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Road to Eden is a feature-length documentary film that captures the essence of Judaism's most profound teachings about our connection to the earth, the fragility of existence, and our dream of a world perfected.
The spine of the film is the inspirational journey of Dan Nichols, a tour de force of modern Jewish music, who took his show on the road for the Jewish festival of Sukkot in October 2011. Dan and his incredible band Eighteen loaded into an RV and wandered through the Deep South. Each day of Sukkot brought a new town, a unique celebration, and uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking Sukkot stories.
Sukkot is about getting out, stretching ourselves, opening up to new places, people, and ideas. This is the story of what happened when one artist with a message of love and hope embraced the Sukkot challange and set out on a journey that changed him and his fellow travelers in ways they could never have imagined.
In Pensacola, Dan kept the faith with Lawrence, a homeless congregant of Temple Beth El who served as a one-man welcoming committee. He met undocumented aliens on the road in Alabama, fleeing in fear at a time when that state enacted the country's harshest immigration crackdown.
In Memphis, he recounted the triumph and tragedy of Martin Luther King Jr. with the Rev. Billy Kyles, the last man alive to be with Dr. King when he was struck down by an assassin's bullet the day after his famous "Mountaintop" speech where he assured his people, weary wanderers, that they would one day reach the promised land. He broke down walls in Birmingham with the Tribe of Judah, a black gospel choir made up of high school and college students. He celebrated the complicated miracle of the release of Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit. He sang with the people of New Orleans, who, after Hurricane Katrina, have forged bonds that transcend labels like "Orthodox" and "Reform". He danced with the Torah in Memphis, played folk songs with his old camp director in St. Louis, and welcomed Shabbat at his beloved Goldman Union Camp.
Road to Eden encapsulates Sukkot's profound, and little understood message: We are all traveling together on a road to a better future, a time when the Earth can become a true Eden for all humankind. Sukkot reminds us that the time is now, and our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to get up, get out, and make it happen.