An Open Letter to Deborah Feldman

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12 Responses

  1. Shanks says:

    I have read more profound books by women who rejected secular culture, seeing its lifestyle as hedonistic, godless, and disrespectful of their feminine dignity. They saw in secular culture a society that defines the perfect body as the perfect virtue, the undress of female as art, the augmented female figure as the appropriate trophy on the arm of the rich and famous. They chose Chassidic Judaism instead.

    Could you name a couple recommendations?

  2. Eric Leibman says:

    There are people like her in every generation. They happen. They turn on their own and denounce them to the world and they eat it up. We have had them in the past, we have them now and they will always be around. Go forward, and concentrate on the things we can actually do something about.

  3. Aryeh L. says:

    So she should have stayed put?

  4. Adie Horowitz says:

    Thank you for putting into words, what so many of us are feeling in our hearts.
    Shame on you Barbara Walters, for acknowledging Deborah as the voice of a woman representing orthodoxy.
    And shame on you Deborah Feldman!

  5. Julie says:

    Not quite as simple as you make out–it’s one thing for a unified couple to make a joint decision to make a change in their religious life. No matter how exaggerated certain aspects of her book are (and I have read the entire book, not just excerpts posted online), she was a young woman (with little exposure to things outside of her community) in a dysfunctional marriage. To expect her to have uprooted herself and moved to a modern Orthodox community on her own, without any contacts, is unrealistic. It sounded like she relied on help from non-Jewish classmates (and possibly her non-religious mother, though she doesn’t make that totally clear).

  6. shaya says:

    Aryeh: No, I think he’s telling her to become Modern Orthodox.

  7. Nachum says:

    All true. But just bear in mind that “seeking validation” can be a two-way street.

  8. L. Oberstein says:

    If one has never experienced in their own family a child who is off he derech then we cannot possibly understand. Deborah Feldman is in many ways immature and enjoying her notoriety. She gets joy out of eating treif ,etc. It is really understandable. She is to be pitied because anyone who ends an interview (in the NY Post) by saying that the only man who ever made her feel normal is a Catholic in New Orleans who grew up in the woods, that woman has some issues. However, lots of Yiddishe kinder are leaving strict observance but most don’t write books about it and go on TV. They just go away from home and find the outside world enticing. Deborah Feldman lived in a very restrictive Satmar culture but how many kids from the rest of the frum world leave the observant community. Not all of them grew up in totally dysfunctional homes with a mother who ran away and a mentally challenged father. This girl is the tip of the iceberg .

  9. dr. bill says:

    Shaya, Telling a chareidi to become MO given how MO are portrayed, is no small feat. a close friend of mine is a physician one day a week in Kiryat Yoel tending to the needs of a cross-section of chassidim including some of the leaders of the community. Each year he receives a few boxes of shmurah matzah that were visible on his desk. a chareidi woman patient asked him, despite his small knitted yarmulkah, if he eats bread on pesach. he replied: Only pumpernickel!

    i wish that those who choose to leave could find an alternative orthodox stream.

  10. Abe A says:

    A letter to Simon & Schuster.

    Re: Deborah Feldman and Unorthodox.

    Perhaps you should have looked at the the countless Chassidim and Orthodox individuals worldwide, who have become huge successes careerwise, through their intellect, hard work and education, who are serving humanity in many arenas: some doctors, some lawyers, psychiatrists, judges, scientists, actuaries, authors, politicians, etc.

    There is no field in the US and beyond where Chassidim and Orthodox individuals have not become successful, where the world at large hasn’t benefited from their brainpower and expertise. And this is with their 4th grade education, according to DF – ha! At the same time, they have no desire or interest or thought to leave Chassidism or Orthodoxy behind.

    Believe it or not, the above didn’t need the 150 or so member organization that Ms. Feldman speaks of fondly, laden with social misfits and shlemazels, to straighten out their minds and guide them in life and offer them vocational advice in addition to “everything goes” sex education, etc.

    Some do, obviously. Once they’re out in the big world, all morals die for many. The cancer of immorality and the “everything goes in the name of enlightenment” mindset takes over. Not with everyone though.

    Simon & Schuster: she’s NOT the first Chassidic individual to have gone to college! You chose HER to tell HER story and thereby represent uniquely successful (ex)Chassidim? You people are living in the dark ages! Shame on you!

    If anything the book should have been named Un-“Satmar” but even among Chassidic people there are highly educated and very worldly individuals.

    Are all non-Chassidic people educated and worldly?

    Orthodox people are mostly VERY highly educated and VERY worldly. Bad choice of title, S&S!

    To those who are unaware, Jack Lew, White House Chief of Staff, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, are two very highly visible Orthodox Sabbath Observant Jews, among many worldwide, and proud of it.

  11. Allan Katz says:

    The challenge is to look beyond the ‘ anti’ of a press article and book and work on the issues that do exist , no matter how small.

  12. Eleanor says:

    It should be noted that the book is written not as an autobiography, but rather as a memoir. So right off the bat you know these are Ms. Feldman’s memories and how she interpreted her life. A memoir by nature is not necessarily complete fact.

    The book ends with the author saying how glad she is to be Jewish and how there are many treasured memories of her childhood back in Williamsburg despite the fact that she cannot stay there long when visiting. Even the coffee she drinks in New Orleans brings back good memories for her due to the chicory. Give the girl a break. If she now notices every non-Jewish person out there in the world it is because she was kept from the world.

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