According to the LA Times, he is a Sabbath-observant Jew whose family made aliyah from New York City when he was a child.
Writing about how he had to wait until late Saturday night to interview Cedar, Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times Film Critic said,
It is somehow appropriate that Cedar's Sabbath observance played a part in the interview situation, because "Footnote" is about a pair of competitive scholars of the Talmud, the central document of the Jewish religious tradition, rival academics who just happen to be a misanthropic father (Shlomo Bar Aba) and his gregarious son (Lior Ashkenazi).Cedar discussed the university Talmud department setting for his new film, Footnote, that has had a warm reception at the Cannes Film Festival:
"When you see a Chinese film, you often feel it is rooted in some kind of ancient Chinese tradition," Cedar says. "The Talmud is our primary text, our tradition. It's something I want to deal with if I am making movies in Israel."
Though Cedar's father, the celebrated scientist Haim Cedar, teaches at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, the filmmaker wasn't initially familiar with that school's Talmud department, the setting for his film. "But once I began hearing stories," he says, "I fell in love with it.There are many examples of successful film directors and actors who make a strongly Jewish theme film as soon as they reach a level of success that makes them confident and independent enough to pull it off. It shows how powerful Jewish identity can be for creative people. It's almost as if they can hardly wait to proudly say, "I made it, I'm creative, I'm successful, I'm Jewish."
"It's known for being the smallest and toughest department at the university. There are stories of epic rivalries, of people being stubborn in a way that is concrete solid, where you don't compromise on anything ever. These are people who have dedicated their lives to something esoteric, and they've done it with the drive of Julius Caesar."