On Tuesday, June 11, and Wednesday, June 12, the Donald M. Ephraim Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival presented the updated version of the 2001 documentary “Ruthie and Connie Every Room in the House.”
The screenings, at the Mandel JCC, Boynton Beach, and Mandel JCC Palm Beach Gardens respectively, was the festival’s annual commemoration of Pride Month honoring the June 1969 Stonewall Riots that ignited the modern gay civil rights movement.
“Part of our mission is to educate people about human experiences and social issues that make a difference,” said Ellen Wedner, Executive Producer of the festival. “I was thrilled to see such a mix of people as we had: young, old, Jewish and not, gay and not. It was wonderful.”
“Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House,” is first and foremost a love story. It’s the visible unfolding of a deep and committed soul-level relationship between two women in love struggling to escape the conventions of a heterosexist society.
It’s a love story that starts in the closet, and never ends, even when their escape from the closet is done.
It’s an intimate and often funny sharing of their experiences; attributes that they maintain with post-screening dialogue with the audience.
It’s also a call to engage for human rights and civil equality as Ruthie and Connie have done by appearing on national TV on the “Phil Donahue Show” and fighting a multi-year legal battle to win partnership benefits for employees of the New York City School District. They won.
The film elicits kudos from some and brickbats from others as the two women escape the societal trajectory of the nuclear family to embrace themselves and others who are trying to achieve equality, visibility and acceptance as the full-fledged human beings they are.
As Ruth “Ruthie” Berman) said in response to a post-screening question from the audience, “Being out is so important and we’re pretty far out,” she said. “I’m old enough that I don’t worry so much about the consequences.”
“If you don’t come out,” added Constance “Connie” Kurtz, “you’re disrespecting your relationship.”
Both the 2001 and the 2014 releases were produced by Donald Goldmacher so the transition between the decades is seamless and the scenes from the wedding make more poignant the women’s struggles with families, friends and society.