With all of StyleLikeU, we seek to expose how what one wears on the outside reflects who one is on the inside. With our Uniforms feature, we focus on groups of people whose style is in direct accordance with their beliefs, exploring what it's like to blend into your own culture but stand alone from society at large. In the past, we've produced Uniform videos on nuns, monks, and ballerinas. Now, we're excited to share with you our latest of the series on the Hasidic community in Brooklyn. From the fringes of the men's tzitzit, to their seminal fur and fedora hats, to the tefillin leather strap that they wrap around their arm in order to hold Torah verse close to their hearts, to the elegant and unostentatious taste of the modest dress of the women, the Hasidic style is wrought with a royal, spiritual depth that screams of a long gone fashion of substance.
In response to the fact that I go wholeheartedly into everything I do -- completely motivated by passion and instinct-- someone said recently to me that I am not naive but pure. And, yes, I guess I am a "pseudo-journalist" (as someone referred to me when the first Hasid trailer was posted) in the sense that I approach things viscerally and not with an agenda. So be it… I am all about the power of intention. And my intention with this piece (as with all StyleLikeU pieces) is to shine the light on what I find to be beautiful and compelling in this all-too-often empty, ordinary, and money-driven world.
After a few heartfelt long phone calls and meetings with the brave souls of this video (who have never done anything like this before), explaining why StyleLikeU would be over the moon to do a feature on their style and what's behind it, Lily, Ramona, and myself were on route to the Catskills for a 12-hour odyssey that would change us forever. Until this moment, I assumed that the Hasidic community had about as much to do with me (a reform and rebellious Jew) as the Pope. But, like the Pope, I am drawn like a bee to honey to a style that is dripping in history and commitment to its underlying, rich traditions. As the day unraveled, not only did I begin to identify with some of my own life values, but I found a new group of the coolest people I had met in a long time, who were about to become my new great friends.
It felt like stepping onto a new planet to be around people who did not have their noses in their phones 24/7 and who were more curious about me than I was about them (if that's possible). Committed to helping their neighbors and free of a preoccupation with sensational, pop culture, the Hasidic individuals who I have gotten to know have invited me and my family over and over again to their sabbath dinner, where we will be stuffed with six or seven courses and hang out for hours. The big families, the sense of belonging to an extended community, and the reverence for the female body, mind and soul, were among the eye-opening and thought-provoking revelations, especially as on our way home from the Catskills, we reached the East Village at 2am where drunk, barely-dressed girls were going in for the conquest of recreational sex that night, as if it were a badge of some kind of mindless honor.
By no means do I feel as if the Hasidic community has all of the answers any more than I think any person or group does. All groups (just like the individuals who comprise them) are flawed and have imperfections with which I might disagree, but that does not diminish the beauty and humanity that they also possess and that I see in them. By opening up a dialogue and breaking the chain of demonizing people because they're different, my perhaps naive but definite hope is that there can be a coming together, healing, and enlightenment for all.
This video was edited by Adaeze Elechi
Shot and interviewed by Elisa, Lily, & Mona
Watch the trailer