The men, each of whom fall under the sway of the rabbi's passionate and inspiring personality, obey, meekly bring home scarves to their baffled and irritated wives. The men, especially, are useless in the face of such male authority. All of the women in the congregation are devout, but none of them wear head-coverings. Rabbi David recognizes that this is a congregation in distress, and looks upon the collapse of the synagogue as a judgment from God. This congregation has to be whipped into shape. Men sleep on the couch.
At first, however, everything is supremely festive, as the members of a small neighborhood Orthodox community, the kind of close-knit group in which everyone inevitably knows everyone else's business, gather to celebrate the bar mitzvah of the grandson of pillars of the congregation Etti Evelin Hagoel and Zion Igal Naor. There are none of those garish event halls that people tend to use these days, and the women prepare the food themselves; no one goes into debt paying for huge catered meals. True faith is alive, coursing through human relationships, made manifest in how we treat one another. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. People go through radical personality changes. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.
Under the leadership of a venerable but still beloved rabbi, things are going splendidly when a mishap strikes: The building's balcony, the place where women pray in sex-segregated Orthodox services, suddenly collapses, leaving the rabbi's wife hospitalized and the rabbi himself in retreat from reality. It is funny and profound. We can see that this is a congregation where religion is part of the fabric of life and where there is a certain amount of tolerance for different levels of observance. The fanatics of this earth are not live-and-let-live people. This very symbolic accident sets off a chain of events that affect the lives of several families, notably that of Eti Evelin Hagoel , the spirited grandmother of the bar mitzva boy. Women are front and center in most discussions of theology, in any faith: What should we do with the women? The women are shocked, and most of them rebel. This is now a flock without a leader.
How do we control their sexuality? Yaffa , Ettie's unmarried niece, is tired of having her single status be a topic of general conversation, and is lethargic about going on more dates, despite the encouragement of all of the women around her. Rounding out the group are Ettie's married female friends, powerhouses all, Tikva , Ora , and Margalit , each married to a man in the congregation. Discerning eyes will notice, however, that Rabbi David's dress marks him as ultra-Orthodox, while the congregation, whose female members do not cover their hair, is what might be called modern Orthodox: definitely observant but without the accompanying zealotry. This is Emil Ben-Shimon's first feature, and a confident debut it is. The inciting event for all that follows occurs during the bar mitzvah when the women's balcony in the gender-segregated synagogue collapses, a collapse which puts the rabbi's wife in the hospital, and renders the building unsafe. Into these well-worn and comfortable lives enters the handsome and charismatic Rabbi David Avraham. But once they are relocated to an out-of-the way building, few people show up, and they turn to passers-by for help.
These characters are used to seeing rabbis as authority figures. There's longtime married couple Zion Igal Naor , and Ettie , who have a relationship loving and playful. The synagogue is closed until further notice. Rabbi David takes that on first, urging the men to make their women wear head scarves. The women compare notes on the food they have brought as they set it out, and when a little boy plays with the coffee urn and turns it off, one of the women urges him to turn it on again, then surreptitiously does it herself. But, of course, the characters in the midst of it can't perceive the threat, not at first.
A huge box office hit in Israel, the film was written by , and directed by. He heads up the reconstruction project, as well as addresses what he sees to be the most pressing issue facing the congregation: the women. Enter a community of good people and fill them with fear? The story starts out at a bar mitzva celebration, and we get the flavor of the neighborhood as everyone gossips on their way into the synagogue. While the mood is that of a gentle and affectionate comedy, the film makes some extremely sharp points about fanaticism, sexism masked as holiness, and tolerance among the faithful. The rabbi David sees the collapsed balcony as a judgment, mainly because the women are not submissive silent figures in the background. During this noisy chaotic opening, we meet the ensemble. At times, once the situation is all set up, the action drags a little, and I was hoping that the women would do something really outrageous.
The clothing all seems to be contemporary, but there are no cell phones around. Maybe that'll help your income. . How do we keep them in their place? As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner. There is no money for renovations, and the men try to find an alternate site for their minyan. That may seem like a small difference, but it turns out it is not.
There are serious issues at stake here, but the director and the screenwriter, Shlomit Nechama, take a gentle, humorous approach. The women file into their balcony, and just before the bar mitzva boy starts to read, the balcony collapses. Advertisement In the opening sequence, the chattering ensemble noisily traipses down a narrow street of their Jerusalem neighborhood, headed to a bar mitzvah at their local synogogue, wielding plates of food and gifts, buzzing with collective excitement. Advertisement If that's not bad enough, when the women learn that Rabbi David has no intention of re-building the women's balcony in the new synagogue—that women will be banned from the main room altogether—all hell breaks loose. Very much in disarray, the congregation finds a new temporary space in a location that makes finding a minyan, the 10 men needed for daily prayers, difficult.
So when the wolf in sheep's clothing enters their flock, they don't have the defense mechanisms to fight him off, or even recognize him for what he is. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Enter the young and charismatic Rabbi David Aviv Alush , a can-do individual who teaches at a local seminary and takes on the congregation's well-being as a personal project. But though that world may seem monolithic to outsiders, as Nehama and director Emil Ben-Shimon well understand, there is a genuine rift there, a clash of cultures often unspoken and unacknowledged that the film has adroitly mined. He comes from a television background, and has said that this script reminded him of the women around him when he grew up. Check with theaters for subtitle information.