One of Us is the story of three (ex) Hasidic Jews on their path to leaving their religiously conservative communities. Throughout the documentary viewers are introduced to Ari Hershkowitz, Luzer Twersky, and Etty Ausch, all of whom are looking to escape their community but each taking a different path.
Ari Hershkowitz is a young man who decides that being an active member of the Hasidic community is no longer a part of him and decides he needs to make some changes. The first of these changes is by altering his look by cutting his hair and dressing in more modern clothing. Unfortunately, some members of the community turn their back to Hershkowitz after his transformation. The shunning of Hershkowitz, paired with disturbing experiences from the his past, leads him to resorts to drugs to find an escape. Viewers get to observe Hershkowitz’s road to sobriety and his realization of what the the world outside of his small Brooklyn community is like.
Luzer Twersky is another individual that the documentary follows. Twersky’s way out of the Hasidic community was through acting. Twersky details how he left New York and made his way to California, leaving his wife and family behind. The intent of Twersky’s departure was to become an actor by cornering the market on the need for Hasidic actors. Twersky’s plan does not play out exactly as he hoped and we see him living out of a camper trailer in Southern California. At one point in the documentary Twersky does make his way back to Brooklyn but is met with potential hostility.
The third person One of Us follows is Etty Ausch. Ausch became the main story of the documentary both in the film and as she made her rounds on talk shows after the release of the film on Netflix. Ausch story begins at the age of 18 when she was married into an abusive arranged marriage, to a man she did not know. Ausch had a total of 7 children from the marriage in just a few years. Ausch sought the help of Footsteps, a group that dedicates their resources to helping individuals leave the Hasidic community. Ausch details her journey into the courtroom to fight for custody of her kids. Ultimately, Ausch is forced to leave her kids behind if she wants not longer wants to be part of the Hasidic community.
In addition to the trials and tribulations that go with leaving the Hasidic community, One of Us hits on several other concerning issues . The documentary details a history of sexual abuse, domestic violence, psychological abuse, drug abuse, and the public shunning of the individuals by those in the community.
The District Decision
It didn’t take long for One of Us to capture my attention. Showing how one community of devoted citizens live their own life so separated from the outside world, in arguably the most modern city in the world, in New York is remarkable. The Hasidic community has established their own schools, stores, emergency first responders, and modes transportation all in the name of their Jewish heritage. This self efficiency makes it extremely difficult for those looking to leave the neighborhood to start a life separate from their Hasidic roots.
Each one of the subject’s stories were extremely gripping. From drug abuse, to a struggling actor, to the ultimate sacrifice of giving up Etty’s own children, the subjects all had to make hard decisions on their path to leave their Hasidic community behind. The stories contained in One of Us are extraordinary.
Final Grade: The District Decision for One of Us is that the film is Worth It with a final grade of B+.
The District Decision Grading Scale: Skip It (not worth the watch), Niche (worth the watch for those interested in the topic), Background Noise (worth having on while doing other activities), Worth It (worth your time), Classic (one of the best examples of the documentary genre).
- One of Us has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomato’s Tomatometer.
- The film made its initial debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
- Some sites online have questioned the accuracy of the time frames and full disclosures of facts surrounding subjects featured in the film.
|Director(s)||Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady|
|Run Time||95 Minutes|
Awards and Accolades
|Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards||Most Compelling Living Subject||2017||Won|
|Philadelphia Film Festival||Best Documentary||2017||Nominated|
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