Private Project

Seven Days in Silence

“Seven Days of Silence” paints an intimate portrait of the transformative potential of a seven-day silent meditation retreat. This journey isn't merely about inner exploration; it also offers a path for Jews to reconnect and renew familiar teachings, deepening the experience. Filmmaker Jonathan Perlman dabbled in meditation for years but never noticed any immediate effects. Then, a friend suggested a week-long retreat led by Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels. The first few days were riddled with doubts, boredom, and thoughts of leaving. However, on the fourth day, something shifted. Subtle changes blossomed into profound feelings of joy and love. Perlman found himself overcoming deep-seated sadness and discovering connections he'd rarely felt before. He pondered, "How can sitting in silence lead to such profound healing?" Other participants also experienced transformations they'd never achieved in daily meditations or short app-guided sessions. They started to reimagine how they relate to their families, themselves, and how to find meaning in the world. They also discovered how renewed Jewish language and practices could amplify this transformation. Through both the heartfelt words of the participants and the visual cues revealed in their faces after the seven days - viewers get a chance to glimpse into the process. Can silent retreats offer solace from anxiety, depression, and even physical pain? Can such retreats also provide new ways for Jews to connect with God and Jewish teachings?

  • Jonathan Perlman
    A Symposium on Being Jewish (TVOntario, Vision TV, WLIW)
  • Jonathan Perlman
  • Jonathan Perlman
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    18 minutes 30 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 15, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    50,000 USD
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Director Biography - Jonathan Perlman

In his early 20s, filmmaker Jonathan Perlman interviewed over 80 top Jewish scholars and spiritual leaders to explore questions about God, Torah, and the meaning of life. His critically acclaimed film, 'A Symposium on Being Jewish,' was broadcast to audiences
across Canada and the United States. He stopped making films and worked in retail management, where he helped to reinvent a chain of retail stores in a declining industry, setting it up for unprecedented success. He also opened and ran a yoga studio that served over 10,000 students. He discovered new ways to approach balance, strength, and finding stillness through movement. He was drawn back to filmmaking by a profound experience in his mid-40s. Attending a seven-day silent meditation retreat with Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels, he found himself inspired and enlivened in ways he never imagined. Wanting to capture and share this ‘hidden’ oasis of healing and transformation, he spent over three years filming various elements of the retreat. The result is 'Seven Days of Silence: Awakening Love: Simple, Pure, Real,' a film that offers viewers a bridge to discover the power of meditation and perhaps a way to find joy, love, and God.

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Director Statement

In 2016, I stumbled upon a way to experience a deep sense of joy, love, healing, and connection. I found myself letting go of anxiety I hadn't even realized I was holding onto. Through this process, I learned how to use meditation as a tool to access a mystical sense of wonder and transformation. I also discovered a renewed Jewish language that amplified and grounded these moments. This is not anything similar to a short hit of mindfulness. I had tried many different kinds of meditation, but it had always felt like a test of patience to sit through twenty or thirty minutes. Meditation seemed to work for lots of people, but I seemed to be immune to its positive effects. And then, over a seven-day silent meditation retreat, things came together in unexpected and surprising moments. I wasn’t alone in this experience. Others described it as one of the most profound experiences of their lives, full of overwhelming bliss mixed with results of deep healing. People found relief from depression, anxiety, and even chronic physical conditions. They also found new ways to use Jewish language and practices to accompany them on this journey. The retreat doesn’t promise any of these possibilities, and most people arrive with few expectations. How does this happen? Can silent retreats work as a powerful tool to provide deep healing for common ailments? After attending the retreat, I wanted to make a film to capture and share the experience and begin a conversation about the power of retreats. I felt a film would be a powerful way to provide a glimpse into the experience in ways even beyond written words.

Two films served as the inspiration for my approach:

“I Am Not Your Guru,” a Netflix documentary directed by Joe Berlinger about a six-day retreat with Tony Robbins meant to "take you not only beyond who you are, but what you want – out of your life, career, finances, health, and relationship." Berlinger received a free ticket to attend the seminar. After the first day he wanted to leave, but his wife convinced him to stay another day. Then he experienced a profound and unexpected transformation. He returned the following year to capture the experience. In the same way, I wanted to capture the silent retreat experience.

“Into the Great Silence," a 2007 film that depicts the tranquility of a Carpathian mountain monastery. It’s a 3-hour exploration of the meaning of silence. I took inspiration from the way the film tries to convey the sense of silence.

On a shoestring budget, I hired local LA cinematographers for shooting at three different retreats over three years. I filmed daily routines, as well as the group meetings with Rabbi James. The culmination of these efforts is ‘Seven Days in Silence,’ which provides an unparalleled look into the process of meditation and retreats, and how they can bring about transformation, healing, and perhaps even a way to find God.