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You'll have to think like an Orthodox Jewish woman in Jerusalem
The Israeli film Ismach Hatani was shown in the U.S. with the title The Women's Balcony (2016). The director was Emil Ben-Shimon. The movie begins with the collapse of the women's balcony in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem. The rabbi's wife suffers head trauma and becomes comatose. The rabbi, although physically not injured, develops what is probably PTSD.
A new, young, charismatic rabbi appears to help the congregants rebuild their synagogue. Rabbi David, portrayed by Avraham Aviv Alush, is a natural leader. That, indeed, becomes the problem. Rabbi David convinces the men of the synagogue to rebuild the structure, but without a women's balcony.
A non-Orthodox Jew in the U.S. might think that this is a good thing. Why do the women need their own space? Why not just mix with the men? The reason is that--in this context--mixing with the men is unthinkable. So the women would be segregated in a small room, still away from the men, but unable to directly observe the rabbi and the male members of the congregation.
The plot really begins at this point. Do the women get their balcony, and, if so, how do they do it?
I enjoyed this film because it was well acted, well photographed, and well directed. It also gave me a glimpse into a culture that is very different from my own. This movie is one of many outstanding films shown at the remarkable Rochester International Jewish Film Festival. We watched it at the excellent Dryden Theatre, in the George Eastman Museum. It will also work well on the small screen.
Note that this film has an anemic IMDb rating of 6.8. It's better than that, and deserves your attention.
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