My review of David Assaf’s Untold Tales of the Hasidim: Crisis and Discontent in the History of Hasidism in the latest issue of Commentary (link):
THOUGH much of contemporary popular culture seems to have been drained of even the slightest remnant of modesty or restraint, there are still some sectors where respect for the memories of the deceased and the privacy of the living, and concern for the ideological underpinnings of society, serve as powerful deterrents to candid tellall histories. The Hasidic movement is one such culture. Though its history is as replete with complex personalities as any, it has been told for the most part through tales about its leaders that leave little room for questions about faith or personal rectitude.
David Assaf, in Untold Tales of the Hasidim: Crisis and Discontent in the History of Hasidism, digs deep into a pile of scandals from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The book’s title promises tantalizing details that will remove the veil of righteousness from the pious. But this is no mere scandal sheet about a religious group that has jealously guarded nasty secrets from public scrutiny. It is a demanding exercise of historical study that exhaustively analyzes all the evidence surrounding some controversial episodes in an attempt to arrive at a balanced, if belated, truth.
Continued here (link – subscription required).