Hasidism In Life Apart

Decent Essays
Life Apart is a documentary that explores Hasidic Jews in geographical and historical contexts. The filmmakers trace Hasidism from its origins in Eastern Europe to its arrival in the United States, interweaved by the Holocaust with lasting impacts. Referred to as a “minority within a minority,” Hasidic Jews are often overlooked because of their nonconformist interactions with the surrounding world. They reject pop culture and are hostile to other groups. Their religion governs every aspect of their lifestyles, including strict dietary choices, limited careers, and patriarchal structures. In a constantly modernizing world, Hasidic Jews must define themselves between their traditionalist views and their place in America. The film traces Hasidism’s…show more content…
Undoubtedly, Hasidic Jews had to interact with groups outside of their religious bubble. They viewed others with contempt, as they considered themselves the “spiritual elite.” Despite this, economic burdens and American ideals challenged the very existence of Hasidism. For example, they would have lots of children, but were limited to low-paying jobs, perhaps leading to their staggering decline. Notably, the Holocaust caused unimaginable psychological and emotional strains. Victims questioned their relationship with God, leading many to abandon their beliefs. Younger populations lacked the same intense devotion because of anti-Semitism. Despite efforts to keep modernism out, feats of American traditions slowly intermingle with Hasidic…show more content…
Similar to some groups of Protestants, Hasidic Jews are equally as conservative, with some of the same issues overlapping. Furthermore, the struggle for Hasidic Jews to mesh with American culture reminds me of the Conservative Movement in the 1880s. The Jewish Theological Seminary wanted to integrate more traditional readings of the Torah to modern American society. Similarly, the Hebrew Union Seminary wanted to revise the rabbi class and encourage Jews to attend synagogues. This resulted in many versions of Judaism, and many even regarded America as their Zion. On the other hand, Hasidic Jews were unwilling to adapt, and regarded their Eastern European origins as their Zion. Another sect we discussed in class were the Orthodox Jews, who are an umbrella term to the Hasidic Jews. Although Orthodox Jews see themselves as nothing but traditional, they are modern because of the conscious choice to stick to Jewish values. This is especially ironic in the documentary, when in fact Hasidic Jews are actually modern. In the “Jewish Food and Jewish Identity” reading, the author explores how Judaism has become such an “optional” religion. After watching the film, it is apparent why Hasidic Jews exhibited so much tension even to other members in the same overall religion. They resented that many Jews did not follow the strict reading of the Torah, which
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