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A Life Apart

Directed by: Menachem Daum, Oren Rudavsky
96 Minutes, 1997, Documentary

In this extraordinarily intimate film, seven years in the making, we are taken into the depths of the Hasidim’s joyous, sometimes harsh, and often beautiful world. With their use of the Yiddish language, their distinctive clothes and their strict observance to Jewish ritual and law, the Hasidim are considered by many an insular people with little connection to mainstream America. And yet their values are those that many Americans find most precious: family, community and a life of meaning.





Directors: Menachem Daum, Oren Rudavsky

Cast: Leonard Nimoy

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker

Written by: Menachem Daum and Robert Seidman

Distributor: First Run Features


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.