Okay, Michael Moore is not Jewish, but he’s a menschy guy who cannot abide injustice. Co-hosting—with Fran Leibowitz-- a post-screening party for Netflix’s documentary, One of Us, this week at the Waverly Inn, the Oscar winning documentarian and recent Broadway star could not restrain his indignation at the plight of Etty, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her ‘30’s whose children were taken away from her when she left her abusive husband. One of three ostracized by the Hasidic community, featured in this award-winning non-fiction film by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, Etty and her story especially seems to grab everyone by the throat. She is seen to be a loving mother. Clearly it is a crime against all human instinct and decency to take children away from such a mother. Leibowitz, who is Jewish, rightly pointed out that the current wave of extreme Judaism is not the Hasidism she knew growing up, but a more improvised, puzzling and arbitrary variant.
Fundamentalism in any faith thrives on a sense of self-righteousness, Luzer, another star of this film told me; it is used to justify outrageous and inhumane behavior. An aspiring actor, he has left behind a wife and children to pursue his dreams. Ari, the third story recounted in One of Us, is a young man who was sexually abused by an authority figure in the community. The filmmakers balance their assessment of this sect of Jews interviewing a rabbi. With his beard and black hat, this rabbi out of central casting tells the filmmakers, many find comfort and happiness in this community. Fair enough, but as Michael Moore in his bravado style and sense of decency noted, we need to get better legal help for Etty, who now is studying to become a human rights attorney.
Of course, Fran Leibowitz could not miss the chance to point out, speaking of abuse, Harvey Weinstein lives across the street, but he’s not here right now.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central