BPC Resident Judi Beecher Stars in New Comedy, 'Tango Shalom'

Judi Beecher as Raquel, the wife of Moshe, a Hasidic rabbi, played by Jos Laniado. Photo: Courtesy Tango Shalom

Sep. 12, 2021

"Tango Shalom," a funny and inspirational film that opened in theaters last week, tells the story of a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn who wants to compete in a tango contest but must somehow abide by the rules of his religion that bar him from touching a woman other than his wife. The rabbi's wife is played by Judi Beecher, a 9-year resident of Battery Park City, who was also executive producer. Below she talks to April Koral of the Trib about the film.


I understand that it took a long time to make "Tango Shalom?"

A very long time. We started shooting in 2015 or 2016. Joseph Bologna, the film's co-producer, co-writer and an actor in the film, passed away in 2017. We decided to take a little bit of a break and then Covid hit. We finished it a year ago.


That is a long time.

Yes, a studio film with a humongous budget takes a lot less time, but this is an independent film. And independent films are done with love and tears and sweat of a lot of people working really hard to get it done. We didn't want to put out a schlocky film that was just thrown together. And with every cut, it got better and better and better. And it's wonderful now! Sometimes films never come out. I have worked on films throughout my career that were really good films that were finished and then never distributed. So this is a huge accomplishment to get it in theaters and to get it streaming. 


What got you interested in this project?

I had a huge spiritual awakening nine years ago when I was in a challenging period in my life, and I had a very clear message given to me—kind of like the one Moshe gets from God in "Tango Shalom." I had never been an activist but I saw that my mission in life was to do projects that could bring people together, to use my voice as an actor and filmmaker to help teach tolerance and positive change.


Most people don't know about the Hasidic community. "Tango Shalom" brings them into the life of an orthodox Jewish family, to see their love, their joys, their problems. The beauty is to see that they are a family just like every family. I think that where all prejudice and anti whatever comes from is not knowing people from that community—whatever the community is LGBQ, Black, Jewish, Muslim. 


The part of the rabbi's wife really seemed to fit you. Do you identify with her at all?

The producer invited me to be in the first reading and when I heard the part, I immediately thought, I should be playing that role! I really connected to her. She and I are very different--she has five children and I've never been married and I never had kids. And I'm Jewish, but not religious. But we are both very spiritual. I have a very strong connection with my divine. She has a strong love of hers as well. 


I notice that lots of people involved in the film are related.

Yes! Joseph Bologna co-wrote and co-produced it. He was married to Renée Taylor, who played the grandmother. Their son Gabe directed the film; his wife, Zizi Bologna co-wrote the music. Renée is good friends with Lainie Kazan, who is in the film. Jos Laniado, who plays my husband (and is also a tango dancer!) had the idea for the film. He's a member of the Chabad House in Williamsburg and one day when he was there he thought, what if a rabbi decided that he needed to dance the tango. What would he do? He and his brother Claudio co-wrote the film with Joe, and Claudio plays his brother. We felt like a family all the time. It was such an amazing experience!


You're now working on a more personal film, an incredible story about your family. 

My mother was a Holocaust survivor, a hidden child. When she was 6 and a half, she escaped by crossing the French border by herself to Switzerland, where someone was waiting for her. Then her parents, my grandparents, escaped from concentration camps in the south of France. Right now with everything going on in the world, with anti-Semitism rising, hatred of all kinds rising, I think this is a very important story. It's a very positive story, because it's about kindness, about people helping each other. Maybe it will inspire others to do the right thing and help another.


How do you want people to feel after they see "Tango Shalom?"

I want them to feel joyful. I want them to realize that most obstacles can be overcome if you think creatively. I want them to remember that we're all connected. If something happens to you, it's happened to me. Even though we may look different, think differently, have a different color or different religion, the outwardness doesn't matter. Inside we are all the same.