Deborah Feldman


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<p>My friend is a Rabbi in Germany and he showed me this shocking photo of a defaced Jewish cemetary in his town. So disheartening.</p>

My friend is a Rabbi in Germany and he showed me this shocking photo of a defaced Jewish cemetary in his town. So disheartening.

August 6th 2014
July 1st 2014

Why I am NOT a member of the OTD Community, Part Three: A Series of Posts on Independence, Self-Definition, and Empowerment.

(Preface: When I published my memoir Unorthodox in 2012, detailing my Hasidic upbringing, many others who had left different Orthodox or Hasidic backgrounds denounced me on various platforms (see herehere,hereherehere, and here,) and while the reasons for such bitterness and hostility have always appeared obvious to myself, readers have often written to me about their surprise and curiosity at such a (seemingly) counterintuitive move. Although a particular few ex-orthodox people who occupy more marginal places in that community possessed the boldness to disagree, they did so at great social cost (see herehere, and here.) Although more and more formerly religious Jews are choosing to write about their experiences and the resulting viewpoints in books or articles, their calls for positive reform and united action seem at odds with their behavior. From the moment I chose to become a rebel by starting an anonymous online blog titled “hasidic feminist” while still living in the Hasidic community, I chose to separate myself from a community of rebels in the process, because I saw this group of people as equally stifling, patriarchal, and conformist to the one I came from. I’ve now reached a place in my life where I have the distance and understanding to attempt to present some context for the rift between myself and the group of formerly religious Jews who call themselves OTD (an acronym for “Off the Derech”)and so, in response to the phenomenon of attacks from people who, for all intents and purposes, should share my struggle, I will address various aspects of this rift in a series of posts.)

When I took my first steps toward leaving the Hasidic community seven years ago, I could not have imagined that just a few years later leaving would become less than unheard of. At the time, it felt scary and dangerous – the few people I knew of who had tried, had been subjected to great suffering and misery – in fact, in 2008 I read the New York Magazine article on Gitty Greenwald’s custody battle for her kidnapped daughter and recoiled in horror – would I be forced to face those same consequences if I attempted to leave with my child? I struggled with my desperate desire to leave as well as with my all-encompassing terror of the consequences. As I look back at that time now I  realize, with a start, that there was never a moment in that process when leaving was, for me, anything less than a matter of life and death, a battle against the odds for survival. There was nothing casual about it, but more importantly, there was no part of me that was equipped to view it from a social or political perspective. Unlike others who wanted out but didn’t feel the need to fight for custody, or didn’t have to deal with existing marriages and offspring, I couldn’t fathom affording myself the luxury of sitting around and “schmoozing” about the existential condition of “going Off The Derech.” 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I felt it was essential to the success of my exit and to the safety of myself and my son that I refrain from socializing with the larger group of ex-Hasids that had recently begun forming, and that very quickly led to a sort of falling out with its most prominent member at that time, a man who called himself the “father” of the rebels (although I admit that “falling out” is a strange term to use with a person you’ve never really “fallen in” with.)

Once I was already on the outside, however,  I did make tentative attempts to reach out to others who were supposedly like me, for I had been the recipient of so many persuasive arguments (during my blogging stint) for the idea that the only people who could understand me were the ones who came from the same place as I did. But when I reached out, I did not find the understanding and camaraderie I was searching for – instead I found a small group of people (who would later grow into the organization that Footsteps is now) who had abandoned a conformist, hierarchical environment but found themselves unable to live in the world without that familiar structure, and so had set about rebuilding for themselves an irreligious world with many of the same social and political elements I had chafed against in my past community. I observed more and more how members of the group seemed fearful of making friends with other people who didn’t share their background, how some seemed to reject the religious rules but somehow hold tightly onto the ingrained beliefs about race, gender, and identity – sometimes in completely subconscious ways – and continued to perpetuate the judgmental and inflammatory forms of behavior and social expression that I had so desperately wanted to escape. After trying and failing to find anyone in that world who felt a desire to be true to their individuality and make it on their own without a group, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I simply wasn’t a group person, but that many people must be, and what would work for them couldn’t work for me. C’est la vie! I set sail in pursuit of my dreams without – gasp! – the support of all the other ex-hasids. However, I would like to say that along the way I did meet a small number of  formerly religious Jews who, like me, had chosen to separate themselves from the rest for the same reasons, and that has reinforced my belief that while groups may work for some, they can’t be expected to work for all, and SHOULDN’T be. No one should be punished for failing to fit in, because that perpetuates the crimes of religious sects – it’s precisely for those reasons that we rejected that world: because they rejected us for being different.

On the other hand, I have found that in my various travel experiences I have encountered people across the globe who, while not necessarily from Hasidic backgrounds, grew up in one extreme religion or another – ex-Hutterites, ex-Jehovah’s witnesses, ex-Twelve-tribers, ex-muslims, all sorts really – and I have discovered that I do have a special kinship with them, one I cherish. In fact I have found that some of my most valuable connections are formed with people who can identify with the experience of coming from a repressive culture/background and breaking away form it, or even people who grew up in the “outside” world but have separated themselves from the mainstream and have suffered abuse and ostracism as a result (such as the painter Odd Nerdrum featured in my second book.) While these people will always hold a special place in my life, I have always been aware of the particular danger of surrounding oneself only with the people who share similar grievances and problems, as I had seen this occur to such ill effect in the past, and so I have always gone out of my way to cultivate diversity in my social circle as a way of promoting my own progress. I have consistently made an effort to reach out past my comfort zone, to concern myself with the world beyond the small, cramped sphere of ex-hasidic concerns and contentions. I came to believe that in order for me to learn and grow and achieve what I have always wanted, that is, true assimilation into the outside world and not a limbo between my past and a desired but inaccessible future, that I would have to wade out into those deep waters, come what may. It was risky, and I understand why some prefer to stay in the shallows, because you’re pretty much on your own out there until someone finds you, and as Leah Vincent described so heartbreakingly in her own memoir “Cut Me Loose,” the time you spend waiting to make connections can lead to a period of intense loneliness, that, in her case, led to terrifying and self-destructive behavior. But somehow I preferred my loneliness. I was comfortable with it. I had always been an introvert as a child, and as an adult cut off from her family and community I simply faced this new loneliness as I had faced the old, only this time, I was determined to let something positive grow in that new space, instead of filling it just for the sake of doing so.

The funny thing is, I did. Some days I don’t quite believe it – I wake up and it takes me a minute to remember that I’m no longer in that scary transition space, that it finally has come together the way I’ve always dreamed. But it has. And now I can look back at those years during which I chose to soldier on alone instead of joining the crowd and say that it was truly worth it. I realize now that in my immense desire to propel myself completely into my future and fully break with my past, I measured my progress by the people I loved and by the friends I made. The easier it became for me to establish intimacy with a person who WASN’T from my old world, or anything close to it, the more I felt I was accomplishing that which my community had programmed me to fail at! And the fact that I am finally able to travel the world and feel a common humanity with any person I encounter, no matter their culture or background, instead of feeling alienated and disconnected the way I did for so long, speaks volumes about the possibilities for anyone who is in the position I once was.  

(Nowhere do I see clearer evidence of this transformation than in the projects that are currently on my desk, books and scripts that concern themselves not so much with the specifics of my past, but with the larger issues of ethnic identity, repressed sexuality, and religious intolerance that my story is but a mere symbol of. To have been able to translate my experience into concerns that impact the wider world has meant that I too have broadened my mind and spirit, just like my grandfather used to advise all those years ago.)

So by all means, cherish the friends and peers that you have most in common with, but don’t be afraid to open your mind, and your heart, to the big beautiful world out there that we all deserve to be a part of. 

June 20th 2014

Why I am NOT a member of the OTD Community, Part Two: A Series of Posts on Independence, Self-Definition, and Empowerment

(Preface: When I published my memoir Unorthodox in 2012, detailing my Hasidic upbringing, many others who had left different Orthodox or Hasidic backgrounds denounced me on various platforms (see herehere,hereherehere, and here,) and while the reasons for such bitterness and hostility have always appeared obvious to myself, readers have often written to me about their surprise and curiosity at such a (seemingly) counterintuitive move. Although a particular few ex-orthodox people who occupy more marginal places in that community possessed the boldness to disagree, they did so at great social cost (see herehere, and here.) Although more and more formerly religious Jews are choosing to write about their experiences and the resulting viewpoints in books or articles, their calls for positive reform and united action seem at odds with their behavior. From the moment I chose to become a rebel by starting an anonymous online blog titled “hasidic feminist” while still living in the Hasidic community, I chose to separate myself from a community of rebels in the process, because I saw this group of people as equally stifling, patriarchal, and conformist to the one I came from. I’ve now reached a place in my life where I have the distance and understanding to attempt to present some context for the rift between myself and the group of formerly religious Jews who call themselves OTD (an acronym for “Off the Derech”)and so, in response to the phenomenon of attacks from people who, for all intents and purposes, should share my struggle, I will address various aspects of this rift in a series of posts.)

When I first started posting on my anonymous blog titled Hasidic Feminist in 2008, I unwittingly joined a community of fellow rebel bloggers that I had previously been unaware of. I had thought of the blog as a kind of online journal, safer than a written diary that could be discovered. I posted from the library at Sarah Lawrence college, but just in case, I scrambled my IP address out of fear of being exposed. I learned of the other bloggers only when they discovered me and posted comments on my blog announcing their existence, and what they insisted was our common ground. Many of the bloggers expressed joy at their discovery of my work; others expressed shock or disbelief. All of them seemed anxious for me to reveal my identity to them – the implication was, we were all in the same boat (mutually assured destruction) and a shared revolt was more powerful than an individual one. But what struck me as most disturbing was how many of them contended, in a moderated comment forum where they knew their comments would be read and deleted, that I had to be a male, that I was only pretending to be female. This was the chief reason they wanted me to out myself, to prove that my brash writing about sex, my fearless individuality, could only belong to a man. And how telling it was indeed, that at the time, save for one or two exceptions, I was the only female blogger in that relatively insignificant circle of rebels both in and out of the “OTD” closet. Certainly I was the only Hasidic female blogger, although I was informed at the time that a defunct blog had once been written, in Yiddish, by a married woman from the compound Kiryas Joel in Monroe.

Fast forward six years or so, and most of these bloggers are no longer anonymous. Shulem Deen, the unofficial leader of our small cyber-community who ran what was mostly likely the first ex-Hasid blog- “Hasidic Rebel” - and was profiled in the media as a result, came out from behind the screen and started writing prolifically under his own name. He founded an online newsmagazine where others like him could share their thoughts and experiences, anonymously or not. Others slowly came out of the woodwork; the first person to comment on my blog, a young Hasidic man who posted poetry online, turned out to be the Fulbright scholar Samuel Katz; the married woman from Kiryas Joel got divorced and now runs a blog under her own name, Frieda Vizel. Countless others have followed along those lines.

What is most interesting is how most of them have positioned themselves as my enemies and detractors even if they didn’t start out that way, in the wake of the publication of my first memoir. This stance exists, if not as a result of personal hostility toward me (as some have explained) then from the imposed hostility of the inarguably influential Shulem Deen, the patriarch of the OTD community (the Rabbi, if you will,) now in a position of power in the organization Footsteps, which helps ex-orthodox Jews adjust to mainstream society. (It’s tremendously ironic to me that the power structure in the formerly religious community mirrors that of the world they left behind, but I suppose it’s not surprising.) It’s understandable that other rebels, in search of a community that would accept them, would aim to please a man who held the key to that acceptance, and for that reason I have never taken personal offense to their attacks. Rather it is the man who stands behind all of them that, to me, represents all I have been fighting for so long, a man who presents himself as a hero fighting for reform on behalf of others who are less powerful or inclined to help themselves, yet remains a symbol for everything that I tried to escape, a man who rejected the Hasidic world for reasons largely intellectual, but who would then go on to represent to me the very flaws of the world I abandoned, patriarchy, misogyny, and corrupt use of power and influence. Is this an unconscious exhibition of ingrained behaviors, or a personal choice, I have always wondered?

Let me explain: Of all the male bloggers who argued and bullied me into outing myself back in 2008-2009, Shulem Deen was the most persistent. He refused to allow me to remain anonymous, in a way that made me feel deeply threatened. He kept trying to guess who I was – after some time I became deeply concerned that he would find out, and out of anger – expose me to the blogging community, at which point I could not control the gossip that would consequently leak into the Hasidic community at large and have disastrous consequences for me while I was still subject to its laws. So I did what I felt I was forced to do; I revealed myself to him, albeit very reluctantly, in the hope that this would placate him, get him on my side, and induce him to keep my identity a secret. I figured that I could flatter his ego by confiding in him and him only, and that I could play that card for as long as I was still in the Hasidic world, and that since I was planning on leaving in the next few years, eventually I would no longer have to worry about his discretion.

(I would like to insert #YESALLWOMEN here, because ever since that hashtag surfaced I have thought of this story, where I felt obliged to obey, and worse – falsely placate, a man I felt threatened and bullied by, in a bid for my safety and independence. This, to me, is one of the clearest examples of ingrained, everyday sexism that goes ignored every day, especially in the OTD community, most shockingly by the women themselves who continue to support it.)

I allowed Shulem to meet me at Sarah Lawrence. My thinking was, we were from different communities, and he wouldn’t recognize me, or be able to deduce anything about me, outside my religious milieu. At our meeting, he urged me to join his little group, to attend social events with them, and reveal myself to the larger world of rebels he inhabited. When I told him I didn’t feel safe doing that, he seemed insulted and defensive. So began a troubled relationship; the more I kept my distance from him, insisting that I had my own path to follow and that he should respect it, the more he asked around for information about me and started to piece together my true identity, using it to spread  gossip about me to the other rebels. To say that this not only threatened my physical safety, but also presented the very real possibility that I would lose my son, is no understatement. In the end, his harassment was a very real factor in my decision to leave my community earlier and more suddenly than I had planned. Even then, his gossip became increasingly malicious, as other rebels reported back to me later. At one point after I had already left the Hasidic community, he tried to befriend some secular friends of mine, asking them personal questions about me that they later reported. I felt stalked; indeed the emotion that was and remains more present to me than any other is fear. He made me feel afraid that if I didn’t rebel along the path he had trail-blazed that I would suffer the consequences. Suffer them I did, in the name of my own right to self-actualize, and whole I have emerged regardless. Let that be a lesson to other women who have been forcibly influenced by men who profess to have their best interests at heart: they may do everything they can to hurt you in punishment for your defiance of their authority, but nothing they do can ultimately detract from the wholeness of your self. As they say “Sticks and stones…”

I am aware that Shulem Deen has a prolific online platform, that he is a gifted writer with his own book in the works. I do not deny the value of his work, nor do I resent him any success. I believe that every happy and accomplished ex-hasid is a positive role-model for others who are trapped, and he is no exception. I wish him more joy and inner peace than he or anyone else may believe, but once again I must reiterate that underneath all of this we ARE FIGHTING THE SAME FIGHT. Some of the negative behaviors that we ex-hasids take away from our lifetimes of programming and indoctrination take time to dissolve; indeed we all struggle to separate our own consciences from the voices of the people who raised and shaped us - there are times when those two still seem inseparable for me. However, we have come so far, and will continue to do so, and I will never give up hoping that a day will came when we will all feel secure enough to let down our defenses and support each other.

It’s difficult for me to find the words to describe my enormous gratitude for what I’ve been able to accomplish in my own life, by which I mean true friendship, a loving community free of judgment and censure, the comfort to define my personality without the tyrannical influence of a cult, or even a cult-like group. All of us are capable of this if we learn to finally let go of that fear, the emotion that defined our childhoods, but that shouldn’t be allowed to define our futures.  

Unpious from Marisa Wong on Vimeo.

June 19th 2014

Why I am NOT a member of the OTD Community: A Series of Posts on Independence, Self-Definition, and Empowerment

Preface: When I published my memoir Unorthodox in 2012, detailing my Hasidic upbringing, many others who had left different Orthodox or Hasidic backgrounds denounced me on various platforms (see here, here, herehere, here, and here,) and while the reasons for such bitterness and hostility have always appeared obvious to myself, readers have often written to me about their surprise and curiosity at such a (seemingly) counterintuitive move. The resentment from that corner shows no sign of stopping (as seen here in this review of my second book by a “former friend” hired by the Jewish Daily Forward, the comments of which are admittedly somewhat gratifying), and although a particular few ex-orthodox people who occupy more marginal places in that community possessed the boldness to disagree, they did so at great social cost (see here, here, and here.) Although more and more formerly religious Jews are choosing to write about their experiences and the resulting viewpoints in books or articles, their calls for positive reform and united action seem at odds with their behavior. From the moment I chose to become a rebel by starting an anonymous online blog titled “hasidic feminist” while still living in the Hasidic community, I chose to separate myself from a community of rebels in the process, because I saw this group of people as equally stifling, patriarchal, and conformist to the one I came from. I’ve now reached a place in my life where I have the distance and understanding to attempt to present some context for this rift between myself and the group of formerly religious Jews who call themselves OTD (an acronym for “Off the Derech”)and so, in response to the phenomenon of attacks from people who claim to be former friends, or at the very least intimate acquaintances of mine, I feel compelled to start by explaining the social context in which I found myself in the Hasidic world, and why, as a result, I was rarely able to connect in any real or honest way with another person. I will continue to address other aspects of this situation in future posts. 

          I made my first and last friend in the Hasidic community when I was seventeen years old, while teaching in a religious private school for Satmar girls. Mindy was a fellow teacher, by all accounts a good Hasidic girl, but like me she had secrets. I was thrilled and amazed to discover that she too read forbidden books and listened to forbidden music. Finally, I had a person in my life whom I could trust, who validated me when before I had only been made to feel strange or unworthy. We took long walks around Williamsburg in the evenings and talked about how we might go about building a future that wasn’t as restrictive as the one our families had planned for us. I thought we would be friends forever. But then Mindy’s marriage was arranged, and the fanatically religious man who was chosen for her wouldn’t allow our friendship to continue. Suddenly, the woman I had loved and trusted so deeply was lost to me for good. By then married myself, I cast around for other friends, longing to feel that my difference was understood and accepted in a world where conformity was emphasized above all. But my options were limited. In the world of married Hasidic women, the choice of friends fell to the wives of the men one’s husband was acquainted with. (Frimet G. was just one of many women I was obligated to spend time with whenever our husbands decided to meet. As per the social customs of the Satmar Hasidic community, we sent each other gifts when our children were born and made small talk when we found ourselves in the same room.) But sadly, that which I valued most about female friendship was missing from that acquaintance, and from many others during that time. I was lonely, and felt that there was no one I could trust to accept me for who I was.

It’s difficult for me to understand how one might claim to intimately know a person just from being in their proximity (as argued in this forum, in a post about another recent ex-orthodox memoirist. ) I certainly cannot attest to knowing the details of my neighbors’ marriages, because I know we were all under so much pressure to fake contentedness. Appearances are everything in the Hasidic world, and I never felt safe letting my guard down around others. My marital squabbles were kept secret, as were the stressful altercations between my family, and my husband’s family. I was desperate not to let anyone see my pain, because I knew from experience that it would invite gossip, which would invite ostracism, and things would go from bad to intolerable very quickly.

When I left the Hasidic community in 2009, I was terrified that my family would forcibly drag me back. I felt too vulnerable to endure the negativity and judgment sure to come my way from former acquaintances. I cut ties with everyone in my past temporarily, hoping to reignite relationships once it was clear whom I could trust. Sadly, many of those associations were doomed to a permanent ending, after I realized how much resentment I had stirred. My independent spirit and my desire to do things my own way were never popular in a world with strict social rules.

There was one relationship I longed to hold on to, but I knew it was an impossible dream. In freeing myself from an extended family that alternated between trying to abuse me and control me, I lost my grandmother, whom I have always loved, whom I still love more than ever, and no matter how much I want to see her, my family won’t allow it. Were they to change their minds, I would be at her bedside in a heartbeat. But all this is obvious to anyone who grew up the way I did. We have seen just how little room there is for individuality in the Satmar world; we know that to break the rules is to be unforgiveable.

Since leaving the Hasidic community, I have learned the meaning of true friendship, and I find that it is the most valuable part of my new existence. There are people in my life I can trust who trust me as well, and that has done wonders for my confidence and security. These people may not be my flesh and blood, but I feel more loved and supported than I ever did back in the Satmar world. Yet it still hurts to be the recipient of so much anger and resentment from people who are more qualified to understand me than most. I’m truly sorry for any pain I may have caused other members of the community when I abandoned my life there; more than anyone else I can muster compassion for their own struggles to redefine their identities. I was truly proud and joyful when I first heard that former peers of mine were making their own way into the outside world, attending classes at my beloved Sarah Lawrence, summoning the bravery and confidence to speak out about their own experiences and pursue their own authentic lives. I have so much respect for that journey; all I ask is that my journey is respected in return.

 From the moment my first memoir “Unorthodox” was published, I was made aware that failing to adhere to a mainstream idea of Jewishness would result in backlash. Yet I also knew that I did not fight so hard for so long to be free of one community who tried to define me, to then turn around and allow myself to be defined by another. My story is that of a woman who is finding her own authentic version of Jewishness that fits her needs, and I believe we all deserve the freedom to find that. In the end, women like Frimet and myself are simply searching for our own path. I wish every OTD person could find the self-actualization and personal fulfillment that I have gradually been achieving, and continue to strive toward without fear of recrimination, instead of wasting energy by putting stumbling blocks in front of each other instead.

To be continued…    

June 19th 2014
May 21st 2014
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May 21st 2014
May 9th 2014
May 9th 2014
<p><a class="tumblr_blog" href="http://longskirtclub.tumblr.com/post/84242441617/yom-hashoah-commemoration-at-moses-synagogue" target="_blank">longskirtclub</a>:</p>
<blockquote>
<p><span>Yom HaShoah commemoration at Moses Synagogue, Nabugoye, Uganda.</span></p>
<p><span>(photo from Be’Chol Lashon facebook page)</span></p>
</blockquote>

longskirtclub:

Yom HaShoah commemoration at Moses Synagogue, Nabugoye, Uganda.

(photo from Be’Chol Lashon facebook page)

April 30th 2014
April 27th 2014

Not sure if I heard the word Nazi or not, but I do remember similar scenes of conflict from my childhood. Poor fireman!

April 19th 2014
April 19th 2014

The Proselytizing Professor

One summer at Sarah Lawrence I signed up for a class with a visiting professor which intrigued me because it was titled “History through Memoir.” The syllabus listed memoirs of people who lived in different eras; we were to learn about their individual time periods by reading their personal autobiographies. This was when I had just started preparing the proposal for my own memoir, and I figured out a way to make that my conference piece for the class. 

          Each week we would read a different memoir for its historical perspective, and it was very absorbing and enlightening until the professor announced we would be using Jesus as next week’s “eyes” with which to see history, and of course I was up in arms, because he was a devout Roman Catholic, and very open about it.

            Would he be using a historically sound depiction of Jesus, I asked him? He declared that since the Catholic version of Jesus was the only one that was real to him, we would be studying that perspective. So essentially it was bible study, I thought. I was being roped into literal Sunday school at Sarah Lawrence of all places! But I was the only one outraged, of all fourteen students in the class, which I realized was the result of the cultural gap between them and myself. I was the only one that was Jewish. The rest of them had already been exposed to the New Testament Jesus growing up, and so the idea of discussing the historical Jesus in that context didn’t really disturb them. But I felt I had a right to a bias-free classroom. I was preparing to abandon a lifetime of religious indoctrination; I was here to learn, not to be converted.

            I brought my complaints to the head of the program, who was clearly reluctant to get involved. Her solution to the problem: I would skip the class and she would make sure my grades weren’t affected. It felt very wrong. I was the one paying for the experience; I shouldn’t be sitting out what was clearly a non-educative lecture. How could the professor not see that it was his duty to objectively teach, not evangelize with false or unconfirmed information?

            At the end of the class, the professor asked to speak with me. He apologized for the way he had handled the issue, he said. He confessed that he had felt simultaneously threatened and envious of my determination to question religious dogma, both Jewish and Christian. His whole life had been founded in Catholic ideas, he explained – therefore it was too late for him to risk stepping outside of that framework. He didn’t feel certain that the structure would hold without him in it.

            I looked at him then and realized he was no different from the people who had raised me. They too were afraid to question, for fear of collapsing the shelter of their belief system. And I knew that whatever belief system I would be building in the future would be one that could stand the test of inquiry.

 

April 19th 2014

Would you say ultra religious Jews and ultra religious Muslims treat women about the same?

I wouldn’t really compare the two - I don’t feel I’m informed enough about Ultra-Religious Muslims. Still, I think any kind of fundamentalist oppression of women is bad. 

April 19th 2014

Hi Deborah! How is your son deaing with going back and forth between you and your ex husband, and most importantly how does he deal from going from your household to a satmar household? Does your ex try to sway him towards Satmarism?

My ex is no longer Satmar by any means so that transition is not really that difficult. I’ve taught my son that there are a lot of different ways to be Jewish, and when he’s a grown-up he can pick the way that feels right for him.

April 19th 2014

Strange, just when I broke up with my boyfriend, who is jewish, I see all your postings, its like a message from God. I read your book while I was visiting Brooklyn. That trip was a present from my ex. He wanted me to get to know the religion. He was sure I was a jewish soul and said that I could become jewish again. Your book has touched my hart and now I'm sure I can never become jewish. I want to find out who I am, I don't want to live in the shadow of my husband. Keep on writing.

No one should live in the shadow of anyone else! Be your own person, and don’t let anyone tell you who you should be. 

April 19th 2014

just wondering since u grew up in an hasidic backround -dont u recall what u learned in school that there is a world to come? dont u have a guilt feeling ?

Yes I learned a lot of things in school, but I don’t remember any of my teachers having any credibility or strong sources for their claims. So you can see why I wouldn’t necessarily give credence to anything I learned. I was never really the kind of kid that would accept something as fact just because an older person handed it down - you have to back it up with SOMETHING. So no guilt, sorry. I only feel guilty when I think my actions will have direct consequences on other human beings, not when they arbitrarily affect my “share of the world to come.” 

April 19th 2014