Whatever the reason, people in both Israel and abroad seem to have strong opinions about the haredi world or ultra-orthodox world, without knowing very much about it other than what the headlines may tell us. It’s time for that void to be filled.
Honestly, I’ve had so many people inform me with great certainty about what does or does not go on in the haredi world – and particularly in the world of haredi families in general and marriages in particular – people who have little or absolutely no close-up knowledge of this segment of society, that it’s enough to make me roll my eyes every time I hear someone begin to make one of these pronouncements.
So, I was happy to see an article in the New York Times discussing Rama Burshtein’s marvelous film, Fill the Void, about to open in theatres in the US. The article – to say nothing of the film – creates an opening for a discussion about haredi families that goes beyond the stereotypes.
The story centers on 18-year-old Shira, the youngest daughter of an Orthodox family in Tel Aviv, portrayed by Hadas Yaron, in her first starring role in a feature, who won the best actress award at the Venice festival. As the film opens, Shira is girlishly excited about the prospect of an arranged marriage to a promising young man from a good family. But before the engagement is made final, her older sister, Esther (played by Renana Raz), dies on the Jewish holiday of Purim while giving birth to her first child, plunging the family into crushing grief.
The movie is neither apologetics, nor an anthropology of the haredi community: the tale it tells is one of life challenges, family dynamics, intimacy and romance. Oh and yes, marriage too. Viewing the film allows the audience – first of all, to take part in a wonderful cinematic adventure – but second, an insight into one segment of the haredi world (there are no monoliths here) as it truly exists.
Read the entire article, and take yourself out to see the movie.
Meanwhile, here’s a little appetizer: