supervising the editing process, as well as the distribution process. Brian lives with his husband in New York City.

Tony Hale – Editor

Tony Hale is an Emmy award-winning queer editor based out of NYC. Tony’s first feature-length film, A Will for the Woods (2014, co-editor/co-director) won multiple festival awards, including two at its premiere at Full Frame, before being nationally broadcast on PBS. His feature editing work also includes the award-winning documentaries Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story (2017), Afghan Cycles (2018), and The Story of Plastic (2019), which collectively have played at festivals such as CPH:DOX, Hot Docs, AFI DOCS, Mountainfilm, Camden, and more. The Story of Plastic, which he won his first Emmy for, was also broadcast internationally on Discovery Channel in April 2020.

This event is developed by
In collaboration with
Programme seriesJustice for Palestine

The Justice for Palestine series will focus upon the broader historic- and present-day context of colonisation, apartheid and military occupation that preceded the horrific October 7th attacks and the relentless bombardments of the Gaza strip that followed. By starting these dialogues, we aim to focus on envisioning sustainable solutions for justice, equality and peace in Historic Palestine for all people who are living there.