SAVING LIVES, CHALLENGING TRADITION

We bring you to Borough Park, Brooklyn, where a group of Hasidic women are breaking with tradition and smashing patriarchal gender roles, all while saving lives.

Aired on September 17, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> HOW WAS IT THAT AMERICA'S FIRST ALL-FEMALE EMT CORE WAS CREATED IN A COMMUNITY WHERE A COME IS EXPECTED TO BE A MOTHER AND ANY PROFESSION OR EXTRA SCHOOLING IS DISCOURAGED?

THAT'S THE QUESTION THAT FILMMAKER PAULA EISELT ANSWERS IN HER NEW DOCUMENTARY, '93 QUEEN.'

IN THE PROCESS, SHE INTRODUCES US INTO AN ORTHODOX JEWISH WOMAN WHO IS A PRACTICING WOMAN, HAS ALREADY CHALLENGED SOCIETY'S EXPECTATIONS, AND SEES THE NEED TO RETHINK GENDER ROLES IN THAT COMMUNITY.

HERE'S A LOOK.

THERE WAS A HUGE DIVIDE BETWEEN THE GENDERS.

I'M BEING TOLD THAT IT'S NOT RIGHT FOR JEWISH GIRLS TO BECOME EMTs.

WHEN I FIRST WENT TO HASELLA, OH, NO, THEY TELL ME.

MEN ARE SUPERIOR.

IT'S THE BOY'S CLUB.

IT TOOK LIKE 30 YEARS FOR SOMEBODY TO SAY, WE'LL TO OUR OWN THING.

JOINING US NOW IS THE DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER OF '93 QUEEN,' PAULA EISELT.

PAULA, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

THIS IS A FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY, A FASCINATING STORY FIRST OF ALL.

HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR OF IT?

SO I ACTUALLY FOUND THIS STORY ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO ONLINE.

I WAS PERUSING THIS ONLINE ORTHODOX WEBSITE FOR FUN.

AND I FOUND A LITTLE BLURB ABOUT A GROUP OF HASIDIC WOMEN WHO WERE STARTING THE FIRST ALL-FEMALE AMBULANCE CORPS.

AND THE REASON THEY WERE START THING IS BECAUSE THE EXISTING ALL-MALE CORPS CALLED HASELLA, DID NOT ALLOW WOMEN TO JOIN.

SO TWO THINGS IMMEDIATELY STRUCK ME WHEN I READ THAT.

THE FIRST WAS THAT HASELLA DID NOT ALLOW WOMEN.

I'M FAMILIAR WITH HASELLA.

I GREW UP IN A NEIGHBORHOOD THAT HAS HASELLA.

IT JUST NEVER OCCURRED TO ME THAT THIS LIFE-SAVING ORGANIZATION DID NOT ALLOW WOMEN TO JOIN, ACTIVELY BANNING THEM.

THAT WAS VERY UPSETTING TO ME.

THE SECOND WAS, HERE WERE A GROUP OF HASIDIC WOMEN WHO WERE NOT TAKING NO FOR AN ANSWER.

AND JUST THAT VERY FACT THAT THEY WERE BEING DEFIANT, THEY WERE SAYING IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO LET US IN, WE'RE GOING TO DO OUR OWN THING, WAS REALLY EMPOWERING TO ME AS A WOMAN.

AND THEN THE FACT THAT THIS IS FROM THE HASIDIC COMMUNITY IS AN ADDED SOMETHING REALLY EXCEPTIONAL.

TALK ABOUT RACHEL PRYOR, WHO IS SHE?

WHO IS RACHEL FRIAR?

SHE'S SO MANY THINGS, BUT AT HER CORE, SHE'S AN ACTIVIST AND A CHANGEMAKER AND A TRAILBLAZER.

SHE HAS DONE SO MUCH FOR THE HASIDIC COMMUNITY, AND DOES A LOT OF THINGS EVEN BEFORE, KIND OF IN THE BACKGROUND.

SHE KNOWS HOW TO MAKE CHANGE FROM WITHIN.

BUT HOW DID SHE GET THAT WAY?

SHE'S SO FAR FROM THE STEREOTYPE OF THE HASIDIC WOMAN, WHAT WERE THE INFLUENCES -- SHE'S ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE PEOPLE I'VE EVER SEEN, HONESTLY.

YES, SHE TRULY IS.

I THINK IT'S A NATURE THING.

THIS IS HOW GROWING UP, SHE WAS ALWAYS A GO GETTER.

BUT SHE DOES CREDIT HER MOTHER FOR REALLY INSTILLING THIS IN HER, THAT YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO STAND UP FOR WHAT'S RIGHT.

SO THAT WAS SOMETHING WITHIN HER.

I THINK THE MORE COMMUNITY ACTIVISM SHE DID, THE MORE SHE WANTED TO DO.

RACHEL IS ALSO VERY UNCOMPROMISING IN HER BELIEFS AND VALUES.

WE SEE THAT.

YES.

AND WHEREAS TYPICALLY BEING FROM THE HASIDIC COMMUNITY AND LIVING IN A VERY INSULAR PLACE, YOU KNOW, FROM THE OUTSIDE CAN SEEM AS A DETRIMENT, HOW CAN SHE BREAK INTO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, HOW CAN SHE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITIES SHE'S HAD?

BUT SHE'S KIND OF REVERSED THAT AND USED THAT AS A STRENGTH.

NOW, THE HOSTILITY OF HA HASELLA, OF THAT ORGANIZATION, THE HOSTILITY THAT THEY HAVE TOWARDS THIS NEW ORGANIZATION THAT RACHEL IS TRYING TO CREATE, WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF THAT?

IS IT JUST OLD PLAIN SEXISM, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OR YOU'RE TRYING TO CRUSH THE COMPETITION?

I THINK IT'S EVERYTHING COMBINED OF WHAT YOU JUST SAID.

THERE'S NO STRAIGHT-UP ANSWER.

IT USED TO BE THE FIRST ANSWER WAS THEY DON'T WANT THE GENDERS MINGLING ON THE CALLS.

BUT THAT DOESN'T REALLY MAKE SENSE.

BECAUSE YOU'RE TREATING WOUNDED PATIENTS ANY WAY, AND ALSO THAT CAN BE EASY HIILY WORKED OUT.

THAT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT IS UNWORKABLE.

I BELIEVE IT'S ABOUT POWER.

YES.

YOU KNOW, THEY HAVE CLAIMED EMS IN THE COMMUNITY, AND TO ALL OF A SUDDEN HAVE A NEW ORGANIZATION, ESPECIALLY WOMEN COME IN, IS VERY THREATENING TO THEM.

HASELLA IS -- AND THEY'RE AN INCREDIBLE ORGANIZATION.

THEY SAVE LIVES.

WE'RE TALKING ABOUT AN AMBULANCE CORPS HERE.

BUT WITHIN THE HASIDIC COMMUNITY, THERE'S A POWER ELEMENT THERE, AND THEY HAVE A LOT OF CLOUT, AND IT GOES BEYOND JUST SAVING LIVES THERE.

YOU SEE THE HOSTILITY THROUGHOUT THE FILM.

BUT THROUGHOUT THE FILM, AND THEY COVER IT AS THIS IS NOT A ROLE FOR WOMEN.

BUT I'M THINKING, THERE'S GOT TO BE A LOT OF HASIDIC MEN WHO WOULD PREFER WOMEN TAKING CARE OF THEIR DAUGHTERS.

THE AVERAGE HASIDIC GUY OR EVEN THE MEMBERS THEMSELVES ARE REALLY OKAY WITH THIS.

IT'S THE LEADERSHIP THAT IS UNRELENTING WITH THAT.

LISTEN, THERE'S ALL KINDS OF DEVELOPMENTS AND CONFLICTS IN THIS FILM THAT I DIDN'T WANT TO GET INTO, BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY.

VERY SURPRISING THIRD ACT.

EXACTLY, EXACTLY.

IT'S WONDERFUL.

IT'S A CHARACTER STUDY AND JUST UNPARALLELED.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

A PROGRAMMING NOTE, POV'S '93 QUEEN' WILL PREMIERE ON SEPTEMBER 17th AT 10:00 P.M.

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