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The Women’s Balcony

2017
Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711
Produced by Osnat Handelsman-Keren; Moshe Edery; Leon Edery
Directed by Emil Ben-Shimon
DVD, color, 96 min.
High School - General Adult
Jewish Women, Orthodox Judaism, Jerusalem, Drama, Sex Role, Middle East, Sociology


Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 3/8/2018

During a Bar Mitzvah service in a small Orthodox Synagogue in Jerusalem the women’s balcony collapses. Although no one is killed, the Rabbi’s wife is, unfortunately, hospitalized and several others injured. The synagogue itself needs expensive repairs, which involves not only money, but much time in navigating the bureaucracy in obtaining various permissions and permits. On top of this, the Rabbi is deeply affected by his wife’s injuries and is not engaged. Finally, the Torah scroll needs replacing. What to do in the meantime?

The men of the synagogue soon after this tragedy attempt to form a minyan, but are unable to do so until an ultra-orthodox rabbi and seminary leader comes to the rescue; first with gathering enough men for the minyan and then with easing the permit and permission process with the repair and renovation. During this time, the men attend the Ultra-Orthodox synagogue and some of the men, and women, become more orthodox in their observance, which creates tensions in the congregation. When the repairs are complete, the women of the orthodox congregation protest that the women’s balcony has not been built. They picket outside the seminary. There is not enough money to both build the balcony and purchase a new scroll. The ultra-orthodox rabbi rules that the Torah scroll must be purchased before the balcony is built. Sounds a bit complicated, eh? There is also a nice romance between a man and a woman from each of the congregations that helps tie all of this together at the end. The story is very well-told and amusing, depicting male-female relationships and tensions within Judaism regarding piety and Torah observance. Sound and picture are perfect and the subtitles very well-done, although it would have been nice to have subtitles for the signs the women carried outside of the ultra-Orthodox seminary.