British JCC cancels women-only screening of haredi director’s film following complaint

(JTA) – A London JCC canceled a women-only screening of an Israeli movie by a haredi Orthodox filmmaker following a complaint to the country’s human rights commission.

The northwest London Jewish community centre JW3 said in a statement released to the local media this week that it canceled the screening of Gift of Fire upon legal advice that said a women-only screening would be in violation of equality laws in England.

Directed by Rechy Elias, Gift of Fire was scheduled to be shown as part of the Israeli Film and Television Festival, Seret 2015.

The one complaint to the Equalities and Human Rights 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 separate screenings for women and men.

In its statement, the JCC said it was “regrettable” that it could not show the film.

“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,” the statement said. “We had hoped to able to provide this rare platform for a haredi female filmmaker 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.”

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 been shown in Israeli community centres, according to the Guardian.

A previous screening scheduled for a movie theatre in the London borough of Camden had been canceled after the theatre said it would not enforce excluding men from the show.

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