A new film sheds light on New York’s Hasidic community


A GREAT film can also double as a work of history, philosophy, or sociology, but it is perhaps at its most vital when serving as anthropology. Because of its immersive capabilities, film can expose broad audiences to unknown worlds. Sometimes these worlds are hidden among us.

“Menashe” is such a film, and the Hasidic community is such a world. The Hasidim are a relatively small group of Orthodox Jews who live in insular communities, the largest of which is in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where “Menashe” is set. They are religiously conservative, and they reject relationships with outsiders, not to mention all secular entertainment. Joshua Weinstein, a non-observant Jew who co-wrote and directed the film, secured access to shoot among them by casting Menashe Lustig, a Hasidic actor and YouTube star, in the lead role. In real life, Mr Lustig is already somewhat marginalised in his community because of his artistic aspirations, but the script, based on his life, honours this community in ways no film yet has.

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