In ‘Balcony,’ a woman’s place is in the synagogue

Israeli film opens Washington Jewish Film Festival on May 17

Set among a congregation of observant Jews in a quiet neighborhood in the Old City, “The Women’s Balcony” begins with a bar mitzvah and ends with a wedding.

But there’s plenty of tsuris between the celebrations, triggered by a structural collapse that shutters the synagogue and threatens the foundation of the affable community.

Things fall apart and, happily, fall back together stronger than ever in this skillfully constructed, crowd-pleasing saga of reasonableness fending off extremism, and humanism triumphing over ideology.

Emil Ben Shimon’s spirited film, from Shlomit Nehama’s warm, wise screenplay, pays unusual homage to the autonomy and power of women in Jewish religious patriarchies. “The Women’s Balcony” both honors and pokes fun at traditional roles and relationships, but it is unambiguous in its critique of an adherence to scripture that overrules fundamental values of compassion and understanding.

“The Women’s Balcony” screens on May 17, the opening night of the Washington Jewish Film Festival.

Read more at the Washington Jewish Week.