From the filmmakers of Jesus Camp (which explores the Evangelical Church and its controversial recruitment and educational programs), One of Us is a documentary which follows three formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews as they transition out of the Hasidic community. This provocative film illustrates the hardships associated with one’s decision to leave this otherwise insular and closed community. The title, One of Us, is derivative of the question commonly asked by one member of this community to another, usually in Yiddish “Zener ir eyner fun aundz?” – literally, “are you one of us?” This question in and of itself is demonstrative of the nature of the community explored in the film. Among the many struggles faced by the subjects of the documentary are adapting to life in the real world and how to navigate a secular world for which they are not prepared: drugs, contemplating suicide, and processing sexual abuse are all issues that are tackled by the filmmakers.
While it is clear that the filmmakers had a specific agenda and message (fundamentalism = bad), they did a remarkably wonderful job illustrating both the best and worst parts of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. I personally was not shocked to hear the stories contained within, however, the personal experiences of the three subjects adds humanity and humility to a difficult topic. Each of the three subjects has a unique experience, but each of them must come to terms with their new reality of living outside of the world that they have known, away from the friends, family, and culture that they have experienced for their entire lives. Regardless of your personal opinions of the ultra-Orthodox community, these are human stories which will resonate with anyone who has ever felt alone or ostracized. I highly recommend taking ninety minutes this weekend and giving One of Us a watch.