Sarah Silverman Brings Her Unorthodox Humor to Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – Sarah Silverman brought her rape jokes, boundary-busting comedy and foul-mouthed charm to the Jerusalem Cinematheque Thursday evening, appearing as a special guest at the 16th annual Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival and attending a screening of her HBO documentary, “We are Miracles.”

Silverman, whose sister Susan is a well-known feminist rabbi in Jerusalem, joked that the fest’s timing was perfect as it allowed her to also attend her nephew’s bar mitzvah next week. Prior to the screening, the comedien was honored with an achievement award, presented by Cinematheque founder and Jerusalem film maven Lia Van Leer, who told Silverman, “You are a miracle!”

Silverman was given a gold Chanukah menorah, which she joked looked like a pair of brass knuckles before slipping it onto her right hand to prove her point.

After the screening, Silverman returned to the stage for a Q&A with Israeli comic Einav Galili, who is best known for her work on the satirical news program “Matzav HaUma” (State of the Nation). Silverman’s rabbi sister is known for campaigning for women’s rights at the Western Wall, and Galili touched upon politics by saying as she sat down, “This is the Jewish Film Festival so I would like to ask you about your experiences at the Western Wall.” After an awkward pause, she added, “That was a joke. I do not want to ask you.”

But Silverman, who had visited the Western Wall with her sister earlier on Thursday to light Chanukah candles, brought up the topic later herself. She found it absurd, she said, that the women at the gender-segregated prayer site were relegated to a much tinier space than the men, and that it was impossible to enter the site without wearing modest dress.

“I come from a family of rule breakers and people who are like, I don’t get the whole thing,” she told the audience. “Everyone said when you come to [to the Western Wall] you’re going to feel so connected, but then, there’s like this much room for the men,” she said, showing a wide space with her hands, “and this much room for the women,” she added, pushing her hands together. “You’re perverts and we have to wear unflattering length skirts because of that? That’s you. That’s your thing.”

Silverman, who also used the Q&A to speak about her love for Joan Rivers, admitted that there are issues in the Middle East on which she remains naïve.

“I had these T-shirts I was going to bring here. They said in Hebrew and Arabic, ‘be brave and love each other,’” she said. She had been planning to pass them out in Israel until her boyfriend, Michael Sheen, explained that the situation was a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a T-shirt.

“I guess, yeah, if I was a Palestinian or an Israeli and I saw you in that T-shirt I would probably be like, f*ck you,” she admitted. “But I brought them with me anyway, because they look good on my boobs.”

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