Jerusalem Festival Refuses To Screen A Film For Women Only

The director of this movie is a Chabadnik in Pico-Robertson.

Matthew Wagner writes:

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival has rejected a film created by Orthodox women after the film director demanded screening for female audiences only in accordance with Halacha.

The film, "A Light For Greytowers," directed by Robin Garbose, was initially accepted by the festival on the basis of its artistic merits. The film was slated to be screened during the festival, which takes place between December 13 and 19 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

However, the festival’s management refused to acquiesce to Garbose’s demand, made at the time the film was first presented for consideration, that screening would be billed as "by women, for women."

"We tried to explain that our festival doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion, nationality or gender," said Aryeh Barak, spokesman for the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

"Accepting the director’s terms would mean discrimination against half of our audience on the basis of gender."

Barak said that the director-general of the Cinematheque, Ilan De Vries, had offered two compromises.

One was that the festival would market two screenings, one for men only and one for women only.

"Out of respect for the religious feelings involved, we were even willing to plan the screenings so that men and women would not meet each other," said Barak. The other option was that the film would be screened for women only outside the framework of the Jewish Film Festival.

Barak said that both options were rejected by the filmmakers.

"It’s too bad because the film is really special and of high quality," he said. Halacha forbids men from listening to a woman sing. There is dispute among the rabbis on whether the prohibition applies solely to live performances or also to other instances where the woman can be seen singing, such as on film, and also on whether the prohibition also applied in cases where the music is taped and only the woman’s voice could be heard.

The rabbis taught that the female voice is considered so sensual and stimulating that it might arouse in men passions that are spiritually unhealthy.

In a telephone interview from Los Angeles, Garbose said that the option proposed by the festival of having a private screening of the film outside the framework of the festival was out of the question. "It is at the festival where the opportunity for dialogue and exposure exists," she said, adding, "A private screening is simply not serious."

Father of three of the actresses responds: "A libertarian point of view is that one should be able to make any product and decide the audience and price. Others have a right NOT to purchase that product but not to obstruct it. Demanding that prior obligations be violated which movie’s producers have with the participants is what is immoral and unfair. I’m an Ivy League-educated father of three of the movie’s actresses. I’ve never seen the film. I’m proud of my daughters and their values. Those who oppose the movie’s audience guidelines have an anti-Orthodox agenda. The movie’s makers aren’t forcing non-religious Jews to watch it."

From Robin Garbose: "One important point that was not mentioned in the article is that the authors of the novel on which the film is based as well as the women and girls who appear in the film do not sing in front of men out of deference to Kol Isha. I believe that the JERUSALEM JEWISH Film Festival should honor their voice (which represents hundreds of thousands of Jews) as deserving of artistic representation amongst the panoply of Jewish voices the festival has as its mission to explore. Whether or not you like or agree with Kol Isha is great dialogue but not really the issue."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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