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Women-Only London Film Screening for Ultra-Orthodox Scrapped

An all woman’s screening at a London JCC of an Israeli movie by a haredi Orthodox film-maker was cancelled after a complaint to the country’s the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

“Gift of Fire” directed by Rechy Elias, was scheduled to be shown as part of the Israeli Film and Television Festival, Seret 2015. A screening scheduled for a movie theater, the Odeon in Swiss Cottage, was previously cancelled after the theater said it would not enforce excluding men from the show.

The north west London Jewish community center, JW3, said in a statement released to local media that it cancelled the screening upon legal advice that said a women-only screening would be in violation of the country’s equality laws.

“It’s regrettable that we will no longer be able to screen the film by Rechy Elias, a female film director from the Haredi community,” read the statement, in part. “Elias made “Gift of Fire” with the explicit intention of it only being shown to female audiences; without that condition, she would never have made the film. We had hoped to able to provide this rare platform for a Haredi female film maker to express herself artistically, as well as a ‘safe’ environment for Jewish women from across the entire spectrum of the community to see this unique film.”

The one complaint to the Equalities Commission was from a man, who told the London-based Jewish Chronicle that he “very much regretted the outcome,” and would have welcomed the compromise of two screenings, one for women and one for men.

The “Gift of Fire” tells the story of a young religious Jewish woman living under a false identity after fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, and shows women singing and dancing. It has only previously been shown in Israeli community centers, according to the daily newspaper The Guardian.


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