Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels by Hella Winston
In this book, Hella tells the story of Yossi, a 25 year old Hassidic Jewish man who rejects the Hassidic lifestyle along with the stories of several other men and women who have also left the insular communites and/or lifestyles of the Hassidic Jews living in New York. As she met more and more people from that community she learned how their belief in separation from the world and their own religious educational system leaves people emotionally scarred and lacking in knowledge of the outside world making it incredibly difficult for them to leave the Hassidic communities even if they want to. Similar to the FLDS, and possibly the Hutterites and Amish, the Hassidic Jews cut themselves off from the rest of the world to the extent that they don't even know what it is like or how to interact within it. They often speak mostly Yiddish and don't know much English, have very little education in Math, Science or Social Studies, making it difficult for them to get any kind of employment outside of their community. Women are second class citizens who are expected to marry young to a man who they are allowed to meet twice for 20 minutes each time before the wedding and are encouraged to have as many children as they possibly can. Unsuprisingly, depression and mental illness occur frequently among the Hassidic Jews.
Interestingly, many of the young Hassids begin to learn about the outside world and other opinions when they visit Israel, which is much more liberal than the Hassidic Jewish communities of New York.
The stories in this book are illuminating and sad.