In the movie “The Black Bus,” — a selection at the New York Jewish Film Festival — filmmaker Anat Zuria uses the Haredi-run “mehadrin buses” as a metaphor for the lives of two young women who have broken away from their Hasidic communities in Israel.
The movie introduces us to a young woman, photographer-law student Shulamit Weinfeld and re-introduces us to another, Sara Einfeld, a young mother who left the Gur Hasidic community with her two very young children a few years ago. Einfeld gained much attention for her blog “A Hole in the Sheet,” though the blog now seems to have disappeared.
“Black Bus” is a close look at the price paid by women who leave their Hasidic communities. Weinfeld and Einfeld are unable to have contact with their parents or siblings or friends. Even as they explain — to the filmmaker, to Haredi Jews who come to talk with them in the movie — why staying in the community was impossible, you see how much pain they’re in. Particularly heartbreaking are scenes where Einfeld’s young son asks why they can’t go visit his grandmother, and one in which a visitor catches a glimpse of scars where Einfeld cut herself on her inner arms. In the movie, which was originally made for broadcast on Israel television, Weinfeld has left her community just weeks before, after breaking free of an engagement that her parents forced her into. Her sense of abandonment by her parents, and her vulnerability, is heartrending.
A young, more Modern Orthodox rabbi, Avi Poupko, is also featured as he tries to distribute leaflets on one of the Mehadrin buses and explain that nowhere in Torah is it written that men and women must be separated in public. He gets shouted down by angry hasidic men, and all but physically tossed out a window.
Zuria previously made the movies “Purity,” about mikveh, and “Sentenced to Marriage,” about women fighting for divorce from their estranged husbands in Israel, where all divorce is under the purview of religious courts.
An interview with Zuria can be read here.
“Black Bus” Luria’s best film, but is a powerful look inside one of Israel’s increasingly gender-segregated haredi communities and is worth seeing when it’s screened at future film festivals.
While it’s nice to think of all Jews as part of one big, diverse family, “Black Bus” shows just how estranged things really are.