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Brandon Judell

Keep Not Silent: Ortho-Dykes


Always the astute observer, Virginia Woolf once proffered, "Let us admit in the privacy of our own society that these things sometimes happen. Sometimes women do like women."

Although lesbianism today is not such an unimaginable lifestyle choice as it was in the beginning of the twentieth century, for many women with gay inclinations, being an openly girl-on-girl proponent can still be an anguished, fear-riddled option.

Don't believe me? Then view Ilil Alexander's illuminating documentary, "Keep Not Silent: Ortho-Dykes," which is being screened as part of The 15th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival, the yearly must-see event presented by both The Jewish Museum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center. (For the complete slate of features, check out: http://www.filmlinc.com/wrt/showing/nyjff06.htm.)

This probing doc chronicles the trials and tribulations of three Israeli Orthodox lesbians residing in Jerusalem, two of whom agree to be in the film only if their faces are obscured on camera.

Why? Not only will their own communities turn on them, but their children's lives will be ruined, too. They would be socially ostracized, and that would be a whole lot of ostracization. After all, Ruth is a mother of six, while Miriam-Ester's brood numbers ten,

Yudith, the only single woman, has less to lose. She even has a girlfriend whom she marries during the filming. The two each step on a glass, a tradition usually reserved for grooms. Amidst the songs, the cake cutting, and dancing, Yudith is tearful because out of her immediate family, only two of her siblings agree to attend the most important event of her life.

Ruth, meanwhile, is married to Boaz, who knows of his wife's inclinations. First he was accepting, then less so, and now he allows her to visit her female lover several nights a week. Boaz even went to a rabbi and asked if his wife being a lesbian was a valid reason for a divorce. No, insisted the rabbi. "It's more problematic in the relationship if the woman decides not to cover her head then if she sleeps with another woman."

As for Miriam-Ester, she made a pact with herself that she would wait 20 years to see if she still had her Sapphic inclinations.

All three are members of Ortho-dykes, a support group for Orthodox Jewish women, apparently with 15 members. There is also now a New York branch that is raising money by selling T-shirts proclaiming "Kiss me! I'm kosher."

Vivid, instructive, and absorbing, "Keep Not Silent," is the perfect companion feature to Sandi Dubowski's recent "Trembling Before G-d," which covered some of the same subject matter, though with more of a concentration on the plight of male homosexuals.

Director/writer/producer: Ilil Alexander
Cinematography: Udi Ben Arie, Uri Levi, Abigail Sperber, Danor Glazer, Tulik Galon, Nitay Netzer
Sound design: Aviv Aldema

Copyright © Brandon Judell 2005

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