A New Movie Explores the Inner Life of a Jewish Congregation

The Israeli film The Women’s Balcony, recently screened in the U.S., tells the story of an Orthodox congregation undergoing a period of upheaval and of the resulting conflict between, on the one hand, a charismatic but overzealous new rabbi and, on the other hand, a group of female congregants. In his review, Liel Leibovitz writes:

Despite the movie’s immense popularity in Israel, or maybe because of it, the country’s bien-pensant critics dismissed it as a feel-good folk comedy, the sort of fare that appeals only to the tragically unsophisticated. They were missing the point: entertaining as the movie may be, it still delivers one of the most profound meditations on religious life ever captured on film. Even more impressively, it does so not through metaphor or . . . through meditation, but by letting us in on ordinary lives powered by faith and fellowship. . . .

Socially, [the film’s heroines have] a far healthier approach than those taken these days by so many strident social-justice warriors who stand on principle and allow their spiraling rage to drain life of its comforts. When [the women trying to save the congregation] are approached by professional organizers, who suggest they take their fight public and launch a national media campaign, they refuse. They’re not interested in winning big, symbolic victories; they’re here to make sure that the tradition in which they so wholeheartedly believe continues to afford them the place and the space they need and deserve. Along the way, they teach us that reform is possible even without holy ire, that you can refuse to compromise your principles without becoming a mirthless zealot, and that, no matter what, you should never forget that Judaism regards ahavat yisrael, or kinship among Jews, just as highly as it does scholarly excellence or religious observance.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Film, Israeli culture, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Synagogue

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy