by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
When Robin Saex Garbose first opened a conservatory for Orthodox girls in the summer of 2000, she got a stern warning from a prominent educator.
“He said to me, ‘If things don’t happen the way I think they should happen, I will close you down. I won’t let young women attend my school if they go to your program,’” Garbose recently recalled.
Last summer, that same educator gave Garbose scholarship money for girls from his school to attend Kol Neshama, where the content and execution of the artistry conform to strict religious standards, and Torah study and prayer are part of every day.
This year, Garbose is raising eyebrows yet again as she employs what is seen by many as the most unkosher medium of all: a feature-length film.
“The creation of this film is going to be kosher on every level,” Garbose emphasized over and over. “I think the focus on midos” —value-oriented behavior— “and on being kosher with everything we do is going to enhance the whole nature of the process.”
Garbose is planning to carefully guard the reels of “A Light for Greytowers,” which she will release in December for all-female audiences only.
Garbose wrote the screenplay, and her husband, Levi, wrote the music and lyrics for the film, based on a novel about a Victorian-era orphanage by Eva Vogiel and Ruth Steinberg of Manchester, England.
Garbose has already raised some money and in-kind donations, utilizing a Hollywood network she built when she directed theater and television, including “America’s Most Wanted.” The entire crew will be made up of women.
“It’s really wonderful for the girls to see women doing these things and learning the technical aspect and also the creative aspects of filmmaking,” Garbose said.
Garbose has worked hard to open the venues for naturally talented girls to express themselves artistically.
“The girls don’t have a sense of dedication in terms of artistic pursuit—it’s something we’ve needed to really teach our girls and introduce to them,” said Garbose. “It’s not something they naturally get because they don’t have the examples to draw from.”