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The Women’s Balcony
This dramatic comedy may be very specific to an Orthodox Jerusalem community, but its repercussions are both universal and very, very timely.
Shlomit Nehama wrote this story of a congregation being taken over by a new Rabbi to focus on the state of both traditional religion and its place in contemporary women’s lives. We first meet the families of a small congregation as they are gathered for a joyous event. Suddenly, the women’s balcony, the upstairs area where these Orthodox females are designated to pray, collapses. A few people are hurt, the building destroyed. How can this small community rebuild?
Like manna from heaven appears a young, charismatic Rabbi. He graciously volunteers to help with the healing and reconstruction. But, as we all slowly come to realize, this extremist leader may not be all that he seems. And, interestingly, it’s the women who first begin to wonder about this handsome man who has bewitched the men in their lives.
Yes, this is a comedy, very warmly acted by a fine group of Israeli veterans. It’s a treat to bring such fine actors as a glorious Evelin Hagoel and impressive Aviv Alush to the global arena. But this is no light night at the Shul. When the women eventually come together and protest the sexist events taking place around them, we are reminded of several other small, dandy pictures, movies where we root for the not so underdog minorities. And the focus on the schism between traditional and new sects of this, and any, religion, is a fine and fascinating one.
But the heartbeat of this movie is its women, how they, separate but insistently equal, demand and earn their just place. They are not afraid to take on the wrath of their husbands, their faith or the new leader who has insinuated his way into power, and, in so doing, tries to take theirs. Pretty inspiring stuff I’d say.