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One of Us
Year:
2017
Country:
USA
Genre:
Documentary
IMDB rating:
7.2
Director:
Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
Ari Hershkowitz as Himself
Luzer Twersky as Himself
Etty as Herself
Chani Getter as Herself
Storyline: Penetrating the insular world of New York's Hasidic community, focusing on three individuals driven to break away despite threats of retaliation.
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Reviews
An important story!
I have read several books on this topic, and each time I start "one of these books" (With two notable exceptions) I close it in sheer disgust. The story-line can always be summed up as "my excuse for leaving and why it's all your fault". A reasonable person might wonder why I cannot resist reading such books, and apparently watching this movie at 2:00AM. The simple answer is, that I am half a generation older than the authors, yet quietly, before it became popular to rebel, walked my path in silence and anonymity, away from the hell of my youth, to the lonely abyss of my adulthood. (Unfinished business) To be clear I was not raised a Chosid. just a simple "Yeshivish Jewish man". Several have suggested I pen my story. I do not intend to, as I do not think myself capable of an unbiased presentation. I love my creator, yet I struggle to keep some of the mitzvot. Daily I make an effort to turn my will and my life over to god, but can never entirely shake some of the chains of my youth. Religion still leaves a sour taste in my mouth… getting better daily... Enough about me!!!

The reason for this review is that in my opinion, this movie is FAIR, presenting both the beauty of the orthodox community life, and the underbelly of abuse that permeates through our society, made all the worse, by the "god complex" of SOME rabbis. Most importantly the movie does not make excuses. Even Ari who was clearly traumatized by being molested, does not use this childhood occurrence as an excuse for his future choices. One must be a fool not to realize the obvious correlation, as a reason for his life choices, yet his character conveys strength and indicates that the betrayal of youth need not be permanent. An important lesson for all from any walk of life.

Orthodox Judaism is a great privilege and in my mind, produces many of the greatest people on the face of this earth. Most religious Jews are kind, many are very generous, some are super honest, with a few acquiring extreme intelligence. The system is not broken, but it does require adjustments. Halacha has always been based on majority opinion. A majority of one only works for God. Absolute power corrupts, and no man should have that kind of power over any group of people. (We are a religion not a cult) The second perhaps more important lesson I took from this movie is that we ought to love "Hitlers Jew". The fuhrer, may he continue to suffer in extreme pain for all eternity, did not dismiss any Jew based on how religious they were or were not, and neither should we. I choose to try and support and love all Jews (All people really) and always avoid judging the individual. (Actions can certainly be judged) This is an important story with excellent lessons and I highly recommend watching it. Wishing success, and serenity to Luzer, Etty and Ari!
2017-10-23
Powerful, heartbreaking, compelling
I just want to say first and foremost that I am in awe of the three featured individuals. Etty, Luzer, and Arye/Ari are former members of Brooklyn's Hasidic Jewish community who, for various reasons, and out of varying degrees of excruciating horror or sadness, have chosen to leave the only community they've ever known—a community that eschews formal education, job skill-building, or co-mingling with a 21st-century secular world. In effect, by choosing to use the Internet or eat cheeseburgers or enter a public library, formerly Hasidic Jews in New York face complete isolation and ostracism.

All three stories are heartbreaking in their own ways, and each person was heroic in their willingness to challenge and question a system that does not celebrate America's "rugged individualism." It's no doubt hard for many of us in the secular world to grasp just how complicated it may be to confront such a world. But the real heroism is within Etty, an extraordinarily articulate woman with such steely resolve and fierce affection for her seven children by an abusive husband she barely knew before marrying. It's a mystery how she became so strong, especially given what happens during the course of the film, but she deserves a standing ovation for never losing sight of her principles and her humanity.

Beautifully shot and scored, this film is a thoughtfully constructed and deeply humane exploration of the role of the American Hasidic community in the wake of the Holocaust. I hope there is a follow-up film from the same creators.
2017-10-20
Well made but sad because these folks are so helpless
"One of Us" is a documentary about some folks who have become disenchanted with the Hessidic Jewish community...a group in which blind obedience is expected. For example, one lady was horribly abused by her Hessidic husband...but the community has banded together to fight her in her attempt to retain custody of her kids. Another was raped at a Hessidic camp as a child...and left because the community refused to take any action and the pedophile is still apparently in this position! Another discontended man is shown...a man who had to literally walk away from his wife and kids because he was not willing to blindly follow the group's every requirement...such as not reading books, using the internet or having anything else to do with the outside world. The way the community work together to suppress these folks and disempower them is frightening...especially since local government (New York City) seems unwilling to deal with the physical and sexual abuse and the abuse of custody laws. Overall, a very sad and depressing documentary that should be seen...as it shows a side of America that seems, well, un-American.
2017-10-24
Highly Recommended
Saw this film on Netflix. Gave it 8 stars. Not solely because of the story-line, editing, and production, but because of the bravery of the cast, crew, and producers in standing up against a community that is generations old to tell their story and risk their lives in doing so. Of course, there are bad apples in every religion, but when or how can physical spousal abuse or child sexual molestation ever be justified? How is it acceptable to turn a blind eye when children and women are being violated?? Hope more people see this film and hope more of these people ultimately get the support they need to break free.
2017-10-26
very touching
This movie follows three separate stories on the same thread, the challenges of breaking away from a self-centered community and facing the ostracism it entails.

The movie is complex, in the sense that every point of view depicted can be either justified or vilified without much effort, and deals with a theme that is both delicate and universal, not fitting in. The setting is hassidic, but I consider that more of a detail, for it could be any other closed group with very high demands of its members.
2017-11-02
Cinematically, it's a hatchet job
Without challenging the truth of the sad stories the movie tells, I still think it went overboard in the cinematic tricks that make the Hassidim look an alien peril-- photographing them from the back or in far-off groups as if they are too frightening to be approached, or showing fractions of their faces, or showing them moving quickly while the soundtrack plays slow, ominous music. The movie could have made its point-- to the extent that its point is legitimate-- without such techniques of audience manipulation. And the manipulation would be less distressing if the documentary were merely one among a large number of competing sympathetic and unsympathetic portrayals of Hassidism. As is, this is likely to be the only view of Hassidism many people receive, at least this year, and it will leave them with an imbalanced impression. Who would guess, after seeing these stories, that there are also people who willingly join the Hassidic movement without being born or brainwashed into it?
2017-11-16
Must watch
This documentary was life changing for me. It made me realize how lucky I am to be free of a world that made me so sad.

And how easy I had it compared to others who left religion.

Seeing the violence inflicted on Etty made me sick to my stomach.

Seeing the community be willing to give her kids to a man who beat them because better they be battered religiously than be secular made me sick.

Seeing the blacked out faces of little girls made me nauseous.

Hearing how she was stalked and assaulted and how the community spied on her and ruined her life made me hatefully angry.

Honestly, I can't believe we allow this in the US. We shouldn't.

All religious communities need sunlight like this, this movie is a wake up call and worth seeing by everyone, but especially members of the community who need to clean up what is happening.
2017-10-23
Great job of raising awareness tho needs more context
The film does an excellent job of drawing the viewers into the characters who are brave to share their horrific stories. That said the movie left me feeling short - what happened to the characters? where do we go from here?

Also, the film only depicts the Satmar Chassidic sects, one of many and the most insular. Some such as the Lubavitch value community outreach and sponsor Chabad as a house of worship that welcomes all Jews.

To the gentleman reviewer who said that Chassidic customs date back to Moses is plain wrong. The Chassidic movement started in 18th century Europe and the outfits the men wore (and still do) were designed to mock the European nobility of that time. Many of the customs such as women shaving their hair have nothing to do with Jewish law, and American Reform/Conservative Judaic practices do not erase "99%" of Jewish observances. Furthermore, not all Orthodox are Chassidic and most Jews are not orthodox...and so it goes.

We Jews come in different shapes, sizes and have varying degrees of observance. It is unfortunate that there are some awfully bad eggs.
2017-10-29
Excellent insight
Its very difficult to not have an opinion about Hessidic Jews or any religion that seems a wee bit off when it comes to behaviorism. If you didn't have an opinion, watch 'on of us' and you will have one on Hessidic Jews.

Forget the clothing and the side-burn-decorations and the wacky hats, that all doesn't really matter. Nothing wrong with having an identity.

What matters is the seemingly backward way of thinking and living. My first though was 'this equals Wahabbi-ism and is no different, if not worse, than sharia'.

One of Us offers great insight in the life of Hessidic Jews and the hardship, mental abuse and Neanderthal-ways those borne into this religion have to endure.
2017-11-12
Amazing, Real, and Raw.
Firstly, this documentary had excellent music in it... I grew up in a Pentecostal Christian Church which is kind of the equivalent of Hasidism. I know EXACTLY what these people are going through and their stories need to be told. This documentary captures the lack of humanity when an insulated community isolates people who break their rules.
2017-10-23
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