After their thorough interpretation of belief within Evangelical Christianity in the Netflix documentary Jesus Camp, movie makers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady worked their way over to Judaism in their newest documentary, One of Us. One of Us, follows three former Hasidic Jews who are finding their way in the so called “modern world.”
Ari Hershkowitz, Luzer Twersky, and Etty Ausch grew up in the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn, New York. Each struggled with belief due to traumatic events that questioned the morals of Judaism.
Only nineteen at the time the documentary was created, Ari Hershkowitz has just come to Brooklyn after going to rehab for a cocaine addiction. Growing up, Ari struggled with his Judaism after being raped by a male camp counselor at his Jewish summer camp. Putting the past behind him, Ari now learns with a Rabbi and questions Judaism while trying to find what belief means to him.
We meet Luzer Twersky as an actor trying to make it in Los Angeles. After struggling with depression and attempting to commit suicide more than once, Luzer decided to leave his wife and child and move from New York to California to pursue a career in film.
After being abused by her husband for years, Etty Ausch filed for divorce and has to fight for custody of her seven children. Her entire community comes together to pay for a lawyer in support of her former husband. In the end of the film, she is still struggling with trying to see her children and is finding which sector of Judaism is right for her. We see her at a Conservative synagogue wrapping tefillin in the end of the movie.
Though blunt, Grady and Ewing do a beautiful job of portraying these unfortunate stories. Even though all three have encountered hardship within the religion, they are each searching for their Jewish identities and grappling with how they can practice the religion outside of the community that raised them. The film was made to paint the Jewish religion in a bad light, but I believe it does the opposite. One of Us shows that there is a place in Judaism for everyone. Ari, Luzer, and Etty have overcome their challenges and are curious to know more about Judaism and how they can fit in the religion after leaving the extremist communities.
One of Us has a personal feel, as it is not technologically elaborate. There is not much background music or film editing. The documentary feels like it was filmed and left raw, what we see is what we get. What adds most to the personal feel is how Grady and Ewing intertwine everyone’s stories, alternating back and forth between the three. As opposed to telling us the story of one character at a time, switching back and forth ensures that we do not forget about one character at the end of the film, or that one does not seem more important than the other.
Being that we are all Jewish and in an Orthodox school, it is hard to not take this movie to offense. But we cannot see this movie as a bash on the Hasidic community, but rather a celebration of Judaism and how different forms of Judaism make up our beautiful religion.
By: Hannah Mayer (12th Grade)