Book Review – Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic RootsUnorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deborah Feldman’s memoir of growing up as a Hasidic Jewish girl in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, New York, is stunningly raw and honest.  The first time I went to New York City, I saw a Hasidic Jewish family at the Toys R Us in Times Square as my friend and I were waiting in line to ride the in-door, four story, Ferris wheel.  I remember wondering if riding a Ferris wheel in a giant toy store was something they were allowed to do.  I had seen Hasidics represented on TV and in movies, but never have I considered or read what their orthodox Jewish beliefs are really about.  In fact, I have to admit, while always being interested in Judaism, I never really thought about the Orthodox Hasidic views until an 8 year old girl was harassed and spat upon in Israel by Orthodox Jews for dressing too “immodestly” on her way to school.  Right after, I saw Feldman on “The View” sharing her story and I was so stunned by her account of the rules she was forced to live by until she broke ties with her religion, family, culture, and husband as an adult.  I had no idea that educating a Hasidic girl past 8th grade is considered a waste of time.  I had no idea that reading books was a crime.  I had no idea that marriages are still arranged.  And their rules governing sex within a marriage are just astounding!  This book was a huge eye opener for me.  It made me keenly aware of the “rules” that I quietly obey without thinking about where they come from or where they originated in my culture.  I’ve since read that Feldman is being harassed online and members of her former culture are creating fake profiles in an effort to discredit her.  All I can say is it takes an exceptionally brave and strong person to cast off the shackles of the past, share your truth with the world, and let the slings and arrows fall where they may.

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