Leaving and Staying

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In the modern world, the phenomenon of someone leaving a sheltered minority to become part of the majority culture is hardly newsworthy. Orthodox Jews have been abandoning their community for well over a century, occasionally in floods and sometimes in trickles. Deborah Feldman’s recent memoir, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection Of My Hasidic Roots, joins thousands of other similar stories. The more interesting people are the many who struggled with the temptation of leaving but chose to remain.

Feldman grew up in the Williamsburg Satmar community. Her book is a window into that world, but only in a limited way. Her father is mentally challenged and her lesbian mother left the community. Raised by her grandparents, she was generally treated as someone with an inferior communal status. Her marriage was miserable, due in no small part to bedroom dysfunction that prevented consummation for a full year (the progress of which she documents in vivid, but not crude, detail). An intellectually curious young woman with little social capital and no emotional support structure, she found the courage to walk away with her toddler son from the community.

As a sheltered child and then young adult, Feldman’s perspective is restricted to her impressions based on her limited information. Her memoirs tell us how she interpreted and felt about what she saw. But how accurate is that? Much of her story rings true to me but I’m an outsider to the community and cannot know for sure. For example, when she reports on a boy’s expulsion from school after reporting sexual abuse, all we know is that she heard it from her husband who heard it in synagogue. I have no interest in denying the story and readily admit that it could have happened as described but it could also have been speculation and idle gossip. I entirely concede that the Satmar community has many social and religious restrictions but how many of the do’s and don’t’s she lists are real communal standards and how many the perceptions of a self-conscious girl?

As I read the book, I kept asking myself “Can this possibly be true?” I don’t question the truth of the story, or at least the author’s impressions of the events, but I find the personal revelations implausible. Can this author really be telling all of her personal information to the world? She reveals extremely intimate details of her marital life, exactly how she felt about different family members and herself at different stages of life, brutally honest discussions of her parents and childhood friends. She has not only burned every bridge in her life but opened her mind and body to public examination. I wish someone had advised her to keep her private life private because I suspect she will eventually regret these revelations.

The most surprising aspect of this book, even more than the embarrassing personal detail, is the impressive literary quality. I’ve spoken to many Chassidic men and always marvel that people born and raised men in America have to struggle to put together a coherent English sentence. Yet Feldman’s writing quality is simply remarkable, beyond what can be attributed to marginally better secular education for women. I find it bordering on miraculous.

After a disastrous marriage and lacking any status or support in the community, Feldman took her son and left Judaism entirely. She did not have many alternatives but this one certainly took great personal courage. However, despite Feldman’s difficult personal journey, hers was a path well traveled. The world is full of formerly religious people who have abandoned their community. I’ve heard this tired story so many times, and witnessed it as well.

I find more interesting those who choose to stay, who resist whatever societal trends are pushing them and overcome their personal issues. Bialik memorably described the late nineteenth century yeshiva student who survived the crushing winds of rebellion and remained in the yeshiva, all alone (Levadi, and in English). Everyone was carried away by the wind, except the individual with rare strength who stayed. The simple Jews who ignore such issues and those who succumb to them are no match to those who battled the powerful forces and won. There is dignity in a principled staying, in a sense becoming born again into the community.

There are many reasons to leave a restrictive community for the vast opportunities of the majority culture. There are also many reasons, particularly regarding family, to stay. Successfully navigating this complex maze is a remarkable task. Do you balance the competing claims without surrendering to either or creatively resolve them? Acknowledging that life is full of sacrifices, some decide the closeness of family is more important than additional personal freedom. Others recognize that the novelty of majority life eventually fades and the personal relationships we build are more important. Some find the intellectual obstacles to belief less compelling after digging into the foundation of the challenges while others simply recognize their own limitations in deciding the greatest scholarly debates of history. There is no one formula but everyone I’ve met who has resisted the substantial pressure to leave displays unusual insight and spiritual strength. In the end, who wants to be a statistic, another casualty to the forces of modernity, rather than one of the surviving remnants of Jewish continuity? Why choose to be one in billions when you can be one in a few hundred thousand, one of the remnant survivors who continue a special story spanning thousands of years?

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

91 comments

  1. “The most surprising aspect of this book, even more than the embarrassing personal detail, is the impressive literary quality. I’ve spoken to many Chassidic men and always marvel that people born and raised men in America have to struggle to put together a coherent English sentence. Yet Feldman’s writing quality is simply remarkable, beyond what can be attributed to marginally better secular education for women. I find it bordering on miraculous.”

    I would think you’ve heard of editors? And/ or talent and hard work. Take someone like Shulem Deen. He’s obviously worked his tail off to nurture his natural talent, and is an excellent, vivid writer.

  2. Jacob Suslovich

    “There are many reasons to leave a restrictive community for the vast opportunities of the majority culture. There are also many reasons, particularly regarding family, to stay”

    That’s it? One utilitarian concern to be weighed against another? How about a conviction of what is the truth and a decsion to live your life in accordance with your vison of reality.

  3. “There is no one formula but everyone I’ve met who has resisted the substantial pressure to leave displays unusual insight and spiritual strength. ”

    i think you have it backwards (as well as your analysis). the pressure is to stay not to leave to a world unknown, uneducated and unprepared for. its interesting how your view is not the writer’s view and to criticize her for that is….

  4. S,

    Don’t forget about ghost writers. There’s always a good chance she handed over her story to the publishers and they then wrote the book for her. This is an extremely common occurrence, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what happened here as well, not that it would diminish the power of the story imo.

  5. “After I left Williamsburg in 2006, I enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College, a liberal arts college located on a pastoral campus in Bronxville NY.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/29/deborah-feldman-hasidic-once-upon-a-life

  6. A splendid review.
    The letter writer Ruvie is quite mistaken. Certainly there is pressure within such a tight knit society to stay, but the overwhelming pressure comes from the dominant, majority culture. The true pressure is to be hip, to be modern, to be cosmopolitan. It takes a brave and thoughtful soul to reject the siren song of American culture and stand firm under the wings of the Shekhina. Feldman was unable to do this and so essentially condemns herself and her family to drop away from the ongoing story of the Jewish people.

  7. emes l’am

    You are mistaken. The overwhelming pressure comes from those you spend the vast majority of your time with, i.e. your family and friends. It is much more difficult to reject that than to reject an outside culture which you have been raised to believe is foreign and evil.

  8. I can’t believe you gave her book so much attention or that you even bothered reading it. The whole thing is disgusting and isn’t worth a second of our time. Let her take her narcisism somewhere else.

  9. S: Editors aren’t magicians. They need something to work with. I’ve never heard of Shulem Deen.

    Jacob: I believe that is included later in the paragrpah but you are right that it should have been emphasized more.

    Ruvie: I don’t think you get it.

    IH: As she writes in the book, in order to enter Sarah Lawrence you have to submit three essays that they judge.

  10. Gil — so why do you find Feldman’s writing style “bordering on miraculous”?

    We’re 6 years after she was accepted on the basis of her essays.

    Have I (and S.) missed your point?

  11. One should also point out that, per the Guardian story, her escape valve was reading English books (2nd para).

  12. “She has not only burned every bridge in her life but opened her mind and body to public examination. I wish someone had advised her to keep her private life private because I suspect she will eventually regret these revelations.”

    This just shows that, notwithstanding her abandonment of religion, she still has a chassidic mindset. The chassidic world (and the broader haredi world) has no public/private dichotomy: there is no respect for individual space and privacy, no respect for the principle of “ha-nistarot la-Hashem Elokeinu.” The community invades and occupies every corner of the individual’s life, such that there is no respite from the imposition and enforcement of community norms. Feldman still suffers from the inability to distinguish between the public and the private. Hopefully, one day she will learn.

  13. “I find it bordering on miraculous.”

    A good (and diplomatic) way of putting it.

    “I find more interesting those who choose to stay, who resist whatever societal trends are pushing them and overcome their personal issues.”

    Once you got here, your comments cannot possibly be relevant to Feldman’s story anymore.

  14. Ghost writers are indicated somewhere in the book. Sometimes it’s obvious, as on the cover (“X with Y” or even “X and Y”), but sometimes it’s a subtle mention in the acknowledgements. You have to recognize the signals- professional reviewers can. I don’t have the book, but check it out.

    Sarah Lawrence? Really? You just apply, no high school or anything? Who paid the $55,000 a year? (Highest in the country!)

  15. Excellent review, providing a necessary correction to all the verbiage in the other direction.

  16. r Gil, you have heard of Shulem Deen. Many years ago in the history of Jblogging there were about 2 bloggers, one was called Simcha and the other Hasidic Rebel. HR is Shulem Deen, not sure what happened to simcha

  17. “In the modern world, the phenomenon of someone leaving a sheltered minority to become part of the majority culture is hardly newsworthy.”

    Making Aliyah is definitely news worthy 🙂 Oh that’s not what you meant? Ok, I’ll keep reading the rest of the post now.

  18. “You are mistaken. The overwhelming pressure comes from those you spend the vast majority of your time with, i.e. your family and friends. It is much more difficult to reject that than to reject an outside culture which you have been raised to believe is foreign and evil.”

    This just isn’t true. The preasure comes from everywhere. If you get beaten like a dog (proverbially) then you are going to have pressure to go away. If you are treated like a king, then you will have pressure to stay. Wherever you get treated better is where the pressure sends you.

    What I don’t understand about stories like this, is not why they leave (that much is clear), but why they leave so strongly? Why do they not join Jewish communities that they find more pleasant? Why don’t they even look for them? Maybe I was just raised luckily by good parents that exposed me to more than one type of social circle so I could compare and contrast and see which type of people I preferred to be around, and Gd knows I fluctuated between groups many times, but when I hear these black and white stories of Terrible cult like atmosphere, or complete abandonment of family and community affiliation, I just feel sad.

  19. Avi, the question of why these people don’t become MO (or even Reform) has been asked many, many times, including in reference to this story. The answers are sadly obvious.

  20. Gil, your assessment of the literary skills of women in the hasidic community is absolutely wrong. There’s not just a ‘marginal’ difference between what boys and girls are taught in school.

  21. There is no alternative to Satmar life. Everyone else are Tziyoinim or goyim.

  22. This is a clinical, judgmental book review lacking in empathy. The party line is toed. The author is interesting. She is not a statistic. I hope to read the book.

  23. Excellent review and thoughts, Gil.

  24. “Everyone else are Tziyoinim or goyim.”

    Or both!

  25. I’m not qualified (I should stop there) to opine on where there is more pressure, but I have thought for a while that from a purely economic (even behavioral) stanpoint, the exit barriers are much higher to the right (for good or bad) – for example an average MO-liter finishes off college and goes OTD, his economic expected earnings are relatively good and unchanged. An average satmer chosid who goes OTD at the same age has limited skills that society as a whole values and thus limited expectations compared to what he might get if he stays in the system.

    KT

  26. Lawrence Kaplan

    I wonder if the author knows anything about Judaism.

  27. “Avi, the question of why these people don’t become MO (or even Reform) has been asked many, many times, including in reference to this story. The answers are sadly obvious.”

    They aren’t obvious at all. Which is sort of why I asked.

  28. I don’t know how anyone could think that a chassid faces more pressure to leave than to stay. For a real example of repressive chassidic attitudes to sexuality, see here:
    http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/for-members-of-israel-s-ultra-orthodox-gur-sect-sex-is-a-sin-1.412153

  29. Avi, I think they leave Judaism entirely because they are taught that Satmar is the only authentic form of Judasim, like Gil said.

  30. I tend to agree w/Gil and Yeedle. At least in Israel many MO and RZ Jews who leave full observance don’t drop everything; they often retain quite a bit of observance and belief. This is because they know it’s not “either-or”.

  31. The greatest scholarly debates in history? What on earth are you talling about? The truth of orthodox Judaism (or islam or xtianity or whatevr) isn’t a scholarly debate.

  32. Shulem Deen edits a website called unpious , a website which has a pretty high standard of writing. Also, regarding Deborah Feldman having a ghost writer it is hard for me to believe , because she wrote a blog hasidic-feminst which had equally incredible writing.

  33. By Googling the info provided by Velvel Belkin, I came across the following tidbit by Feldman:

    “im not attacking religion, I’m just saying that growing up satmar can screw you up a little. Being satmar and being jewish is two different things. It’s like the difference between the mormons, and the polygamist mormons.

  34. “I tend to agree w/Gil and Yeedle. At least in Israel many MO and RZ Jews who leave full observance don’t drop everything; they often retain quite a bit of observance and belief. This is because they know it’s not “either-or””

    Just doesn’t make sense to me. They are obviously rejecting what they learned from that community, so why would that one aspect of their understanding of Judaism remain with them?

    Yeedle’s quote seems to show that Feldman at least does not view Judaism as Satmar or nothing, so my question remains.

  35. “They are obviously rejecting what they learned from that community, so why would that one aspect of their understanding of Judaism remain with them?”

    They “take the good and leave the bad”, as they see it. In Satmar (and elsewhere), where everything comes down to 1) a completely arbitrary Divine command with no understandable moral or other significance or 2) communal standards, if you stop believing in the Divine command and get sick of the overbearing community, absolutely nothing is left.

    “Yeedle’s quote seems to show that Feldman at least does not view Judaism as Satmar or nothing”

    But according to the quote, she has never had exposure to Judaism, so why should she now adopt it?

  36. avi, it’s very clear from the statements of some of these people that they bring the attitudes with them when they leave. For example, they often embrace a fundamentalist belief in whatever interests them- philosophy, atheism, etc.

    Nothing new here- I forget if it’s The Chosen or its sequel, but there’s a scene where we see how the former chasid, studying psychology, becomes a Freudian fundamentalist and intolerant of his psychology professors who suggest that the field has changed somewhat in the decades since.

  37. “But according to the quote, she has never had exposure to Judaism, so why should she now adopt it?”

    How can you say that? If she knows there is a difference between Judaism and Satmar, she must have had exposure to that difference.

  38. Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council

    40 comments, but no one dare address the basic statement that she left, like many many others, because she could not come to terms with the corruption and duplicity before her. 40 comments and not a word of Cheshbon hanefesh as to our failing the next generation ? Not a word about the fault of ourselves and our leadership in losing all of these children? That their decision may indeed be valid and truthful given our conduct?

  39. ” 40 comments and not a word of Cheshbon hanefesh as to our failing the next generation ? ”

    I’m not aware of anyone here who identifies as part of the Satmar community.

  40. “Nothing new here- I forget if it’s The Chosen or its sequel,”

    It’s in the Chosen, but the same character also soon realizes his error and is open to more opinions than just Freud’s. That perspective makes sense when there is no contact with the outside world, and all you have is this one lone source. But clearly, here Feldman is aware of ways of being Jewish other than Satmar.

    You raise an interesting story though, that of the Chosen, and it makes me think, based on that story and other things, that perhaps it really just has to do with who they first encounter on their way out, and who helps them make the transition out, rather than any other factor.

  41. I don’t get this “why don’t they stay Jewish” question. Why should they, of they have concluded based on their upbringing that the. Entral tenets of any type of orthodoxy are false? There is also of course the Satmar or bust mentality, which mIght make this whole question seem akin to “well if they give up on chassidus why don’t they look into Islam before turning to atheism?”
    But seriously, I feel like all this “if only they would consider MO” handwringing is a way of letting ourselves off the hook for the commonalities between us And them (Satmar et al). If we can pretend that MO would obviously be so attractive if only they would consider it, we can avoid recognizing ourselves hon some of the less flattering descriptions…

  42. (sorry for all the typos. Writing on a borrowed mobile device…)

  43. “How can you say that? If she knows there is a difference between Judaism and Satmar, she must have had exposure to that difference.”

    Who knows how deep her exposure to non-Satmar Judaism is? Perhaps no deeper than her exposure to Mormonism and polygamous Mormonism? That’s all you can conclude from her quote. Certainly, she did not grow up in non-Satmar Judaism, had no deep social connections there, etc.

  44. Emma,

    ‘I don’t get this “why don’t they stay Jewish” question’

    You started with Judaism and ended with Orthodoxy. They aren’t synonomous, even if most of us wouldn’t sign off on the other variants. Like I said, there are many in the MO community in Israel who stop being O but keep what might be called an “unofficial C or R”.

    What I don’t understand is why people like the writer don’t try other variants before chucking everything.

  45. ‘Why should they, of they have concluded based on their upbringing that the Eternal tenets of any type of orthodoxy are false?’

    How exactly did they do THAT?

  46. We could have the same discussion in reverse about many BTs. Just saying.

  47. “We could have the same discussion in reverse about many BTs. Just saying”

    We could, and it would only enrich the discussion. I remember a debate among RZ Jews about by BTs only become ‘black hats’. SO it’s pretty relevant.

  48. Lawrence Kaplan

    What did she really know about the tenets of Judaism, and what is the evidence that she came to view them as false?

  49. She briefly discusses her struggle with belief in God but not in sufficient depth to give us insight into her thought process.

  50. “We could have the same discussion in reverse about many BTs. Just saying.”

    Perhaps. Most BTs I know have looked at other religions, as well as Judaism and various sects within Judaism.

    ” which mIght make this whole question seem akin to “well if they give up on chassidus why don’t they look into Islam before turning to atheism?””

    And what is wrong with that? If someone is leaving a way of life behind them, they should be look at the alternatives, or they are likely to find themselves “stuck” again.

    ” I remember a debate among RZ Jews about by BTs only become ‘black hats’.”

    That is an odd statement for me to hear. Of the 200+ BT families I know, 8 families are “black hat”

  51. Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council

    Thr other very distressing question for cheshbon hanefesh is why do very few Charedim , when they part with that world, come to Dati Leumi/MO. Rather, they simply fail to remain Dati at all. What did they reject that DL did not present a reasonable alternative?

  52. 1) They want complete personal freedom, and the secular world provides this better than anyone.

    2) There’s a strong attitude among many Charedim that better the kid become a completely secular person than a Mizrochnik (RZ Jew). Charedi OTDers take this to heart.

  53. One could also ask: why Charedim or MO, when they part with that world, come to liberal Judaism. Rather, they simply fail to remain affiliated at all?

    ——

    Let’s not kid ourselves. The general intolerance of those “to one’s left” within Orthodox society leads to these binary decisions.

  54. IH,

    In Israel, at least, this isn’t true at all. Many, many RZ Jews who leave OJ end up on the traditional/liberal spectrum. It’s a different world than the one you grew up in.

  55. Put another way, which of these two statements is preferable to Ploni Dati:

    1. The synagogue I don’t go to is Orthodox.

    2. I could no longer go to an Orthodox synagogue, but I now regularly attend a Reform synagogue.

  56. IH,

    That’s a false dilemma. There are many other options besides this.

  57. aiwac — it is not false, but nor was it meant to be the only possible dilemma. I am simply expanding the point made at 11:36am that was limited to Charedim vs. MO/DL.

    On your Israel comment, you are conflating different issues: for all practical purposes, that are beyond the scope of this discussion. So, let’s stick with the US context of this story.

  58. To re-phrase, which of these two statements is preferable to Ploni American RWMO whose 20-something child has gone OTD:

    1. The synagogue I don’t go to is Orthodox.

    2. I could no longer go to an Orthodox synagogue, but I now regularly attend a Reform synagogue.

    Is there a difference to Ploni American RWMO?

  59. As IH pointed out, the book may very well be fascinating news but is old news for anyone who read the essay in the Guardian. I think that the analogy to BTs is flawed simply because it is wrong to assume that all BTs are Charedi.

  60. Steve, it’s also wrong to assume that all who leave Charedism become secular.

  61. Steve — Just to clarify, when I raised BTs, I was not asserting that all BT’s are Charedi. I was saying that the thread of discussion — e.g. its generalizations — could be applied in reverse to BTs.

  62. I was debating about whether or not to write a review of this book for another popular Jewish blog and decided against it for the following reason: this woman came from a broken home and did not feel valued in her community so she rejected it. Everything else in the book is wonderful storytelling, regardless of it’s accuracy as fact, fiction or speculation. The core of what drove this woman out of the community was an inherent lack of belonging, of feeling valued.

  63. There’s a not-insignificant contingent of former Chassidim in Flatbush, who are culturally very similar to the rest of Flatbush; the quasi-yeshivish. Be interesting to know their stories.

  64. ‘To re-phrase, which of these two statements is preferable to Ploni American RWMO whose 20-something child has gone OTD’

    That’s far more restricted than your previous hypothetical, which ostensibly included all branches of OJ.

    ‘On your Israel comment, you are conflating different issues: for all practical purposes, that are beyond the scope of this discussion. So, let’s stick with the US context of this story’

    I fail to see how; you yourself have brought much evidence to support the existence of ‘post-denominational’ and ‘affiliated-but-not-officially’ Jews from all camps. So the ambiguity inherent in the Israel situation is very much relevant.

  65. “What I don’t understand is why people like the writer don’t try other variants before chucking everything.”

    again, why should they?
    i switched to orthodoxy because most of the questions here seem to be along the lines of “why didn’t she try my brand of orthodoxy, which is obviously superior”? perhaps i’m reading into it too much but really, why should she stay?
    if someone leaves the FLDS is it so obvious to ask “why didn’t they just become a regular mormon?” or is it pretty self-evident that some people who leave might want to be mormons and some might want to be protestants and some might want to be secular…

  66. IH wrote:

    “Just to clarify, when I raised BTs, I was not asserting that all BT’s are Charedi. I was saying that the thread of discussion — e.g. its generalizations — could be applied in reverse to BTs”

    That is true-if one looks at the literature on BTs ( Davidman, Danziger), one sees very little awareness of the spectrum of kiruv that I have identified ( Charedi vs MO), the age differences
    ( teens vs collegiates, graduate school aged) , and motivations.

  67. Aiwac wrote in part:

    “2) There’s a strong attitude among many Charedim that better the kid become a completely secular person than a Mizrochnik (RZ Jew). Charedi OTDers take this to heart”

    I recall reading an article in Mishpacha to this effect a few years ago, which I suspect reflects a POV that MO and RZ reflect the undue elevation of Bdieved into an optimal way of life.

  68. JB-lost in the discussion in the book is the author’s childhood-wherein it is clear that she was raised as an adopted child by her grandparents. I would not discount that as a factor in the author’s rejection of her background.

  69. ‘I recall reading an article in Mishpacha to this effect a few years ago, which I suspect reflects a POV that MO and RZ reflect the undue elevation of Bdieved into an optimal way of life.’

    The disdain for non-Charedi OJ goes far deeper than that. Otherwise it makes no sense to argue that it’s better to go secular.

  70. Avi quoted this snipet:

    “I remember a debate among RZ Jews about by BTs only become ‘black hats’

    Take a look at any OU publication-the Boards are listed-I could identify more than a few BTs and former NCSYers on the Boards of the OU, and who serve as officers.

  71. Steve, I think the original question about BTs was hinting at examining causes, but I could be wrong.

  72. “The disdain for non-Charedi OJ goes far deeper than that. Otherwise it makes no sense to argue that it’s better to go secular.”

    Really, it’s just jealousy 😛

  73. Nachum-the literature that I mentioned re BTs is cited quite often, but IMO fails to focus on the factors and issues that need to be focussed on in discussing BTs in America.

  74. “IH on February 12, 2012 at 11:54 am
    One could also ask: why Charedim or MO, when they part with that world, come to liberal Judaism. Rather, they simply fail to remain affiliated at all?

    ——

    Let’s not kid ourselves. The general intolerance of those “to one’s left” within Orthodox society leads to these binary decisions”

    I wish those who left MO or Chareidi Judaism would stay affiliated-but they probably have become so cynical about the way they have been treatedtheya re happy to leave Yahadus totally-we can almost be happy if they don’t become anti-Semites.

  75. “The core of what drove this woman out of the community was an inherent lack of belonging, of feeling valued.”
    Which is probably the cause of most who leave-it is not generally theological problems.

  76. “Let’s not kid ourselves. The general intolerance of those “to one’s left” within Orthodox society leads to these binary decisions””

    Intolerance also exists in the opposite direction. Where intolerance exists, it exists in all directions towards all “others”

  77. Agreed, Avi. But, within Orthodoxy it is mostly a right to left phenomenon, in my experience.

  78. You remarked on Deborah Feldman’s literary talent. There is virtually no real place in traditional Orthodoxy for a woman who has literary, artistic or musical gifts. Leaving aside the issues of her low social status and unhappy marriage, having an artistic temperament with no outlets would likely result in her leaving the community.

  79. There is virtually no real place in traditional Orthodoxy for a woman who has literary, artistic or musical gifts

    Maybe in the Chasidic world (I have no idea) but the Yeshivish world has plenty place. And literary talent is the easiest one to use. Hamodia’s editor is a woman!

  80. I think by “literary talent” he means higher forms of art than catering to the popular tastes of the masses. The people who write for US Weekly are not winning the Nobel Prize for literature.

  81. Shades of Gray

    “Hamodia’s editor is a woman!”

    It’s owner and publisher is also a woman. R. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb wrote the following in Klal Publications(Vol 2):

    “It is an open secret that a significant number of women are involved as translators and editors of mainstream Orthodox Jewish publications. Again, the use of female intellectual resources is not heresy. There are ways to allow women to participate in intellectual projects without compromising basic halachic parameters.”

  82. S: I think by “literary talent” he means higher forms of art than catering to the popular tastes of the masses

    Most of these media publish creative writing and poetry. Not great stuff but they would. And there’s no reason a woman can’t submit her writings to more literary, secular publications.

  83. “Most of these media publish creative writing and poetry. Not great stuff but they would.”

    I bet they would, just as I bet a Little League team would love to put a 6′ 5″ pitcher with a 103 mph fastball on the mound. I’m sure Lipa would love it if will.i.am wrote songs for him, and the local ladies group would definitely want Christina Aguilera to handle the solos in their production.

    “And there’s no reason a woman can’t submit her writings to more literary, secular publications.”

    I would think that depends upon the community.

  84. If it were an issue of Parnasa, for instance if the wife worked and the husband learned, being an artist or writer or musician maybe would be acceptable. But being merely tolerated, or having it be an “open secret” isn’t the same thing as being encouraged and celebrated.

  85. Lipa writes BETTER songs than will.i.am.

  86. “IH on February 13, 2012 at 8:23 am
    Agreed, Avi. But, within Orthodoxy it is mostly a right to left phenomenon, in my experience.”

    And my experience is the opposite. To which I can only conclude its equal in both directions depending on who you hang around.

  87. R Gil wrote:

    “Most of these media publish creative writing and poetry. Not great stuff but they would. And there’s no reason a woman can’t submit her writings to more literary, secular publications”

    Compared to what passes for Charedi women oriented media, the articles in Khal that were authored by women illustrated that there is a place for articles by women on serious subjects other than Tznius, recipes, etc.

  88. From Feldman’s blog:

    “[Q:]Hey! I understand you come from the more extremist community–Satmar. What is your attitude towards modern orthodox community? I’m secular but in my childhood I was exposed to Chabad, and shocked after coming to States from Israel that they were open and interacted with the broad secular community. In unrelated news, I think your story may be important– but also hopefully mind opening, as I’m following the religious extremistm in Israel.

    [A:]I had no interaction with other Jewish communities when I was growing up. I was told that a non-Satmar Jew was as good as a gentile. Modern orthodox Jews still feel pretty exotic to me these days.”

  89. If Chabad is “modern…”

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