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Court Orders US Cinema to Show Israeli Film After it Bowed to Boycotts

A local court just outside of Philadelphia ordered a local movie theater to show an Israeli film after the theater announced it was canceling the screening of a movie that was to be screened as part of the annual Israeli Film Festival of Greater Philadelphia.

The lawsuit came just a day after the theater announced it would not be showing The Child Within Me, a film about Israeli musician Yehuda Poliker, which was to be shown at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute as part of the annual Israel Film Festival. But, on April 8, just a day before the screening, the theater sent out a notice saying it was cancelled so as not to appear as endorsing Israel.

The decision was condemned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Michael Balaban, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia strongly condemns the recent cancellation of the screening of ‘The Child Within Me’ at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute ….In today’s climate of rising antisemitism, building bridges of cultural appreciation and dialogue are critical to combating hate.

“Instead, the BMFI has played into a dangerous trend of erasing Jewish voices and experiences,” he continued. “We stand united with our fellow Philadelphia Jewish community members in demanding the BMFI to reinstate the screening.”

According to an email that was obtained and shared on X by the watchdog organization StopAntisemitism, Samuel Scott, executive director of the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, wrote that while the theatre “strived to be apolitical … public sentiment lately has escalated to the point that continuing with the IFF screening is being widely taken among individuals and institutions in our community as an endorsement of Israel’s recent and ongoing actions.”

“This is not a statement we intend or wish to make,” Scott wrote. “We have therefore decided to cancel the screening. We have notified the IFF and will be notifying the public shortly as well as Lower Merion Police Department, since a demonstration by local college students is planned … .”

StopAntisemitism’s executive director Liora Rez told the JC, “Boycotting a Jewish film at a time when antisemitism is skyrocketing is ethically wrong and does nothing but promote discrimination and foster more divisiveness. Samuel Scott cowering to Jew-haters clearly shows he lacks the integrity and leadership to head the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and should step down.”

In addition to the planned protest this evening, more than 2,700 people have signed a change.org petition demanding the theater reconsider.

This is not the first time that a film screening has been canceled since Hamas’s devastating attack on Israel on October 7. Just last month a theater in Canada rescinded its plans to host the Hamilton Jewish Film Festival just weeks before the scheduled April 7-9 event. The Playhouse Cinema said it had made the decision after “numerous” calls and emails led to concerns over safety if they continued with the film festival.

The Hamilton Jewish Federation was “outraged” by the cancellation saying it was a “lost opportunity to engage the Greater Hamilton community in a Jewish cultural event during the highest rise of antisemitism we’ve seen in recent history, and in the aftermath of the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust.”