Bal Ej: The Hidden Jews of Ethiopia

Dir. Irene Orleansky
(96 min, Israel, 2016)
English Hebrew Amharic with English subtitles
DC Premiere

Following a hundred-year-old account of the prominent Jewish scholar Jacque Faitlovich, filmmaker and distinguished ethnomusicologist Irene Orleansky travels to Africa to discover and explore a small and secretive group of Ethiopian Jews known as Bal Ej (craftsmen).

Frequently persecuted by their neighbors and deprived of land ownership rights, they outwardly disguise themselves as Christians and practice Judaism in strict secrecy. A fascinating investigation of the history, religious practice, and cultural (especially musical) contributions of this previously unrecorded African Jewish community.

Co-presented by Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp AJC Global Jewish Advocacy, Washington SHIN-DC (Sephardic Heritage IN DC)


Thursday, May 18, 6:15 pm
E Street Cinema
555 11th Street NW
Washington, DC

Sunday, May 21, 11:30 am
AFI Silver Theatre
8633 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD

E Street Cinema elevators are unavailable for the remainder of the Festival. If you can't use an escalator, and have purchased tickets to an E Street screening, contact for a credit or refund.


Both screenings followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Irene Orleansky, moderated by Franz Afraim Katzir, Director of SHIN-DC.

Irene Orleansky  is a Russian-born Israeli musicologist, producer, and filmmaker. The CD “Music of Israelites and Jews of Africa and Asia” is the result of Irene Orleansky’s fascinating two-year journey through Africa and Asia. Equipped with a mobile studio, Irene visited nine Israelite and Jewish communities in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, China, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria, sometimes at distant and dangerous places, to record music with the communities ‘ artists and share their unique culture with the world. Bal Ej: The Hidden Jews Of Ethiopia is Orleansky’s debut film.

Franz Afraim Katzir is the Founding Director of SHIN-DC (Sephardic Heritage IN DC), a cultural diplomacy organization that builds intercultural bridges and promotes appreciation and understanding of that cosmopolitan heritage and the cultures, arts and history of the Middle East, North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula and Central and Western Asia.  He also provides consulting for individuals or communities that want to build intercultural bridges with others or learn more about Sephardic heritage in a meaningful way.  He has a Master of Science degree in Linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a National Science Foundation fellow, and studied Jewish law and philosophy at academic institutions in the U.S. and Israel.  Mr. Katzir has worked on the Hill on various issues involving Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary, including the Middle East.  In addition to giving talks internationally, he has published on topics in linguistics, as well as on issues regarding foreign and Jewish affairs worldwide.


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E Street Cinema elevators are unavailable for the remainder of the Festival. If you can’t use an escalator, and have purchased tickets to an E Street screening, contact for a credit or refund.

This event finished on May 22, 2017.