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Heartland Film Festival: ’93Queen’ showcases the determination of Hasidic women

When perusing the film line-up for Heartland Film Festival this year, the film that immediately caught my attention was 93Queen.  The documentary follows Rachel Freier or “Ruchie”, a Hasidic mother and  lawyer who shook up the male dominated Hasidic community by creating   Ezras Nashim, the first all-female ambulance corps in New York City. It  is rare for Hasidic communities, especially women in these communities,  to be highlighted through film, so the concept is certainly unique.  However, what specifically caught my interest was the concept of hearing  the voices of the women within this community. I wanted to hear about  their experience breaking boundaries and fighting to change their  community in the male-dominated Hasidic society. I am glad to say that 93Queen exceeded my expectations.

The film informs us immediately that Hasidic women are expected to be  modest. This means that women doing work outside of mothering children  or tending to familial tasks is frowned upon within the society. This  expectation of modesty extends to physicality, as women do not have  sexual relationships, kiss, or even touch men before marriage. The issue  that arises from this is that many women are intimidated by calling for  emergency services, specifically Hatzolah, the strictly male-run  emergency care corps, for fear of being touched or looked at by men  while in an immodest state.

 


Ezras Nashim recognizes the need for a female-run emergency care  corps for women in the Hasidic community. However, Ezras Nashim faces  constant bullying and intimidation from Hatzolah and members within the  community.  The film constantly reminds us that while the efforts of  Ezras Nashim are noble and very much needed, stubborn adherence  traditional ideals can easily stunt progress and neglect the needs of  members in a community. Some of the film’s most impactful moments stem  from the resistance towards Ruchie’s efforts and truly emphasize just  how much adversity she and Ezras Nashim faced within their own  community. The documentary does an excellent job showcasing the  determination of Ruchie and Ezras Nashim while simultaneously educating  the audience about the traditional roles of women within the community.

Film director Paula Eiselt is a Hasidic woman herself, which works to  the film’s benefit. It is clear that Eiselt understands the gravity of  what the women in the film are trying to accomplish and does an  excellent job of introducing outsiders to Hasidic culture by allowing  the women to go about their daily lives virtually uninterrupted. We are  able to follow Ruchie, the film’s primary subject, as she cooks for her  family, goes to work at her law practice, prays, and as she organizes  Ezras Nashim. Just from watching her do these various everyday tasks, we  are allowed to see an insider’s perspective of her religion and  tradition in an organic, respectful manner. Even more importantly,  Eiselt gives Ruchie and the other volunteers at Ezras Nashim a platform  to share their views, address their struggles, and showcase their  success.

Something that I genuinely appreciate it the clear respect for the  subjects and communities being show, but what I also find admirable is  that the documentary is careful to remain honest and transparent. Ruchie  is a human-being, and like every human-being she has faults. I’m glad  that these faults were not shied away from, as they only serve to make  her more human and relatable.

The film is incredibly well-done and showcases the power and  dedication of women. While Ruchie may not consider herself a feminist,  she has indisputably helped to pave the way for Hasidic women and other  minority women to follow their chosen careers and challenge  patriarchal  society, and to me that screams feminism. 





Follow the film on Facebook and the film’s official website.

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