By Dan Clendenin

One of Us (2017)

This documentary film made by Netflix tells the stories of three Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn who did the nearly impossible: they left their separatist religious community. I watched it after viewing another film about Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn called Menashe (2017). The directors of the film, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, also did the provocative film Jesus Camp (2016). The movie opens with Etty, who has a protective order against her abusive husband, and who has joined the support group called Footsteps for ex-Hasidic members. She’s fighting a custody battle for her seven kids. Ari describes getting yelled at for asking questions, his complete ignorance about anything non-Hasidic, and how shocked he was to discover the internet. Luzer lives out of an RV in Los Angeles. He hasn’t spoken to his parents in seven years. What becomes clear is how the Hasidic community controls absolutely every single aspect of a person’s life, making it nearly impossible to leave and still survive. The price of freedom for these three people is very high indeed. No wonder Etty describes herself as “terrified.” Regardless of the particular religion, these are familiar and deeply disturbing themes about the impulse to control and abuse other people in the name of God.

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