It was an enchanted evening that began at 4:30pm with sixteen* of us packed into the small party room at Bamboo Garden for dinner with Paula Eiselt, the director of “93Queen”. We later moved to the jam-packed Uptown Theater, where four** more Hadassah members also stopped by. Paula’s “can do” presence seemingly cast a spell on the audience, transforming it into a community on fire, interacting with the speakers and the film with unbridled enthusiasm.
While the Seattle Jewish Film Festival was touted as an opportunity to “Laugh. Cry. Love. Gather. Celebrate.”, this was indeed the range of emotions that swept over us. We were magically transported from the everyday “you go your way, I go my way” world to bring us together with Ruchie Freier and the other “characters.” Not merely characters, but real-life struggling people that that the director captured so sympathetically on film. Their story covered a period of five years, a fact that Q & A moderator Emily Alhadeff helped us to realize.
No, this was not a film about Hadassah. Yet somehow, it was. Because Hadassah advocates advancing the health and well-being of women, and deeply believes in “the power of women who do.” Since I agree with the late John F. Kennedy that “A rising tide lifts all boats”, we all benefited when Ezras Nashim (“help of women”) became the first all-female volunteer EMS agency in New York City.
What was most uplifting to me about this film was the decency, the high standard, the menschkeit way these Hasidic women behaved on this most non-traditional mission. Lawyer-leader Ruchie Freier set the example, and modestly states: “It’s not to take away anything from what a man can do, and it’s not about competition. It’s just about accepting the fact that women sometimes feel vulnerable and prefer the comfort of another woman who also happens to be a trained professional.”
In that theater we felt, magically, that we are all in this together. None of the Passover story’s wicked child-mindset, asking the question, “What does all this mean to YOU?” And, speaking of Passover, don’t we all wish our preparations were already done? We are all in this together, too.
*At dinner: Paula Eiselt, Pamela Lavitt, Rochelle Kochin, Karen Gorrin, Susan Adler, Karen Michelson, Barbara Goldoftas, Caryn Gold, Meryl Alcabes, Wendy Bensussen, John Lefor, Dee Caplan, Bill Johnson, Ruthie Voss, Deni Hirsh, Ettie Davis
**Stopped by: Rivy Kletenik, Carol Starin, Gigi Yellen Kohn, Lucy Varon
With appreciation to Meryl Alcabes for her wonderful photography