2003, 52 Minutes
Welcome to the Waks family...With 17 children to the same two parents, it’s one of the largest families in Australia.
Everyday life in the Waks household is a logistical challenge of monumental proportions. There are two minibuses to move the family around and the kitchen in its suburban Melbourne home has five ovens for kosher cooking. The family follows an orthodox form of Judaism. School, work, synagogue and socialising all take place within a tight-knit Jewish community. Welcome to the Waks Family is a rare invitation to step inside this world.
Zephaniah grew up as Stephen in a non-religious Jewish family on Sydney's north shore and on a diet of surfing, parties, girls and rock 'n' roll. His search for spiritual satisfaction led him to the Lubavitch branch of Judaism and to New York, where the movement has its headquarters. There, his marriage to Haya was arranged through a matchmaker and friends.
Haya's upbringing could not have been more different. Born in Israel of Yemeni parents, her childhood was steeped in one of the more conservative branches of the Jewish faith.
Together, Zephaniah and Haya have worked hard to raise their children within the strict tenets of their belief and to give them the individual attention that they need. The laws and rituals that they observe give the whole family a sense of purpose and unity. Pop music, movies and novels are not allowed and boys and girls don't mix except within the family. However, as the children approach adolescence, they must make up their own minds about whether to continue on this religious path or discard it and face their parents' hurt and disapproval.
This fascinating documentary follows the Waks family over five years, from the marriage of the eldest girl at 21, just a few months after her youngest sister was born. It's a unique opportunity to experience a family and a religious life that are extraordinary in almost every respect.
A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Documentary Films Pty Ltd. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Producer/Director/Writer: Barbara Chobocky
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Curriculum Links: SOSE/HSIE, Community and Family Studies, Studies of Religion, Jewish Studies, Personal Development, English and Media Studies.