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Blanco Film Society
Friendship Has No Religion
Wednesday, January 9, 2008 • Posted January 8, 2008

As the Blanco Film Society moves into its Spring 2008 season, world news is full of radical Islamic terrorism and problems in Israeli-Palestinian relations, in addition to the fracas of the US Presidential debates.

"Arranged," the first film of the season, shows that friendship truly has no religion - what people have in common is much more important than how they differ.

A young Jewish Orthodox woman from Brooklyn, Rochel Meshenberg, is about to begin her first year as a special education teacher at the local public school. She is also about to embark on what her father and mother call the "most exciting time of her life" – the process of finding a husband via the time-tested method of using a "shadchen," or matchmaker.

As the school year gets underway, Rochel meets Nasira Khaldi, a Muslim woman of Syrian descent, also a first-year teacher.

The two young women – Rochel in long skirt and conservative blouse, Nasira in headscarf – stand out in this public school context. The principal, a secular Westchester Jew, is forever reminding them that, although they are two of her smartest, most gifted teachers, they are also stunted by their outmoded customs, religions, and by their patriarchal worldviews. She tells them of her experiences in the women's movement and her desire to see them reach their full potentials.

As the school year progresses, Rochel and Nasira realize they share much in common, including the fact that they are both going through what the outside world would call "arranged marriages." As their friendship deepens, they are exposed to their respective worlds. They prepare for school at one another's houses, meet one another's families, and discuss commonalities and differences.

Meanwhile, they are also both meeting potential spouses, and Rochel is having no luck. The shadchen is pairing her with men who, although they have good jobs or prospects, don't match her in intellect, curiosity in the world, or humor. The men presented to Nasira by her family are also not her equal. Rochel begins to question whether this age-old practice is going to work. Nasira has greater faith, as she views her parents’ loving union as such a success.

The question is how does a "modern woman" stay true to herself, and also to her deep, traditional religious convictions? Join the Blanco Film Society in viewing "Arranged" this Saturday evening (January 12th) at 7:30 PM at the Blanco Library (Main St between 11th and 12th Sts). Admission is by donation, or your household can see movies for an entire year for a donation of $20. Please see our website for more information

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