Jerusalem – Film Festival Says No to ‘Women Only’ Screening for Orthodox Film

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    Robin Garbose directingJerusalem, Israel – 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.”

    Garbose said the other option mentioned by Barak, of having separate screenings for men and women, had never been offered to her.

    She said that she had looked at the options offered by the festival from a halachic perspective and found that they were unacceptable.

    “I wanted to find a middle ground because everyone wanted the film to be screened,” said Garbose, a Hollywood director who was forced to make changes in her career after she embraced an Orthodox lifestyle almost two decades ago and could no longer work on Shabbat.
    Robin Garbose with four young actresses from \'A Light for Greytowers\' at the LA premiere. Left to right: Nili Gross, Tirza Gross, Robin Garbose, Sara Malka Kravitz, Elisheva Marquis
    “But they wanted me to go against Halacha and I couldn’t do that,” she said. After leaving Hollywood, Garbose founded Kol Neshama, a performing arts academy in Los Angeles for Orthodox girls. “A Light For Greywaters” was born of her work there.

    Based on a popular Jewish novel, the movie tells the Victorian-era saga of a Russian Jewish girl separated from her family and sent to an orphanage, where the cruel matron tries to keep her from celebrating her religious traditions.

    The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival agreed to market “A Light For Greytowers” in its 2009 festival as a “by women, for women film experience.”

    According to documents provided by Garbose, the Atlanta festival managers said that they saw the women-only screening as a “unique” opportunity to reach out to Orthodox communities who otherwise would not participate.

    “After billing the screening as women only, if a man insists on attending no one can stop him and we are not responsible. The onus is on him to adhere or not,” Garbose said.

    “But we cannot allow the film to be marketed to men. That would be a breach of Halacha.”

    In a letter to the managers of the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, Garbose wrote that they were not living up to their claim to “explore the many and varied issues surrounding the question of Jewish identity, history, culture and religious practice.”

    “You have deemed that Jewish art that comes from the religious community is acceptable only if it conforms to non-religious standards,” she wrote.

    “This conformity would serve only to negate its truth as art, thereby prohibiting the possibility of there ever being any truly frum [Jewish religious] art.

    “The spiritual concept of Kol Isha [men’s prohibition against hearing a woman’s singing voice] has existed since the giving of Torah. I do not judge you by your choice not to honor this practice,” she wrote. “I am simply asking you to respect the many Jews who do and welcome them at your festival. After all, we’re talking about films here, not war or politics, art as a forum for understanding and dialogue.”

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    27 COMMENTS

    1. Am I missing something here? What’s the problem? Is it different from manufacturing non-tznius clothing?
      Why is it her problem if the theatre wants to show it mixed? Plus there seem to be two issues here: The seeing and hearing women in the film, and the mixed audience. Either way, why does she need to insist on anything?

      • sorry they’remtrying to act like goyim but with a hechsher i knew that those innocent frum films will sooner or later try to get to the goyish velt and they were rejected by the oisvorfs get the hint hain om levodod……uvagoyim lo yischashov

        • The whole purpose of Robin Garbose’s film is to honor the inner beauty of Judaism and of the Jewish woman! I am assuming you are not informed as to the contents of the film, otherwise you would not write that women singing to other women about emunah and bitachon are “trying to act like goyim.” And what is so inherently un-Jewish about a film? It is merely a way of recording and distributing material- in this instance, Torah values! Ms. Garbose obtained rabbinic haskamah from Orthodox Rabanim every step of the way in creating this film. Lastly, I take issue with your reference to “goyim” in such a derogatory manner. History has proven there are righteous gentiles. Furthermore, Yisroel is called upon to be “a light unto the nations”- we can best do this by being separate, but not by disparaging them! When people confuse “separate” with “inherently better” that they make such remarks that not only display their own ignorance, but increase anti-Semitic sentiment.

    2. Just love this quote!

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

      • There are legitimate opinions that permit men hearing a woman’s singing voice in situations that are not designed to engender improper thoughts. For example, Rav Hirsch z’tz’l permitted women singing zmirot at the Shabat table with men present (even unrelated men), and Rov Soloveitchik z’tz’l held that classical music, including opera, is mutar for men to attend.

        Also, it is a bit misleading to say that the kol ishah prohibition has existed “since the giving of Torah” since it is considered a d’rabbanan and not a d’orayta.

        • You are stretching the facts here. RSRH allowed women singing zmirot based on two heteirim: (i) it was group singing and therefore no single woman’s voice stood out. (ii) the content of the songs were spiritual. He arguably also only relied on these heteirim because of the status of orthodox jews in Germany at that time and he felt that he had not choice, but that is debatable. I have yet to hear a good reason for why Rabbi Soloveitchik allowed kol isha at an opera.

          • I don’t know about RSRH, but R Hildesheimer permitted it for precisely the two reasons you mentioned, that it’s not just a woman by herself but the whole family singing together (trei kole lo mishtame), and that it’s divrei kedusha so there’s no yetzer hora. But I don’t think he felt it was bediavad; as far as I know it was a heter lechatchila, justifying the minhag of Germany from well before him. But you’re right that it doesn’t extend to a concert or an opera, where there are female soloists and there’s no kedusha to keep away the yetzer.

    3. Pullleeeze!!
      I am a proud advocate for Jewish women (and men!!) developing their talents, finding a unique voice for themselves creatively and bentching others with the simchas hachaim one can enjoy through artistic experience. HOWEVER… entering one’s production into an irreligious forum and telling them, “My religious standards require you to discourage half your audience from viewing my entry” is just plain ridiculous. (“I’m up on stage in an open forum, but I don’t want men to see me!!!” Ok, honey.) Ms. Garbose is trying to be a pioneer but she has become an embarrassment to chariedi women. She has taken her kosher pizza into a treif restaurant and is asking the powers-that-be for kosher keilim.
      Keep women’s performance in places that invite only women. Period. And stop making nice Bais Yaakov girls feel deprived that they “can’t” perform in public.
      (PS I’m not remotely “chassidish,” in case anyone’s wondering. I’m a frum woman in New York who has many talented friends in the arts.)

      • This is not an irreligious forum- it is the Jerusalem JEWISH Film Festival. It is therefore not unreasonable to request that the festival screen an Orthodox film in a manner that is in accordance with Halacha. A Jewish festival should not discriminate against Orthodox films and the manner in which they must be shown.

        • Thank you for the many supportive comments. I urge you to post on the Jerusalem Post article, especially comment 25. The Festival has not budged from their position. I believe they need to hear more from the frum community.

      • GUESS THE WAY YOUR WIFE/DAUGHTERS SING ITS A TURN OFF
        BUT SOME WOMEN DO HAVE BEAUTIFUL SINGING VOICES
        WE FIND THAT MIRIAM AND THE JEWSIH WOMEN WHO LEFT EYGYPT PLAYED MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS INSTEAD OF USING THEIR VOICE BUT WE ALSO FIND THAT WOMEN WERE MIKONEN RIGHT AFTER YETZIAS NESHOMO SEE LAST MISHNA IN MECHES MOED KOTON AND IT WOULD SEEM TO SAY THAT CRYING WOMENS VOICES ARENT A TURN ON I GUESS IT DEPENDS ON THE SURROUNDING CIRCUMSTANCES AS WELL

    4. is is rav hirsh? and who the hell is salavitchik? aren’t you ashamed of yourself to mentchin such nonsense.. to sing at a shaboss tish which mean sitting at the same table and sing ladies/girls are u out of your mind? and u call such a low life a rov?!

    5. I would think that the actresses in the film would object to men viewing it, on the basis of it not being tsniusdik to watch women performing, even without the singing.I wouldn’t let any daughter of mine perform in a show if I knew men would see it.

    6. LOOK UP THE TESHUVA (SERIDEI AISH) the teshuva was written to a DP CAMP after wwII where there was one lunchroom for all the yesomim so bedieved , the other teshuvos regarding ” not live ” was clearly when you dont know what she looks like ( ayin shom)

    7. LOOK UP THE TESHUVA (SERIDEI AISH) the teshuva was written to a DP CAMP after wwII where there was one lunchroom for all the yesomim so bedieved , the other teshuvos regarding ” not live ” was clearly when you dont know what she looks like ( ayin shom)

    8. That’s what we get for electing a shaygitz mayor. The freiers think it’s open season on Yiddishkeit and all you have to do to be a Jew is live in this dump.

    9. It is so frustrating that creating a female-only space encounters so much opposition. Galut-mentality has deeply penetrated our Jewish sensibility. Lavan wanted us to erase distinctions, to whitewash all barriers; there are differences between men and women, and women will only be truly empowered when we stop trying to break down the mechitzah and instead, revitalize our side of the divide. Women-only spaces allow us to express the deepest aspects of ourselves and build unity amongst Jewish women. Liberalism professes openness, just like Lavan; erase our distinctiveness, erase our identity. Women-only spaces are not discriminatory, they allow us the room to explore who we really are…

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