“Roundtable Discussion” on “Unorthodox” by Deborah Feldman
The forthcoming release of “Unorthodox,” by Deborah Feldman, is by all accounts a momentous event for the Off-the-Derech community, both for the spotlight it shines on the problems within the Hasidic world and the very difficult transitions away from it. At the same time, many have expressed concern over some of the published articles and interviews related to the book’s release. As a community that does not shy away from strong opinions and one that embraces the value of honest and open debate, we decided the issues were worth raising in a public forum, and we hope you will find this discussion thought-provoking.
It should be noted that this discussion is not about the contents of the book, but only about certain issues related to its pre-release publicity. Most of the participants in this discussion have not yet had a chance to read the book, and comments should not be taken as judgment of the book itself.
Regardless of any of the issues raised below, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to Deborah for what is surely a great accomplishment and we wish her the most outstanding success in this and future endeavors.
Click here to purchase “Unorthodox” on Amazon.com.
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Shulem Deen: Let’s begin with the basics.
Many have argued that Feldman, in interviews and articles about the book’s release, has cited practices in the Hasidic community that are either non-existent or in terms too broad to be deemed truthful. (Examples: Hasidim don’t wear seatbelts and don’t take their children to doctors.) Others, on the other hand, have argued that Feldman tells only of her own experiences, and despite the fact that these practices are unrecognizable to many members of these communities, they’re valid parts of her own story.
Do you believe there’s a problem with how she’s presented her story to the media, and if so, why? More specifically, if we recognize that many of her descriptions of Hasidic life are indeed truthful, does it matter that some of her descriptions are exaggerated and/or distorted?
Leah Vincent: I’m thrilled to be a part of this conversation.
I think the issue of exaggeration matters very much. Many of us are very concerned with issues in the ultra-Orthodox community. Because Deborah now has such a public platform, if she does indeed exaggerate, she risks discrediting her peers who are advocating for change.
But I do think there is a fierce backlash against her that is only masked by accusations of exaggeration. My sense is there is a lot of (understandable) fear. Those who leave the ultra-Orthodox community are so reviled by their communities of origin, that many of us struggle with a strong sense of insecurity. We set high standards of success for ourselves, or are extraordinarily respectful of the ultra-Orthodox community, as if desperate to prove that those who leave the ultra-Orthodox community are not “losers” or “liars” or “bitter,” which is what we are often accused of being. And then, there may also be some envy about her literary success.
Personally, though, I’m more concerned with supporting our peers, building our community and exposing the abuses of ultra-Orhodoxy, than protecting our image – although I recognize a minimal amount of the latter is necessary to effectively do the former. If some among us exaggerate – or engage in any other behavior we have been accused of by the ultra-Orthodox – we must take responsibility, but we should be careful not to let the conversation be dominated with small quibbles regarding the character of the ‘accuser’ when there are significantly larger misdeeds of the ‘accused’ that need to be addressed.
Zelda Deutsch: Shulem, thanks for inviting me to be a part of this.
When I first read the Post interview, I was shocked and disappointed. Much of what she said was not familiar to me, even though we grew up in the exact same community. I will give her the benefit of the doubt, though. Two people living in the same household, even more so in the same community, can perceive their environments and experience things very differently. This is her story and how she experienced it. Her experiences and her view of things are as valid as any of ours. I believe she has a right to tell her story as long as she tells the truth, even if it’s with a bit of an angry twist. On the other hand, though, if she is greatly exaggerating or seriously veering from the truth, it makes the rest of us who have gone through this journey look bad.
Growing up in the community and the journey of leaving is already filled with intense experiences and emotions. I don’t understand the need to exaggerate or embellish. There is going to be a backlash against the book regardless of whether she tells the truth or not. Why give them ammunition? Why give them the opportunity to find inconsistencies? I’m hoping that the book is a more accurate portrayal of this journey than the media coverage of it suggests. Notice that I’m not using the word “balanced.” If she feels that her life in the community was filled with more hurt than happiness, I don’t think she is obligated to sugarcoat it.
Baal Devarim: Does it matter if her descriptions are exaggerated/distorted? Of course it matters! Exaggerations and distortions and outright lies serve no-one save perhaps the author (and her publisher). Although it is supposed to be a memoir, the book is clearly marketed as uncovering the dirty little secrets of the Hasidic lifestyle and culture. But, oh, how I wish it does that! Heaven knows, we can use some of that. It would do the Hasidic culture some good to shine a bright spotlight on the rotten aspects (combined with the beautiful aspects) of such a closed but highly visible society.
But so far, we are not getting any of that. Instead we get horrifying and salacious details of lesbian mikveh women and useless sexual organs and grisly murders — some of which may be outright lies (like the murder) and others, while perhaps they may be true in isolated cases, certainly cannot be said to be part of the experience of Hasidic life in general.
Truth matters, especially when you’re pretending to tell the truth. And while some degree of exaggeration and distortion is perhaps acceptable and expected in a popular book, a book with some degree of truth and the rest exaggeration and distortion is not. (Note that my impression of what is in the book is based on the points raised in interviews; so far I have not read the actual book.)
Shpitzle Shtrimpkind: (ehhem.) I would love to be thrilled to be part of this conversation. I’m at the gym and I’m getting more worked up and warmed up on this subject than on squats.
Responding to Leah…
Very much like Leah, I feel there’s a need for change in the community. Abuses, injustice, and infringements on personal freedom are rampant in the community. The pain and trauma that is swept under the rug is unforgivable. However, I believe that change must come from both within and without, that it must come with respect to a culture that has a right to function and blossom as long as the abuses don’t. That change will come from bridging these two worlds, not from burning the bridges. So I wonder: can positive change come from a book that is shining a glaring, flashing media spotlight on the problems of the Hasidic world?
Sadly, from the way the articles were slinging cliched, exaggerated, and often-ridiculous accusations against the community, I don’t see a positive effect. On the contrary, I am afraid that this would inhibit change and only serve to prove the frum community’s attitude toward those who go off the derech. Chasidim in the community who are open to hearing our stories, who need to hear about their rights, who struggle to make sense of their world and the outside world, will not respond to a message that blatantly distorts their own experience of reality. Such an attempt will be perceived only as a transparent attempt at fame. Those living the double life or on the fence will find themselves trying to defend accusations against those who go OTD without a valid defense. I am certain that when I was a Hasidic mother in the community, the article in the New York Post would have strengthened my sense of solidarity with the community, this feeling that the outside world does not “get us,” doesn’t care to “get us,” is gullible and susceptible to buying into cliches with enthusiasm and unquestioning faith in its messenger.
If I would be convinced that a blasting exposé to secular readers would results in something more than balm on our own anger, something concrete and positive, I would be very grateful for the work Feldman has done. But I am not feeling optimistic, if this is only an exercise in beating away at the Hasidic community with a big stick of angry attacks.
Leah Vincent: There are two issues you mention here, Shpitzle, that I want to pick up on: First – who has the right to advocate for change, and second, whether or not Deborah’s advocacy is effective.
Regarding the first – if only insiders have the right, what should one do if insiders are not making use of that right? Do we – or any outsider, no matter how removed from that world – have any obligation to help clear victims* of that society? And doesn’t someone who was raised in that community have some right to be critical, some legitimacy to advocate for change?
And as to whether or not Deborah’s route is effective – without disagreeing with you, I’m curious – what alternative technique do you think would be effective for someone in Deborah’s position?
* Without going down the rabbit hole of cultural relativism, I think there are at least some abuses we can all agree are clearly wrong.
Shpitzle Shtrimpkind: Leah, [you wrote]: “There are two issues you mention here, Shpitzle, that I want to pick up on: who has a right to advocate for change, and whether or not Deborah’s advocacy is effective.”
Perhaps I wasn’t clear. The issues I raised were only in how change should be advocated and whether Deborah’s advocacy is effective.
Anyone can advocate for change. The way I think change should happen is in conjunction with the community, working with people from within, from the fringes, or from the outside. If the world knows, but the Chasidic world doesn’t, what changes? If we sling random insults in a race to garner as much media publicity as possible, you essentially lose all your sympathy from people from the community. Catchy phrases like “rolled up nightgown” and “curfews” bodes well for gaining an audience through the media, but it has no message whatsoever for those to whom this is a part of daily life.
Which brings me to your second question: I am certain she could have been effective if she had been honest, descriptive, and aimed for accuracy. There are important ideas that get lost in the sensationalized narrative.
Zelda Deutch: I think writing a book is a very effective way to advocate for change. Why are children encouraged to read books? Why do people read in general? To acquire knowledge. And with knowledge comes the power to make a difference. Whether Deborah is in a position to educate people and to promote change is a good question. My personal opinion is that the book may be too hurried, maybe she wrote it too soon after leaving. That said, she felt ready to write it, and it seems like she had a burning desire to get her story out there. I don’t question her right to write a book. My worry is more about the content. I have to agree with Shpitzle, when people in the community read a book that they feel portrays them inaccurately and has some clearly questionable statements, it only solidifies their belief that they are right and nothing needs to change. And those living on the fence might start doubting whether their issues with the Orthodox lifestyle are valid. I disagree, though, that change needs to come exclusively from within. I think after so many years of things being swept under the rug, it’s time to realize that change from within is minute to non-existent.
Leah, I think people who have left the community definitely have a right to tell their story, even if it is highly critical. Especially in cases of abuse, it can be helpful and spread a powerful message.
Shulem Deen: Zelda – Question for you – and others can chime in…
On the surface, all of us here should be on Feldman’s side; one would think we’re all fighting the same fight. But judging from many conversations I’ve had in recent days, there are many negative reactions to some of the articles/interviews. One almost gets the sense that many of us have suddenly forgotten that we too have spent years with all these restrictions and actively rebelled against them.
Leah raised the issue of envy, which I find interesting, but I wonder if that oversimplifies it. There have been articles about many, many who’ve left the fold, but few have generated anything near the heated reactions that Feldman’s has. Another person mentioned the fact that Feldman presents herself as a “trailblazer” when so many others have done it with equal or greater challenges, with even more harrowing stories, and have done so while extending enormous support to others.
So what do you think is driving the negative responses? Is it just the distortions? Is it it envy? Something else?
Zelda Deutch: I think most people are mature and smart enough to praise a good book. The zinger here, the feelings boiling up in people is frustration, I think. There are so many who have left that have interesting stories. As I mentioned before, growing up in Orthodox / ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities and then stepping away from them leaves most of us with a suitcase full of stories involving love, tradition, pain, innocence, horror, the gamut of experiences and emotions. When people read these interviews, the hype, the exaggerations, it’s frustrating because most stories about leaving the community are seriously deep and moving. There is no need for embellishments.
Many of us have been out for a long time, have been to hell and back, and here comes someone straight off the boat who feels she is ready to write a book and is already an expert on all things OTD. I think that’s what bothers many people. At least that is what bothers me.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I do feel it odd that Deborah considers herself a trailblazer. She’s not the first one to have done it. Many people I know have done it before her, and still others have done it before them.
But in the end, even with all the questions about the book, I do feel that we need to be on Deborah’s side. She may not have done it in the most graceful way, but I’m hoping her intentions are good.
Baal Devarim: What is driving the negative responses? I say: what does it matter? Complete objectivity is a myth in any case. As much as those of us who have made major changes in our life — to the great consternation of our friends and family — would like to think otherwise, we are no Mr. Spock. We may be driven mainly by cool-headed logic, but of course we also deal with emotions such as envy and jealousy and lust and empathy and anger and hate and love, besides for hurt pride and feelings of being violated and the need for our “true” struggles to be heard and the hell of uncertainty and the precariousness of our tenuous relationship to our (former) community. But again, so what? Why does it matter besides for the comforting ability to sling some ad hominem remarks at us that it may provide?
What matters is this: are the negative responses justified? Are the criticisms true and fair? And as far as I can judge the answer is: yes. For as far as I can tell not only does her telling of her experiences lack nuance, but the book would never countenance nuance even if it were the only lifeboat available aboard the sinking costa orthodoxia.
And that brings me to the next point. Many of us hope and wish for change in the Hasidic culture. We may still be – partially or completely – stuck in it, or we may have kids growing up there, or we may have family there, or we may have a feeling of nostalgia or of caring or of true concern for the people in our former lives. And for change to happen we need an honest and open discussion of the issues, which this book isn’t. The interviews so far read like someone telling a breathless story of human sacrifice and rape by pineapples and Hasidic baby-blood spilling in doctorless flophouses (while everyone knows we only spill Christian blood for the matzos!).
Unfortunately, distortions like these overshadow the very many truths that are undoubtedly in the book as well – truths that need to be told and discussed and argued about if we have any hope of affecting meaningful change. As it is, the book provides a too-easy target for ridicule and is very susceptible to simple hand-waving and to charges of vindictive mendaciousness – whether true in any particular instance or not.
If only we could uphold it as a standard bearer for the painful truth! For in reality the facts are much less bawdy but much sadder in the long term than these outrageous tales (again, even if these bawdy tales may, in fact, be true in some particular instances). The lack of preparedness for facing the outside world, the awfully, awfully inadequate education provided to our children, the way any attempt at individuality is cruelly and painfully crushed and rooted out, the way anyone with an above average need or aspiration or aptitude or curiosity for philosophy or science or the arts or for expressing themselves ultimately is in danger of finding themselves emotionally choked and silenced. All by the subtle and not-so-subtle pressure to conform and fit in the community mold.
And then there is the painful issue with the way children are often wielded as a weapon and as a vicious form of blackmail above the heads of those parents who dare not to conform to strict community norms – not to mention those who dare leave or even speak out about the desire to leave. This contributes to our stories pain and struggle and emotional (and sometimes physical) distress – stories that beg to be told honestly, with the nuance and the terrifying grayness of reality fully intact and without it being completely overshadowed by wildly excessive exaggerations and outright lies. For how else to explain the feelings we have, the suffering and happiness and disillusionment and life-long nostalgia of struggling to leave such a terribly terribly rotten and darkly and hauntingly beautiful culture?
Shulem Deen: As we know, the world of ex-Chasidim is fairly small, with many of us knowing each other to varying degrees. Many of us can imagine quite well what Feldman has been through, and I’m sure most of us can relate to her story when reflecting on our own experiences and our often-fraught journeys away from our roots. Should we, therefore, seek to protect Feldman as one of our own in order to “keep the peace in the family”? Should we suppress criticism, even if warranted, just so that we all get along?
Shpitzle Shtrimpkind: Being supportive and being critical are not mutually exclusive. The view that we can’t criticize what we support is the view I went to great pains to free myself from. It rings with deja vu of frum defenses. Honest conversation, a well formulated argument, an opposing opinion that isn’t dipped in the stew of ad hominems – these make up the very essence of the freedom we so prize.
I was supportive of Feldman. I was excited when she was signed for the book and I was always inspired by her vision, her ambition and her thick skin. I appreciate that her book is reigniting all of our appetites for Internet debate. But at the same time, I’m critical of her; for writing with lack of accuracy, for rejecting open conversation (she has bullied those who’ve criticized her), and for claiming herself the Messiah of frum women, while I have yet to see how she has helped the frum community beyond giving the women on ImAMother.com a dead horse to beat.
Is it always us versus them, the OTD versus the frum, and we now need to defend our own honor? Have I been boxed into a new loyalty, namely the OTD camp? I hope not. I cherish pluralism. I don’t divide my world into OTD vs. frum, placing myself militantly on the OTD side of the fence. I don’t automatically agree with everyone who is OTD. Besides, who is OTD? The line is unclear – there are so many sitting somewhere on the wide fence. Perhaps I’m also too sentimental and forgiving. I appreciate open-mindedness and personality, and I appreciate it regardless of whether I agree with anyone’s religious beliefs.
I would also like to add that I’ve since gotten to know Feldman’s ex-husband, who has, like her, left the community. Her harsh and mean-spirited depictions of him and their story don’t match at all with what I know to be true. This leaves me very skeptical of many of her other bold claims.
Zelda Deutsch: I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to withhold their criticism and opinions in order for the ex-Orthodox community to be all kumbaya. After all, most of us come from a place in which criticism is frowned upon, we don’t want to recreate that in our current lives. However, while we are surely not obligated to do so, I do feel that there will probably be enough substance in the book for us to stand by her. At least I hope so. And by that I mean defending the essence of her experience; she did, after all, grow up in a Satmar community and left, and had the ability and right to publish a book. Even if it presents the community and her family in a bad light.
Shpitzle Shtrimpkind: Zelda, I agree with so much you say!
I do agree that we need to try to support each other, although we all know that we’re a critical bunch. We are unforgiving of our own mistakes, and we have a hard time with others’ shortcomings too. My experiences trying to do some writing in the past has left me hurt and frustrated by the lack of cushy support. The nitpicking and attacks often come from those on your side of the argument.
But that is who we are, in essence. We’re not a community who covers up for our own, we don’t hide and work on facades. We splash things out in the open. We don’t have big rugs or vacum cleaners or dining rooms. (Wait! Where was I?) We don’t sugarcoat. We debate, argue, disagree. But ultimately, despite the lack of support-group-style communication, we do create a really significant and supportive community. For all the ribbing, I have always felt a strong sense of belonging to a very present OTD community.
So perhaps we should abandon tiptoeing, put praise where praise is due, and criticism where criticism is due? Feldman deserves both. What’s more, her success doesn’t hinge on our support.
Zelda Deutsch: My gut reaction when I read the Post article was, why is this woman twisting the truth and making a mockery of those of us who have worked incredibly hard to leave the community and rebuild our lives. I felt in several of the articles that were written about her that she comes across very childlike and somewhat dishonest. There are a few reasons why I decided to cut her some slack. First, I realized that many people were attacking her simply on the basis of her writing a book and exposing her family and the community to shame. I feel very strongly that she has a right to publish a book about her life, and I felt the need to defend her on that. Second, she did write a book and somehow managed to get it published by a major publisher. Based on that I’m hoping that the interviews and promotions for the book don’t entirely reflect its contents. In order to get this far, wouldn’t her book need to have some serious substance, and at a minimum be well-written? Also, although some of us might feel that she is embellishing the truth – or even worse, lying – we all, as I mentioned before, experience our environments differently. Maybe some of what she’s saying is really as she experienced it.
Leah Vincent: I respect and agree with a lot of the other points made here by you all: a sense that Feldman is mismanaging a very intense and personal pain that we share with her, a fear about her exaggerations discrediting all of us, a disgust with what some might perceive as blatant self-interest that sullies the urgent social issues we are concerned with, a scorn for her apparent positioning as the only one who has been courageous and left, which seems almost to erase us and our stories.
Shulem Deen: Some in our community have sometimes remarked about a certain attitude on Feldman’s part, there being a sense that she’s snubbed the community of other former Hasidim by seeking to set herself apart. Do you think that’s a fair accusation, and do you think that might be one reason why even those who’ve made similar journeys are disdainful of her work?
I am reminded of something she wrote in an article published in The Guardian:
“Now there is an entire generation of young Hasids chafing against rules that are impossible to follow in an increasingly seductive wave of new modernity… I like to think that I am a little different from the others, who sneak out so they can partake in all that is sleazy and salacious. Strip clubs aren’t my scene and I don’t really like the idea of altering my reality with drugs. I prefer poetry slams and karaoke.”
Any comments on this?
Zelda Deutsch: There are people of all types leaving the Orthodox community. Yes, there are some looking to have a good time, hanging out at clubs and maybe experimenting with risky behavior such as drug use. Then there are the ones who dabble in the outside world trying to figure out what it’s all about, living the double life, unsure if it’s even possible for them to leave. Then there are those who choose to leave, want to live decent, happy lives according to their wants, needs and morals. Most of the people in the OTD community I associate with belong to the latter two. If she thinks she’s that different from others leaving the fold, maybe she needs to find a new crowd to hang out with.
Leah Vincent: I wonder if her attitude also springs from something else: as children we are all presented with a very strong message that all those who leave the religious community are “losers,” “druggies,” etc… I wonder if she is wrestling with that idea in her protestations.
Zelda Deutsch: Of course. We are told that most who leave are losers who are busy sleeping around, eating bacon, and shooting up drugs. It’s very likely that those are the things she’s basing her statements on. As someone who has already left the community I would think she would have figured out by now that it’s not the case.
Shulem Deen: So you think she has a need to portray all other ex-Hasidim that way in order to redeem herself?
Leah Vincent: Perhaps, or perhaps she simply hasn’t reexamined that fallacy. I know there are a lot of ideas that were tattooed into my brain by my community of origin that I found hard to shake, even when the evidence indicated the opposite.
Baal Devarim: Yes, her holding herself out as some sort of “candle in the dark” is ridiculous on its face. She is no trailblazer and no spokesperson – or at least I’d hope we can come up with a better one. Yes, it is grating and amusing (and sometimes infuriating) that she holds herself out as such.
However, Leah is right in her observations that many of us have internalized what we’ve heard countless times growing up – that those who leave are inevitably losers and bums and drug-addicts and prostitutes (or the eager clients of prostitutes). I’ve had this discussion many times with people who left or want to leave; their eager and earnest assurances that – unlike, they’re absolutely sure, most others – they have come to their decision honestly and not out of unquenchable lust for drugs and sex. After a while it gets tiring and absurdly tragicomic.
Given that, and combined with Deborah’s obviously finely-honed instinct for self-promotion, she can be forgiven for some of those ridiculous comments. If only she’d manage to do it without stepping on others, I’d be happy.
I’d like to add, though: my intention is not at all to minimize the undoubtedly very painful and brave journey she undertook and continues to travel. My beef is with the way the story is being told and marketed, not with the way it is being lived.
Shulem Deen: I want to bring into this discussion the murder story that BD mentioned in passing above.
Here’s a quote from a recent article in the Jewish Week:
What about the shocking allegation, late in the book, that a Rockland County emergency ambulance service covered up a grisly murder in which a father cut off his son’s penis and slit the boy’s throat with a jigsaw?
“I’m not a liar and would never make something up for the sake of sensationalizing… I put it in because I felt obligated.”
Even if we don’t have access to credible sources about the story, one has to wonder about her willingness to put out shockingly sensational stories for which there are – to the best of my knowledge – no credible ways to substantiate them. (My impression is that her knowledge does not come from a credible news source or from the results of a criminal investigation.)
Does this say anything about the tone of her book, and do you think this will/should put her credibility in question?
Baal Devarim: In this specific so-called “murder” case, I happen to have personal knowledge of the story and I know, beyond all reasonable doubt, that this was an unfortunate suicide by a very, very mentally disturbed individual. Claiming that this boy’s father cut off his son’s penis and then murdered him is an appalling libel, which will probably cause untold pain to an already hurting family – and why? It would fit nicely into some twisted horror novel banking on the prurient sensibilities of its readership; it should have no place in something pretending to be a serious memoir with pretensions to being even more than that.
So yes, of course it should put her credibility in question. But for me personally it actually answers the question of her credibility, not the other way around.
Leah Vincent: I haven’t read the book, so just going off of what I can put together. My sense is that this is her impression of the incident. She isn’t claiming to be an investigative journalist, she is telling the story of her life. Hell, if I believed that story to be true I’d put it out there! The frum world has definitely swept plenty of crimes under the carpet and personally, it fills me with such rage I understand the urge to scream out against the secret atrocities one knows about. Of course, if she is willfully lying, that’s unforgivable.
Zelda Deutsch: I’m very hesitant to comment on this. I hadn’t even heard about this story until yesterday, and have no other information besides for what she says. This is a very serious allegation. Does she provide any evidence in the book to support it? I’ve learned from experience that there are a thousand versions of every story, but usually only a handful of people who know the truth. I agree, there are way too many crimes being swept under the rug in the community. That still doesn’t make it acceptable for her to single out one particular family as an example. What if she is wrong? There are an incredible amount of unreported crimes in the community, for many of which the details are out in the open and fairly well known. There is no need to dig up stories that don’t hold up under scrutiny or to invent stories entirely. If she has strong proof to support her claim then I understand why she would put that out there. But judging from her questionable interview answers…..I guess we’ll have to wait until the book comes out.
Shulem Deen: Any final remarks?
Zelda Deutsch: Here’s to hoping that the press articles and interviews don’t reflect the contents of the book. Maybe the Post did twist her words, an assertion of hers that I have just read. Here’s to hoping her book is factual, thought-provoking, and an interesting read overall. I hope she proves those of us who have questions wrong. I hope her book is a success and sheds light on all the right issues plaguing that shtetl some of us used to call home.
Leah Vincent: I’m excited that a book exposing some of the ugly sides of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life is receiving so much attention. It would be an appalling shame if she has lied about important elements of her story, but I do respect Feldman’s right to be angry, critical, and even sensationalist in her book and in her efforts to promote it.
Shpitzle Shtrimpkind: I have no doubt that Deborah has experienced enormous pain and a lot of her anger is valid. We all feel that way, and we’ve all experienced it. I may not have sympathy for how she tells her story, but I do have a lot of sympathy for what she has been through.
Baal Devarim: I’d like to second both Zelda and Shpitzle. Here’s to hoping the book is different than the interviews so far. And what’s more, I do have sympathy for the hurt and pain of the journey she’s traveling – a pain I understand all too well. I can also empathize with the bitter, roiling anger many of us experience. But in the end I do not think anyone should be immune to fair criticism, and I think truth (and nothing but) is always paramount.
Zelda Deutch grew up in the Hasidic community of Satmar in Williamsburg. She left the Orthodox world about 10 years ago and now lives in South Jersey with her two children.
Baal Devarim was born and raised in one of the chasidishest communities but — barring any unfortunate or fortunate accidents — will absolutely not die there. He is the author of the blog The Other Side.
Leah Vincent is the fifth of eleven children from a yeshivish family. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University and is Unpious.com’s Senior Editor.Printable Version