Lior Leibling – – PRAYING WITH LIOR is a family story, a triumph story, a grief story, a divinely-inspired story.
An engrossing, wrenching and tender documentary film, PRAYING WITH LIOR introduces Lior Liebling, also called “the little rebbe.” Lior has Down syndrome, and has spent his entire life praying with utter abandon. Is he a “spiritual genius” as many around him say? Or simply the vessel that contains everyone’s unfulfilled wishes and expectations? Lior — whose name means “my light” — lost his mother at age six, and her words and spirit hover over the film. While everyone agrees Lior is closer to God, he’s also a burden, a best friend, an inspiration, and an embarrassment, depending on which family member is speaking. As Lior approaches Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony different characters provides a window into life spent “praying with Lior.” The movie poses difficult questions such as what is “disability” and who really talks to God? Told with intimacy and humour, PRAYING WITH LIOR is a family story, a triumph story, a grief story, a divinely-inspired story.
CCS program celebrates 10 years with screening of documentary
By John Cahill
The School of Education’s Career and Community Studies (CCS) program, in conjunction with TCNJ’s Best Buddies, presented the documentary “Praying with Lior” on Wednesday, Oct. 26, in the Library Auditorium. The documentary follows Lior Liebling, a boy with Down syndrome, as he prepares for his bar mitzvah.
Jeffrey Passe, dean of the School of the Education, was there to help open the festivities.
The film documents Liebling’s earlier years, his education, how he dealt with his mother’s death and how he prepares for the bar mitzvah. Viewers get a feel for how devout Lior is to his religion, as he is seen praying often throughout the documentary. After his bar mitzvah, the filmmakers ask Liebling what he plans to do when he grows up. He replies that he wants to become a filmmaker and live with his family.
The CCS program presented the film as part of the 10th anniversary commemoration of the program’s founding. After the film ended, Liebling, along with his father, Rabbi Leibling, and stepmother, took questions from members of the audience.
Liebling attended Temple University for a two-year program that is similar to the CCS program at the College. He eventually went to Syracuse University to study filmmaking and now works full-time. Liebling currently lives independently with roommates.
The Lior in question, who not only stands at the center of Ilana Trachtman’s documentary Praying with Lior but forms its heart and soul, is Lior Liebling, a Jewish boy with Down syndrome. Though Lior’s genetic condition debilitates him in many ways and on many levels, he clings to two inner sources of transcendence and strength: his irrepressible sense of humor and an unusually heightened faith in the religious beliefs and traditions of his forefathers. In fact, when Lior lapses into prayer (or davening) and worship, he enters a state comparable to a rapture, and his love spreads like a blaze to the others around him. He faces one of his most formidable obstacles familially, in the form of a new stepmother and stepsiblings, but instantly wins them over as well. Significantly, Lior will soon embark on his bar mitzvah, that rite of passage for all Jewish preadolescents; Trachtman captures every contour and nuance of the young man’s experience as the event draws ever nearer, and witnesses the ways in which Lior’s family and spiritual environment help to determine and mold his identity and sense of self at this critical time.