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A Life Apart: Hasidism in America (1997)

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Hasidic Jews seem alien, and even hostile, to those outside their culture,which frequently includes other Jews. They dress differently, don't mingle between the sexes, speak Yiddish, and ... See full summary »

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Credited cast:
Himself (Narrator) (voice)
Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Zeldy Abromowitz ...
Yaffa Eliach ...
Herself (as Prof. Yaffa Eliach)
Chips Gold ...
Esther Gold ...
Jack Gold ...
Samuel Heilman ...
Himself (as Prof. Samuel Heilman)
Arthur Hertzberg ...
Himself (as Prof. Arthur Hertzberg)
Ben Zion Horowitz ...
Nuta Kaufman ...
Malke Klein ...
Beryl Lazar ...
Chanie Lazar ...
Mayer Schiller ...


Hasidic Jews seem alien, and even hostile, to those outside their culture,which frequently includes other Jews. They dress differently, don't mingle between the sexes, speak Yiddish, and wear side curls, all in an attempt to rigorously follow the commandments of the Torah. They tend to keep to themselves, shunning television and the media so outside influences cannot corrupt their values and views. Yet filmmakers Oren Rudavsky and Menachem Daum were able to enter their world, and the result is the fascinating documentary A Life Apart: Hasidism in America. Using interviews with academics and members of the community and some historical footage, the filmmakers trace the growth of Hasidic groups in the United States. Groups formed around particular Rebbes (learned leaders) and they took their names from their Eastern European home cities (the Satmar Hasids, the Breslov Hasids, and so on). Leonard Nimoy and Sarah Jessica Parker narrate, explaining how this movement came to America and how... Written by Jenny Brown

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Release Date:

November 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Egy külön élet: Haszidizmus Amerikában  »

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User Reviews

Excellent insights into a community so few understand in America
17 August 2008 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Not being a New York City native, I can't recall ever having had any interactions with Hasidic Jews. Sure, on trips to the Big Apple, I've seen them on the streets here and there but like most in my country, I know very little about them--especially since this sect of Judaism is one that generally avoids the media and lives in small tight-knit enclaves in New York and a few other places in the world--not here where I live in Florida. So, because of my ignorance, I really liked being able to have a rare glimpse into their community and families. Despite wanting to be very separate culturally, these people seemed generally open to explaining to others their customs and lifestyle. For that, I felt like I'd been granted a rare privilege and it would be nice to see more films like this. I've heard that there are similar films about the Amish and Muslims--these would be a nice complement to this film.

The part I appreciated the most were interviews with non-Jews. Listening to their suspicions and trepidation about these people and then seeing that there really isn't anything to fear about Hasidism was a nice opportunity.

As far as the film goes technically, it was well-constructed--with nice music, appropriate interviews and a nice gentle pacing. All this left me with an admiration, of sorts, for these gentle people.

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