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A Life Apart: Hasidism in America (1997)

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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Did You Know?


Hasidic woman shopkeeper: I watched TV while I was in the hospital, and I was amazed that women could watch it all day long and not become mentally ill.
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New York, New York
Written by John Kander and Fred Ebb
Published by EMI UNART
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User Reviews

An Interesting View Of Hasidism
7 August 2010 | by (Huntsville, Alabama) – See all my reviews

This movie was an amazing look at Hasidism, the extreme Jewish group that behave and dress in a rather bizarre manner. The movie reminded me of Jesus Camp, a horror documentary about the indoctrination of Christian children. A Life Apart is similar in the respect that it involves indoctrination of vulnerable Jewish children. This branch of Judaism can only be considered an anachronism and projects an exclusivity that is rather frightening. The manner in which they lived, particularly in Eastern Europe, invited persecution.

Like most religions, Hasidism is patriarchal and women are relegated to a role of being essentially baby machines. The average family has ten children which results in an economic burden for most families. They have their own schools, and like all church schools, library books are rigidly censored. Members of this cult, and it is a cult, don't interact with other members of society and believe that they are superior to any other. The clothing worn by the men is dreadful as is the strange head-ware and they appear to have a fetish about beards and hair. Most of the men wear thick coke-bottle glasses.

I found the movie fascinating but these people are from another era. I find their society very similar to that of Islam a religion with which they are in constant conflict. I came away from this film feeling very sorry for the members trapped within it and particularly for the children. Very sad but an eye opener.

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