Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Filmmaker Paula Eiselt

Members of Ezras Nashim.

Ruchie Freier and her husband.

Ruchie Freier, director of Ezras Nashim, on the streets in Boro Park.

When calls come in to the dispatchers at “93Queen” in Boro Park, Brooklyn, trained female EMTs jump into action by driving or being driven to the source of the call to meet up with ambulances sent out to meet them by Midwood Ambulance or FDNY. These female EMTs, part of the Ezras Nashim team, are graduates of 

certified EMT programs and many have voluntarily done rotations in hospitals around NYC for additional experience. They are experts in birthing situations, neonatal resuscitation, geriatric emergencies and many more emergency situations. Though relatively new on the scene, they have garnered recognition and in 2017 were designated EMS Agency of the Year by both New York City and New York State. Their story is artistically documented in the film “93Queen,” which is being shown from August 8 through August 16 at Teaneck Cinemas on Cedar Lane. On Sunday evening, August 12, at 8 p.m., filmmaker Paula Eiselt, Teaneck resident, will field a Q&A with the audience.

The director of Ezras Nashim, Judge Ruchie Freier, is no stranger to the Orthodox community. Her inspirational journey from chasidic mother of three at the time (now six), serving as an office secretary, to a college student at age 30, lawyer at 40 and election to NY State Criminal Court judge is well known. Her earlier undertakings are equally impressive. Prior to spearheading Ezras Nashim, Freier founded B’Derech, a program that enables at-risk young men to get their GEDs and go on to earn associate college degrees. Freier’s mission in founding and directing Ezras Nashim, where even today she serves as an active EMT when time permits, was to afford Orthodox Jewish women, including those in the chasidic community, top-notch care during medical emergencies at the hands of other Orthodox women. Being treated by a woman at these times of crisis provides patients with a sense of modesty and calm not always experienced when treated by a male EMT.

Relatively new to this community, having moved with her young family from Queens to Teaneck in the fall of 2017, is Paula Eiselt, the filmmaker of the trailblazing documentary “93Queen.” Eiselt grew up in the Five Towns and attended yeshiva day schools. At HAFTR High School she created a film club to promote her passion for film. During summer breaks while in high school, she interned with Darren Aronofsky, well-known filmmaker, whose work had inspired her. With her acceptance into NYU’s Tisch School, majoring in cinema studies and film production, she was finally on her way. But balancing an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, first as a single and shortly afterwards as a young wife and mother, was no easy task. Fortunately, she met up with Marco Williams, a professor of documentary filmmaking at Tisch, who became her mentor and friend. He helped her navigate the contradictions that she often faced as a filmmaker and Orthodox woman. Williams, who serves as the executive producer of “93Queen,” helped Eiselt “see the things that could have been viewed as shortcomings to be cool and strong.”

Eiselt was drawn to the work of Ezras Nashim after viewing a clip on Vos Iz Neias. She admired these chasidic women “for doing what they thought was right, even if in their world it was at best unconventional and controversial. I had never seen chasidic women not take no for an answer before. I realized that this was an extraordinary story and I had to tell it.”

During her filming, she became a great fan of Ruchie Freier, who shared her plans of expanding Ezras Nashim even beyond the Orthodox Jewish community. For Freier, the key to her work was “affording women choices.” Freier is featured in the film with her “obvious strategic and intellectual brilliance and powerful will.”

When asked about the challenges she confronted during the physical filming of the documentary, Eiselt shared, “Because I was an observant Jewish woman, and I understood the tzniut issues involved, the chasidic women were more willing to open up to me. I also explained to them that the stereotypes of their communities were all negative and my film would give them an opportunity to change these stereotypes to positive ones. I was giving them a platform from which to express their views and needs. Most of all, I was humanizing them for the audiences to whom they were unknown.” When asked if she confronted negativism or outward signs of opposition while filming, Eiselt responded, “Most of my filming was done indoors, in offices or homes. But when we took to the streets, we were exposed to obvious disapproval, including from male Hatzalah members, who thought of us as trespassers. One even asked me how in 120 years I would explain to the One on High what I had done!”

Eiselt hopes to continue balancing her life as the wife of David and mother of Avinoam, Yoli and Libby, ages 9 to 21/2, member of Congregation Netivot Shalom and all that being an Orthodox Jewish parent entails with her life as a documentary filmmaker. She hopes to investigate and showcase issues of concern to all segments of society.

Eiselt hopes the Teaneck community will view her film while it is being shown at the Teaneck Cinemas on Cedar Lane from August 8 to August 16. She looks forward to hearing from the viewers at the Sunday evening, August 12, showing. She added that Ezras Nashim is currently undertaking a fundraising campaign for their first ambulance.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, or online at http://teaneckcinemas.com/movie/93queen/ or https://www.fandango.com/teaneck-cinemas-aaoyt/theater-page?cjid=cj_10414546_4975633_&date=2018-08-08.

Questions about the film, including community screenings, should be directed to [email protected], or visit the website at http://www.93queen.com/.

By Pearl Markovitz