Sunday, February 19, 2012

Some thoughts on "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” by Deborah Feldman

There are no coincidences.  The fact that Mrs. Feldman comes out with her book at the same time that I began our long overdue ad campaign for my book “Another Convert” is not a coincidence. The fact that her book comes out on parshas (weekly portion of Torah Reading) Mishpatim and right after parshas Yisro is also not without meaning. Two parshios which are  known as the foundation for all the future laws of justice for all of mankind.

Many will ask, what now Mr. Convert! What you will say now about the religion and society which you chose to join? Now that Mrs. Feldman has “exposed” the dark side of Judaism in general and Hasidism in particular will you now possibly regret the choice that you made?

With the help of Almighty I will try to repudiate and answer some of the statements that Mrs. Feldman is capitalizing on these days.

Many of readers will expect me to be insufficiently informed about the community that I belong to, due to the fact that I joined the community as an adult. In fact, I am a member of the Hasidic community for the last 17 years compared to the Mrs. Feldman who is 25 years old and has been in the community since birth but left it at age 23. Mathematically it seems that there is a disadvantage on my side but considering the fact that I joined the community as a mature person quickly turns the math to my side. If you add the fact that my three children grew in this community while attending Hasidic schools this gives me much more experience and insight than any outsider can only dream about. Some may say that I certainly lack knowledge of the particular Satmar community that Mrs. Feldman grew up in. Again I want to assure my readers, that my ties with the Satmar community are very close. I never became an official member of this community as I didn’t want to commit to only one particular community however Satmar is where I’m at home and that is where I feel the most heimish. I can also mention that my Rav is the Satmar Rosh Yeshiva and my Rav in Monsey where I live, is a Pupa Hasid which while different than Satmar is still more alike then different. Also my youngest son learned in Satmar cheder and Yeshiva for most of his life and we always have plenty of boys from Satmar schools at our house.
What else can I add?  
When the argument, between the Hasidim of Reb Aharon and the Hasidim of Reb Zalman Laib of Satmar began in Williamsburg several years ago, I was literally in the midst of the argument as I was managing the expansion of the Satmar Mikva into the largest Mikva in The U.S.A. Yes, is was a difficult time as arguments and machlokes are never good, but for me those years when I worked in Williamsburg, with Satmar and other Hasidim gave me glimpse of the community which even some of the people who grew there can only dream about. As the Gemara teaches in Mesachtas Avoida Zarah - the person looking in through the window sees more than someone inside the room. I came away enriched and reassured about my choice as I saw how the highest emotions and sometimes even great ambitions can be controlled when there is adherence to the Torah and Jewish values. It is these values that allow its adherents even when arguing to be on a much different level than others in similar situations. But even more important, all the years in Williamsburg allowed me to learn about the people, make friends and see what we call Kedushas Yisroel on the streets of a big city. As many of non Williamsburg Hasidim can attest to, there are certain attitude and nuances that can be detected when you deal with “Williamsburgers”. We sometimes poke fun about this attitude and other things which we find humorous with our brothers from Williamsburg but after all is said and done we see them as our brothers and that’s how it should be. Enough said about my credentials!

There are many differences amongst us Hasidim, some stem from the different backgrounds of the countries where we came from, some diversity is result of differing philosophic ideas as taught by our great Hasidic teachers and other differences are a result of family upbringing. The last factor can in some cases be seen as an ‘oppressive upbringing’ as Mrs. Feldman chronicles it. As in other religions and cultures, we have dysfunctional families amongst us as well. There may be some meshugene rebbies/teacheres in cheder and there are nebech even cases of abuse. We are people and people we are. Nothing more or less. We have the same desires as the rest of humanity. Faults of character or even moral weakness are not strange to us. 
The fact that the Jewish people suffered through the holocaust and still are a model of high moral values and devotion to family, is all the more astounding! 
Yes, we have help now and throughout history. The Torah that is what sustains us. It is a treasure that has a power to uplift our people – the Jewish people, from the 49 level of moral contamination to the greatest heights of what humanity has to offer.

Unfortunately Mrs. Feldman has chosen a different path. She made a choice as every other member of this community has. Yes, this community has rules as any other community has its rules and regulations but no one has to stay in a particular community where they do not feel comfortable! There is a G-d given right to leave this community if somebody chooses to. It is G-d Himself who allows us to rebel against Him (Lo aleinu). Mrs. Feldman is certainly not the first one in this position and perhaps not the last one. In fact, every few years we hear stories that are widely publicized. In recent times the titles of these stories for some reason begin with the prefix ‘un’ which expresses opposition.  This is what seems to attract all the moral scavengers that are constantly looking for some scandal to feed their decay encrusted soul!  Most of the renegades from our community however, are not intellectually capable to write or even to read, and this is not due to their limited English education. I know many of these people personally and they can’t or are to lazy to read in any language. But a few of these Hasidic rebels with help of others are able to bring their stories to the broad public describing what most Americans would consider obscure or even unknown,  Hasidic society.
There is a tremendous problem with these stories though, they are written by renegades, rebels who left their groups with dismay, anger and hate. Their lack of objectivity leaves no question about the value of such accounts. They left with full knowledge and understanding that like many other societies, those rebelling will be completely rejected even by the members of their own families once they leave the service of the Creator as it is understood by us. This would happen in any religious society that takes its rules seriously. There is no need to explain to nonbelievers or the semi religious why this is so. That’s how it is and most of us know the rules. You can’t be a sportsman while intoxicated and you can’t be in the Marine corps when you weigh 400 pounds. You can’t play basketball on a golf course and sing confederate songs in Harlem. You can’t call yourself  a vegetarian when you declare your love for steak! It doesn’t work this way and no one call you a vegan after seeing you in McDonalds eating a hamburger. You can’t belong to a society which for over 150 generations gave their lives for certain values and conduct while you refuse to obey these rules. One of the rules is rejection of rebels like Mrs. Feldman. If there would be a middle ground on this issue, our nation would have been finished three generations after Moses and there wouldn’t be a Torah, there wouldn’t be prophets with their moral guidance and there wouldn’t be sages that bring us to the intellectual, spiritual and moral heights, us and the nations of the world as well. Because of our separation and withdrawal from general society, we were able to carry this message of morality through the ages, and because we living within this society at the same time, it allows this message to penetrate the hearts and minds of nations through the millennia.

Through these millennia we have had a number of groups and individuals who, on mostly a personal but sometimes a philosophical basis, denied the validity of this path and rejected and fought this path from without and within.
Through the millennia we have among us lots of over ambitious people or perhaps immoral individuals seeking to blemish our community as a justification for their moral and personal failures.
When I meet these, mostly young, people who decided to leave our community I know already before they even begin that they will start reciting a litany of filthy stories about contemporary rabbis and leaders. They memorize some salacious stories going back sometimes hundred of years in time. But let me tell you something sensational! We are not perfect. From the times of the Patriarchs we learn stories about mistakes, imperfections and sins done by some, and thoroughly criticized by the Torah itself as well as by the later sages. No one whitewashed and described storied of our fathers, our leaders, our judges and our kings in the same way as the heroes of other nations are described - always unblemished always perfect. Bad things happen and these things are described in Jewish writings but with only one goal, to teach us not to repeat those mistakes! I can go on and on through the ages with a long list of sins committed not only by righteous people but also by renegades and common criminals coming from a Jewish background. Some of them were not religious; some of them were religious hypocrites, some others who failed despite their good intentions. We are people and just the people, but after all the litany of sins, there is something greater something exceptional about this nation which constitutes the Jewish phenomenon in history.

Mrs. Feldman, you may get your five minutes of attention which every artist is willing to die for! You may feel the sweet taste of vengeance for all the true or imaginary evil that happened to you. You may bring true, half true and completely false stories about your people, but after all is said and done it will be you who and those like you  who fail and are relegated to the trash heap of history!
Let me quote a few examples from your writings which will present you in a way that you will probably not be able to see for yourself. This is however how other people see you after they read what you have written.

You write in one of your posts on your blog:
"I am absolutely not all about criticizing Hasidism. I am up for opening a discussion about Hasidic culture and encouraging reform and progress both within and without of the community, but pointless criticism never accomplished anything."

Wow, what an admirable attempt. You just want reform and civilize us to the standards of the society which you just joined. Let’s see from where your conclusions and desire to change us are coming from, let’s see what your perception of us is.

"Those men are scary; they’re not trained in civility. They’re terrified of what would happen if the genders weren’t segregated. They think of lust as this uncontrollable, wild impulse."

Who are you talking about? Hasidim? Really? Well, let me list some names. They don’t sound Hassidic to me! Kennedy, Clinton, Berlusconi, Craig, Spitzer, Schwarzenegger, Wiener etc. the list is long and juicy.

Because we are aware of the power of sexuality within a man’s veins and we choose to create certain prevention mechanisms to preserve our families and ourselves from moral tragedies this makes us ‘not trained in civility’? Who other then us is trained in self control and civility? The leaders of your new society? A society where many have ruined their whole lives, careers and family to appease this insignificant (in your opinion) desire? No we do not think that “lust is a  uncontrollable  wild impulse”, we know its power!. That’s precisely why our Rabbis have guided us in putting up “walls” so that it doesn’t become a “uncontrollable  wild impulse"! That’s why we use the power of human desires only within a certain framework as designed for us by our Creator and enhanced by our sages as Hashem Himself wished us to do.

You say you are against pointless criticism. I guess your story quoted below illustrates how pointless your criticism is! Mrs. Feldman.  Or perhaps there is a point to your activities, but it leads to places where you don’t want to admit it does.

“There was this old man on my street who, every day on my way to school, would be sitting on this bench, and would call out to me and offer me candy. I told my grandfather, and he said, “Well, he’s older than you, so you have to talk to him out of respect.” The guy was, like, a pedophile. And we were taught to respect him.”

He was ‘like’ a pedophile? A candy man? An old Hasid sitting on the bench and giving candies to the kids? What makes him ‘like a pedophile’ Mrs. Feldman? I really fail to understand why you bring up this story and what the point of it? This story like many others coming from under your pen and from your mouth, is a product of a hateful mind willing  to use any memory, any scene and any person to besmear the people which you have rejected. Here is another example,

The paragraph is about eating out in restaurants. “because I was never allowed to do it. Women aren’t allowed to eat out”

Where are you coming from? There are plenty of restaurants and pizza shops in Williamsburg filled up with many Hasidic women at all times of the day. What is you point in this statement?

You were not allowed to go there? Well, someone was feeling responsible for you.
There are Satmar families who go to restaurants and those who don’t. There are over 100, 000 people in the Satmar community for G-s sake! Tens of thousands of families, each one with their distinctive approach to Judaism and to the rules of the community.  While there are minor variations to these rules most live within the framework of these rules. Is there any pressure placed on those who are lenient about the rules? Sure, but as it was said before, that’s how every society functions.

With one thing I agree with you and I’m sure that you were right when you say “I definitely think there are plenty of community members that are as unhappy, if not more, than I was”. While there aren’t plenty there are definitely some. That’s precisely why there are some failure cases among us.

“I know that Hasidic Jews are indoctrinated from a very young age to believe that there is some sort of global conspiracy against Jews”… “I was taught to believe that outsiders hated me. That if I talked to someone [non-Hasidic], I risked getting kidnapped and chopped into pieces. Never, ever talk to an outsider. Not even a policeman. Which is why what happened to Leiby Kletzky…
I don’t know from which planet are you coming Mrs. Feldman but the one on which I have been living on for last 45 years. The fact is that country after country, leaders after leaders, people after people, nations after nations, whole civilizations! have murdered and butchered  the Jewish people. How should we feel about it? Should we trust all Non Jews and outsiders while remembering our neighbors putting our children, woman and elders into barns and synagogues to burn them alive? Should we integrate within such a society?

Our true leaders and sages developed guidelines for us as to how we should integrate within the society we live in. But as is perfectly normal we look for help always first among our own. There are wonderful people, some of them true friends of the Jewish nation who go the extra mile to help and to do all the good they possibly can for us. What is wrong with asking our own first? How does Laiby Kletzky’s unfortunate case prove your hateful conclusion?

It is just despicable and ugly how you exploit the death of this innocent Neshuma – soul…

How can you look in the mirror without throwing up? When you insist over and over again in blaming the Hasidic upbringing of this child for his death!

No pointless criticism” you say! Yes! just straight shameful anti-Semitism. What else are you willing to do for your five minutes of fame? You are selling you family, you are selling yourself, you are selling your people now you using the most unthinkable person to achieve your goal, Laiby Kletzky!

But you didn’t end with using Laiby Kletzky for your despicable goals of blackmailing an entire community whose member spent days and nights selflessly looking to find this child and than after finding him, crying for weeks trying to understand what happened. For the sake of besmirching the community which you were unable to stand their moral standards you go even further with your ugly accusations. You created the story describing the death of a thirteen year old boy by the hands of his father in the most horrible way imaginable. You either made up this story yourself or are eagerly repeating it after the same type of people like yourself who made up the story, than you accuse the whole community of a cover up!
There was a tragic death in the town of Kirias Joel at that time but you know it was a completely different story. It was a story of mental illness and ultimate suicide. And to produce your slander you use this kind of tragic story, a story so painful to the family. This villainous slander puts you in the lowest category of all, you are a human scavenger feeding yourself and other blood thirsty beasts like you with human tragedy without even a trace of human feelings for the family who were already devastated by the death of their child.

My first thought after reading Mrs. Feldman writings and watching video clips, was anger, irritation and pain coming from the awareness how someone can use half truths and complete lies to build her career using old, worn, threadbare and hateful propaganda, while knowing that this type of propaganda has in the past brought suffering blood and death to the Jewish people. How it is possible that a person can be so hateful toward her own people, her own family while deceiving the innocent reader? Nay! Posing as someone who has only good of her people on her mind?

The answer is self explanatory and proves more how wrong Mrs. Feldman is in her statements and actions and how right those who choose to continue in their well trodden path are. The answer is - Family.

I’m sure that her grandparents gave her the best what they could despite the fact that this family experienced a generation gap which I mentioned before; they were holocaust survivors. I guess, Mrs. Feldman was probably the only one of her age group who grew up without a mother. I will not play Freud here, but I’m sure it caused tremendous stress for this young person growing up among peers with complete two parent families as is case in the vast majority of the Hasidic community.

But when we look a little deeper in Mrs. Feldmans life we learn that not only Mrs. Feldman’s mother but also here grandmother divorced their husbands and left their families in ruins.  Just yesterday I learned about another young lady from Brooklyn whom I remember from when she was still a little girl, years ago. With sadness I learned that with the exception of writing a book, she went down the same path Mrs. Feldman has and also left her family and community waging a public war against them. The pattern is almost the same as in the case of Mrs. Feldman - one divorce in the family after another. I will obviously not go into the details but the lesson is there to be learned! Ones this happens in the family, once the family safety and family values are damaged, once the foundation of the family is shattered, this is only the beginning! It is a  catastrophe which will continue (in most cases) for generations (Lo Aleinu).
This is precisely the reason why we are so protective about our families, about our behavior and even our language when comes to the issues of man-woman relationships.
We are simply doing everything in our power using what we learned from our sages and the past generations, to avoid the same devastation that happened in Mrs. Feldman life.

My book will never receive the publicity that Mrs. Feldmans book has received. I will never be invited for an interview with Barbara Walters and not even by some PBS interviewer. Who cares about a book describing adventures in finding the true G-d. This is not entertaining or educating!  At least not the type of education that the masses are looking for.
A lack of entertainment is not a fault of Mrs.’s Feldman’s book. Juicy stories about criminally inclined, treacherous, self righteous, strange looking Jews will always sell and any author that includes these topics is sure to be a best seller.

At the end of the Barbara Walters interview on the “View” television show Mrs. Walters says that her editor is speaking in her ear through the ear piece and asking her to ask a very important question. What is this burning question that needs to be asked? What is the question that wouldn’t be asked of person other then like Mrs. Feldman? What is this question that everyone in the studio audience and the millions of people at home watching their television must know?  What is the sexual life of Hasidim like?

If this is a sign of the current society, a society 'trained in civility', then I will pass.

Matys Weiser

To learn more about lies and distortions of Deborah Feldman see:


Anonymous said...

You use sharp language in your post, unusually sharp comparing too all your previous posts. Doesn’t this rant of yours contradict your peace and mutual respect agenda? Any word on this?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Weiser, thank you for this post and for making me discovering this fantastic blog.

Matys Weiser said...

I don’t conceal my lack of sympathy for OTD Chevra. I may address the issue in the future I-H.
Re the language, loving others doesn’t equal necessary with dancing around with the proper word, that’s political correctness i.e. cover up for reality. Language was designed to express the feelings and I'm doing so.
Mrs. Feldman and likes, lied, distorted and use the slander against community which I belong to, Hasidic in particular and Jewish in general. If she has the right to do so in public she must be ready for public refutation. There is nothing wrong to call this kind of liar, liar

Matys Weiser said...

Thank you. I hope that one day some of the fantasy written in my posts and comments of Rav Hirsch published on my blog, will became true.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your rebuttal of this ugly book and defense of our path. I wonder why you respond doesn’t go main stream, at least in the Jewish media.


Anonymous said...

This is a long article but you got to many points, it was worthy to read it, Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Is OTD meaning - Of The Derech, i.e. people who left Jewish way of life?
What means your declaration that you “have no sympathy for them”? Please explain.

Matys Weiser said...

Thank you for your important question.
There are many types of people who can be described as OTD. I wrote more about them in my post "Orthoprax" in last May (please see it). There are people who switch between different paths of Judaism and for them I have even some sort of respect (however some may misunderstand me now) than there are those who went in their lives trough significant spiritual crisis due to the difficult life situations. Obviously I can not even attempt to judge them but rather generate even more sympathy and love than for ‘average’ Jew. Than there are intellectual retards who just dreaming that succumbing to their desire will make them happy because that’s what they saw watching some movies. That’s how I can explain myself in most simple way. I-H I will write more about this topic in the future.

Anonymous said...

According to your “classification” D. Feldman belongs to the “difficult life” category, and meanwhile it doesn’t look like you have any sympathy for her, in your article you express rather great disapproval for her, least to say. Why it is so?

Matys Weiser said...

She would belong there indeed if not venomous campaign against the people which she left behind. But the sell off of herself, her family and her people, the war which she waged with community representing thousands of years of leadership in morality, philosophy and social conduct as well as social institutions, puts her in category unlisted in my previous explanation. This category of traitors deserves nothing but words of condemnation. She is not anymore innocent individual suffering from spiritual or family or any other crisis, she is using her whole G-d given potential for the sake of the other side. I hope I explained myself enough, but if not pleas tell me.

Anonymous said...

But, with all due respect Mr. Weiser, you use of sharp language in this post is rather unusual, if someone read your other posts.

Matys Weiser said...

Thank you for the word of critique, however after all it language, the voice – kol in Holy tongue. That’s the difference between Jewish and non Jewish mode of discussion. We don’t engage physical force as it is not our domain and if we do, we are crossing the border of what is given to us and we use foreign means of quarrel. Anyhow I see the reason to address the issue in broader light which B-H I will do next few weeks after line of assays waiting in the line will be posted.
Git Shabes.

MotherLodeBeth said...

Have her book but have not read it yet.

Have seen the YouTube 'Another Convert' interview you did and you were not to kind to Catholics and your own birth family, so it seems you use a broad brush to paint those whom you disagree with as well.

Maybe the reason your book hasnt been published by a big publisher is because it has an unattractive cover and as yet I cannot find any sample readings of chapters like her book offers, so I can see if I will like your writing style. Am considering ordering your book next week.

Matys Weiser said...

Thank you for your comment.
The only statement about Catholic Church in my interview on you tube is that it doesn’t represent teachings of first Christians. That’s not a blame that’s historical fact. After leaving this church in age o 18 I always maintained good relations with few priests many times discussing theology and history of religion. B-H I was always able to divide between my religious affiliation and private relations with representatives of those religious organizations. The best illustration of this relation can be that when I met the Catholic priest which I knew for years at the time when I already attended synagogue. We came to mutual agreement that only people who we can not tolerate are neopagans in our own places.
Re my family, once you read my book you will understand that I always respected them, understanding even the unfortunate decision which I discuss in the interview. I maintain good relation with them until now.
Re book. Well… from the beginning to the end it is almost one man project. It is the publishers who usually are doing editing and cover project as well as advertising.
I gave my book to various Jewish publishers but the topic of converts can bring controversy which any Jewish publisher would rather keep away from. My book besides plain story contains some analysis and describes historical facts which are unknown i.e. controversial to general public (though everyone who has a will to make the same research as me, will come to similar conclusions as my book is bringing).
In summary, my book represents completely different quality than the other book, which you can judge only after reading both.
All the best.

Anonymous said...


R' Matys,

Baruch Hashem that we have Bnei Torah like you who are repulsed by sheker and can bring the emes out in a situation. Never stop fighting for Kavod Hashem! May you be matzliach in all your endeavors. Any word on if we can get your book in Canada?

All the best,
A fan from montreal

Matys Weiser said...

Thank you for you comment, it really encourage me to do this work, and of course Amen to all your Blessings.
Re book, so far nobody sells it in Canada yet but you can buy it on line in our PayPal store, the cost of the shipping is included in the price.
Chatzlucha Rabbba.

Anonymous said...

It was a really a nice surprise for me that I "stumbled" accross your blog with HKB"H help.
I'd never read her book anyway, but now at least I know exactly why I wouldn't.
Also, I definitely learnt a lot about Satmar communities from your description.
I do agree with you on many points; however, regarding their attitude towards non-jews, your answer is surprising coming from a convert....
Given, majority of the non-Jews were extremely hostile towards Jews (especially in the Eastern Europe), but there were also non-Jews who saved Jews. I do agree that there are rules and frameworks, but it's also important to bring exceptions as well, even if exceptions are 1-5%.
I have some friends who come from Russia and Ukraine, and who were turned off by this kind of explanations in Satmar yeshivas in Ukraine (I'm definitely not writing it to criticise; if anything, Satmar deserve a huge zchus for being one of the first to come and establish places of learning in Ukraine, after fall of USSR.), especially because some of their fathers were not Jews.
I'm not sure if the statistic is right, but according to some of my friends who went to those yeshivas, now, looking 5-1 years back, the success rate is like 5% (1 out of 20 people stayed frum). I know that quanlity is way more important than quantity, but still I feel that it's just reflects the overall "absolutism" that lead to those results.
But in the end of the day, hakol bedei shamaim chutz meyiras shamaim....
Yid Hapashut

Matys Weiser said...

Thank you Yid Hapashut for you encouraging comment.
Let me please answer two issues which you touched in you comment.
First is the relation toward non Jews. What I described is not characteristic only for the members of Satmar community. It is rather feeling of most of the Jews who came from Europe within last three generations and their descendents. It is just this huge disappointment on the Jewish side with the general communities in Europe during the Holocaust. Jews learn their literature, they sang their anthems they were trying to participate in all possible activities of nations and governments where they dwelled. They fought even their wars. There were personal friendships between neighbors and class mates, normal social relations, we would like to say. It all ended in Auschwitz, or in the forests where woman bodies were used for kindling the fire under piles of other bodies for their natural fat. It ended on the streets of the towns where classmates were hunting their peers to deliver them to the Nazi soldier for immediate execution. I can’t expect more openness from people who went trough this, still within the time of human memory.
Without the doubt there were exceptional individuals among the goim who chose to be a HUMAN. They were exceptional not only in their generation, but they were really the pick of human morality in general.
I believe that we should work as Jewish Orthodox community on our better, more open relation with our other American brothers but I can not blame this, only third, generation of people who survived European Churban to be vigilant when comes to this kind of engagement and some lack of trust. That is said besides the fact that it is completely natural to look for help from our own, that’s what make us in to community.
I hope that above response, answers for you doubt.

I share with you believe that quality is much more important than numbers.
The whole Jewish history is giving this almost scary lesson - ten tribes, huge part of the nation at the time of Tzedoikim and Notzrim then Karuim and reformers. All of them perished in the history as they didn’t represent the quality of the Jew – devoted in his entirety servant of Almighty. There are a lot of good people around but carrying the name - Jew requires much more than being just good. As rav Hirsch wrote – if a Jew doesn’t serve Hashem he is not worthy of existence. Isn’t it scary? We should rather make it our choice to heed to His Torah.

Brasil said...

I found this book very intresting. I did enjoy reading every word. I enjoyed learning about a part of society I did not know anything about. I enjoyed her view point. I don't know very much about this community or this religion so I have to believe the Author. Plus, this is her story and how she saw her life not how people that lived around her saw it. The writing felt somewhat rushed at times. The big stories were there but at some points she will bring something up and then it is like she has a total change of thought and we never hear what happen. I really wish she would have told us more. More, about how her family reacted to her leaving. How her husband's family reacted. What is Eli doing now. Her father. I wanted this book to be more then just about her insentives to leave and more about what happen when she did...there did not seem to be "Scandale" in her leaving. I think is is a very good book that needed a little less editing and a few more details.

Matys Weiser said...

Hi Brasil, regards to you.
I read you comment with sadness, and this sadness comes from the fact that Mrs. Feldman achieved in you case what she wanted to achieve, misinform people about community which she was not able to withstand high moral standards. Her book serves almost solely this one purpose. You wrote: I enjoyed learning about a part of society I did not know anything about. I’m sorry to inform you but you can learn about her society as much as you can learn about life on Middle Earth, as her writing was proven to be lies in many major parts of it. (see: ) This shows us only one thing, that Mrs. Feldman would be maybe good fiction writer but claiming her writing to be truth makes her nothing less than notorious liar. I understand that every person sees reality from his/ her unique perspective but this book is not about giving out this perspective. It is piece of worst propaganda serving nothing but desire of Mrs. Feldman for money, fame, some vengeance for unfortunate life and a lot of hate toward people who did nothing but good to her.
All the best.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with some of your very strong and wordy thoughts you have expressed here. However, I do strongly disagree with something you have written in regards to mrs. feldman and an unnamed person who went the same path without writing a book.
Both of those women grew up in an "incomplete home" and have themselves divorced and left devastation in their wake.
Are you Mr. Weiser stating that these women did what they did because of their family history of divorce, and having grandparents who were holocaust survivors?
Allow me to paste your words here:"Ones this happens in the family, once the family safety and family values are damaged, once the foundation of the family is shattered, this is only the beginning! It is a catastrophe which will continue (in most cases) for generations (Lo Aleinu)."
I must say, this is a very narrow minded and uneducated thing to say, especially in a forum where you represent yourself as part of the Hasidic community, a man with a past who has been places and has seen much in your forty five years that should demand respect, if not label you as a thinker, and an intelectual.

To say that a human being, a child of circumstance where this child had NO CHOICE in the matter but is faced with extra challenges because their parents were divorced, or holocaust survivors are destined to repeat it?
So are we all destined to repeat the past?
Sarah Imeinu was barren until HASHEM gave her Yitzchok.
Rivkah, Yitzchok's wife was barren until she was given her sons.
Would you say this barreness is hereditary? Like being from a divorced family? or a child or grandchild of a holocaust survivor?
I am appalled at such comments.
I do not believe that mrs. feldman did what she did because she comes from a broken home, nor do i believe anyone else in their right mind would purposely hurt their own children and divorce if it wasn't absolutely necessary.
If mrs feldman had a hard life, indeed, she has wounds that need to heal, but anyone having lived her life outside of this community would not have ended up so rosey. Her choices are hers, but we all share one thing among others with mrs feldman, and that is humanity.
And since we are all human neither you nor I can judge any of us or eachother based on our family make up, historical circumstance (holocaust survivorship - or decendant of) and say, "Oh, yeah she divorced him because her mother divorced." Were you there?
Maybe because she came from a broken home, her shidduch prospects weren't so great to begin with because people tend to judge really quickly, so she went from a not so great situation to a worse one.
Neither you nor I can say that anyone is doomed to repeat history. As a matter of fact, a child of divorce would know first hand how devastating it was, and would do the best he/she can with what he/she has, where they are, so as NOT to repeat anything that causes such hardship.
We all have choices
As you all know, there is a G-D who is running the world, and each of our lives. We do have freedom which is a gift from HASHEM, indeed. but when a child is born into a situation, that has nothing to do with choice or a future destiny of repeating the past. This is the situation that HASHEM has placed this innocent neshoma in for reasons we are not privy to know. What that innocent neshoma does with his/her life and experiences are to his/her credit, depending what was done, but that is between the individual and G-D himself. You, I think would understand that from what you have already shared about yourself.

The element that is missing in your blog about mrs feldman and where she is wronging (not that im judging or anything) is her relationship with HASHEM, not her relationship with a community, past or present.
We all were placed in our own situations, and we were all given tools to overcome our obstacles, and choices on how to use them. And the choice to make whether or not we want a true relationship with HASHEM.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to sign.

Leah Weiss

Anonymous said...

I must say after reading this post, I decided to pay attention to Deborah Feldman and refresh some of my memories.

First, Deborah's father is not mentally ill. When we talk about mentally ill, we usually refer it someone who gets institutionalized often more like schizophrenia. Mr. Feldman is a normal man and to my knowledge not on medication, handles himself well, and manages his life fairly decent. This is not to say the Mr. Feldman is a intellectual whom I would rely on in business, he is certainly not out to be a father but he is a decent man. Mr. Feldman works hard for his money by being a car service driver and delivering packages for people. He is a fairly friendly normal man. Not being too normal does not make the person mentally ill. Accusing her father as mentally ill shows no respect. (On a personal note, I know Mr. Feldman well and he has kvetched out money from me before for his car services, he is a man I would avoid at cost to do business, but again not mentally ill) As per the Encarta Dictionary, Mentally ill is an offensive term meaning having a psychiatric disorder being extremely unintelligent or silly.

Second, I grew up and hung out around on Penn Street where Deborah's grandparents lived. I remember her grandfather from shul, a straight forward person who never said an extra word to anyone. On Penn Street there were not many old people sitting on chair's out side and I can assure you that none of them were pedophiles. They were lovely old people who cared for everyone and always had a good word to say why we need and should life seriously. The only man who would give out candies was the old man working in the grocery store at the corner, I have spent as a child many hours with this old man in the grocery store, he never made any sexual endeavors to anyone.

Finally, Mr. Feldman getting divorced was the least of the problem that affected little Deborah. Mr. Feldman was always considered, going back to the early 1990's, as a rebel or outcast of the community, he never fitted into the mold of the norm and rarely to never seen in shul (I am talking of my memory of what I remember 15 years ago). Mr. Feldman's lack of sincerity to the Jewish community is what the affected little Deborah more than anything. Living with grandparents that raised her to be frum, with a grandfather who was a straightforward man always on time to shul and never speaks a word of politics etc, and a father who did contradictory moves is what affected little Deborah more than anything. Deborah's grandfather is a good man who was never seen hanging around with crowds and therefore it made sense that he did not let Deborah go restaurants especially when seeing his son Mr. Feldman talk to every women in the street he came in contact. Grandpa Feldman (Berkowitz) is a model Jew who is always sincere, pious, and with integrity it is not his teachings that drove Deborah Off the Derech, it is the contrdictions she experienced.

Anonymous said...

Re: my May 16 1:20 pm post:

I used the name Mr. Feldman even though that is not his sure name, out of clarity of those who do not know him.

Anonymous said...

Well said indeed!

Leah Weiss

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment.
I read it twice and can’t find the place where are we disagreeing. Either you misread me or I was not clear enough in my post which I apologize if that’s the case..
If any one, it is me who is remanding constantly in my essays to my small public that Bechira is the essence of the creation. My life experience as well as what I learned is telling me that there is no any ‘unprivileged’ position which person with enough effort can not pick himself up from, with the help of Heaven.
When is said that divorce in the family creates pattern for the future generations of divorced parents I didn’t mean that their children are ‘doomed to repeat history’.
I strongly believe that ‘ a child of divorce would know first hand how devastating it was, and would do the best he/she can with what he/she has, where they are, so as NOT to repeat anything that causes such hardship’. That’s how I wish it should be.
However, from those two examples which got their fame almost within few days, divorce was the pattern in the family. That’s fact. Could they work out the way to break this pattern? Absolutely yes. But they didn’t.
My call about it was rather to all the parents who are considering divorce or have any other family problems heading in this direction. I wanted to say; STOP, look what could happen to your offspring if you will not putt ALL the effort for reconciliation and do ALL possible work to create happy and peaceful family.
From Pesach time I wrote few essays on the topic of the family, starting from posting the word on this subject from my rebbe Rav Hirsch.
The last from the series is ‘coincidently’ titled “Divorce”. It is steel by my editor and he is late with his work but since he does it voluntary and he is my friend I can’t put pressure. I hope once he finishes and I will post it you will have more opportunity to learn about my views on the subject of ‘divorce’. Please come back to my blog and thank you again for the comment.
And one more thing. In my understanding relation toward another person and community is an expression of our relation with HBH. Another words, ben adam lechaveiro is in fact ben adam leMukoim, and in opposite direction - our proper relation with Mukoim results with excellent relation with chaverim, all becoming our chaverim.

Matys Weiser.
Sorry for posting it as anonymous, for some reason Google doesn’t allow me to post from my account.

Leah Weiss said...

I can tell from the way you are explaining yourself that you do not mean any harm, but your ignorance is clear when you reiterate what it is I am disagreeing with you about. And by saying that divorce is a pattern is harming.

Divorce in a family is NOT a pattern.
Those two women were from divorced families, and you do not know why their parents divorced.
You also do not know why those two women divorced as well. None of us do.
You say:
"strongly believe that ‘ a child of divorce would know first hand how devastating it was, and would do the best he/she can with what he/she has, where they are, so as NOT to repeat anything that causes such hardship’. That’s how I wish it should be.
However, from those two examples which got their fame almost within few days, divorce was the pattern in the family. That’s fact. Could they work out the way to break this pattern? Absolutely yes. But they didn’t.
My call about it was rather to all the parents who are considering divorce or have any other family problems heading in this direction. I wanted to say; STOP, look what could happen to your offspring if you will not putt ALL the effort for reconciliation and do ALL possible work to create happy and peaceful family."
It takes TWO to make that happen Mr. Weiser.

The issue at hand regarding these two women, or anyone with divorce in their past or present has nothing to do with patterns of divorce.
and your statements on this subject may sound knowledgeable, but you are not. So please, kindly educate yourself a little more on this topic before you can judge anyone who has gone through divorce as a child, or chooses divorce as an adult.
Halacha allows a couple to divorce. and if it is written in the Torah, and rabonim paskin that a couple needs to divorce, it is because it is indeed necessary, not a luxury, or a decision made in haste because something didn't go their way.
Your view is prehistoric.
Take a virtual walk down the main street in Monsey or Monroe. Down Lee avenue and thirteenth avenue- what do you see?
Men and women driving the most updated vehicles, men fiddling with the most modern gadgets to be gotten, and the women and girls are dressed in modest yet very Vogue outfits, and the pushing the most state of the art strollers.
So tell me, if we are a community with so many things so up to date, how is it that peoples thinking has remained in the dark ages?
How can you say that divorce is a pattern?
Divorce is a symptom of a deeper rooted problem we all face because as modern as everyting seems to be, we have not changed our attitudes, and our thinking, which leads to a generation of uneducated people.
There needs to be some serious changes in how people view eachother, and not judge them by their situations which is what you are doing by saying that divorce is a pattern.
You are creating a stigma, or keeping a stigma boyant with alot of hot air instead of validity.
Instead of condeming someone for make poor choices like those women you mentioned, and pointing fingers at 'divorce' (who's starting to hate that word?) how about saying things like: "yes Mrs Feldman, you have suffered in your life, and you blame a community for it. Pray tell, neither you or anyone else would want anyone else to suffer such pain. How can we do better? How can we help you now?"
Instead of playing the blame game, who is willing to take responsibility, and take steps for a more healthier and positive futurefor all of us?

Anonymous said...

Why do you have a prism listed on your blog that looks exactly like the one on the cover of a Pink Floyd Album?
Are you a fan of Pink Floyd?

Matys Weiser said...

With all due respect I will stick to my ‘prehistoric ‘views and I assure you that I do not back form any word which I wrote in this case.
A agree that I need more education and that’s why I constantly trying in my life to learn something new, especially on the tropics which I take stand on.
I will restrain at this moment from giving you longer answer, as I told you ‘coincidently’ my essay about divorce is going to be posted soon, come back and check it please, then we may have, if you will like, further discussion.

Matys Weiser

Matys Weiser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matys Weiser said...

Re prism.
If you will take exact look at prism of the logo of my blog and prism on the cover of the “dark side of the moon” you will se difference. While in Pink Floyd’s prism the ray is split only after leaving the prism, in my prism the spectrum can be seen already in the prism.
But seriously, it doesn’t really matter, I chose the prism for the meaning of this symbol and it doesn’t have anything to do with Pink Floyd. However it is truth that music of my preference is Prog of all shades.

Matys Weiser

Anonymous said...

Hi as I keep on reading all comments to your post, I just feel more and more relieved. As you can see on my spelling and grammar hardships, I am a Chasidishe Satmar Women, reading and listening to all that's going on with this horrible story called Deborah Feldman. And as I listen and read I keep on searching for answers and clarifications to the questions that keep on arousing in my head.
Your post was most informative and it actually relieved most of the question regarding what to think of such an individual and her doings. But one little question that is still popping up constantly, whilst coming across such a situation in the "Heimsh" crowd, and that is Arranged marriages, keeping the couple in the dark till they can find out what they're getting into. And actually not only the arranged marriages but the whole way a women needs to stay away of anything that will let her inner self get some gashmiestige relief, like not letting women do lots of stuff, and hiding it in the cover of "because they can maybe be exposed to the men" which in most cases are very extreme like not being aloud to read books in the English language or maybe not allowing girls to ride bikes so on so forth. yes I agree these are guedlines you have to follow to be able to maintain and stay an "erlech yidish meidel". But why in the world do it in such and extreme way and not even giving the girl or boy a say in there own future. Or as in the case of gashmiesdiga outlets, to let the girl reach her potentiols in more ways.
I'd love to hear you'r answer to that.
(Just to let you know I am very happily married and have a very nice and sweet family Bl"h. But only because I educated myself, and yes I had to get to goyisha resources to get to where I am, because there wasn't any available in our Jewish " Chasidish" community. and that's most-probably for the same reason as the other example I gave in my question)

Thank you again for clarifying the rest.

A Yidishe Mame

Matys Weiser said...

Burich HaShem. I’m glad that my post was somehow helpful for you Mrs. Yidishe Mame.
From Pesach till now I posted on my blog four essays about family and marriage, one of them from rav Hirsch. I don’t talk in those essays about arranged marriages but you may enjoy them, though they are rather long.
Let me tell you shortly how I see the issue of arranged marriages.
I came from society where people before they come to clergy or clerk for their nuptials they have almost all the time under the sun to learn each other. Do they? No, because in marriage we learn each other all our lives. Does it help them to create more solid and happier marriages? By vast majority – no.
There are exceptions on both sides. I.e. we can find fine happy couple among people of general society and among us, nebech, there are people who are busy all the time with harming each other. But I doubt that anyone would disagree with my general notion.
Dating as it happen in general society would be breaching our tradition and protective laws separating sexes from each other (see my essays).
Dose it has to happen in the other extreme way, by introducing young couple to each other at the wedding? It sometimes happens but it was never main stream in our society. Marriage without conscious content is prohibited by Chalacha.
One meeting? Three Meetings? Going out? Which of those paths is proper?
I think each one is proper for the society where this is the prologue for further acceptance or disapproval of the potential spouse.
Besides my wife, there is nobody whom I love as much as my children. As every parent I would not allow to happen any harm to them and I would do everything to assure their happiness. This is one of the reasons why I chose to became a Jew as I found that yidishkeit poses supreme means to accomplish this task.
In my freedom of choosing community where I belong I chose the one where my children saw their, now, spouses three times for hour or a little bit longer. You know the procedure, first shadchen and than we parents pre selected already potential candidates and our children met the ones which we believed will be the best for them. But the final recognition belongs to them and only to them. Only if they see that they can build happy family with him or her, than we can proceed and go further with Lechaim and so on.
Are they mature enough to make such choice? Well… older I’m more I believe that maturity only in limited measure depends from the age of the person.
All what young Bucher or Jewish girl has to do, is recognize their other half as the real choice was made already for them but not by shadchen nor by parents but by HBH Himself. One more time I encourage you to read my essays on topic of Family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for you prompt answer.
In your answer I see you basically have the same believe as I do and that's the point that I tried bringing out with my question, (which might have been miss-phrased because of my English not being my first language). I certainly agree with you in the part that dating or not dating makes no difference in the marriage after all. My question is that from the community I come from the final decisions is not the couples its the parents even if the girl/boy says she does not agree to the match she has no say in it, if the parent want that for their daughter/son they will still close the deal regardless of what the couple says about it. Why the extreme? Why not let your children at least think they have a say in the matter? what I call this if I may say (and sorry for the language) a corrupt way of turning the Torah to your advantage!

And yes I will reed your other post as soon as I can get to it,
Thanks for everything,

A Yiddisha Mame

Matys Weiser said...

From my side, you don’t have to be worry about your English, for me it is third language which I learned however I never have had an opportunity to go to school for it. So your English looks great to me and I hope that other readers also don’t mind.
I have been part of this community for the larger part of my adult life. I have children who went trough all educational system provided my Hasidic and Yeshivish branches of Yidishkeit. Two of them married in arranged marriages. We are family who speak openly about many topics which other families’ would hesitate to talk about but that’s who we are.
I have assisted in some shiduchim including once where Chasan and Kala saw each other only one time before the Chuppa. I have hundreds of close and not so close friends so is the case of my children. I have never heard about the case where one of the young people has no say about choice of his life partner.
If you are saying it happen, I must believe it but I must also say what everybody knows, it is perversion of true Torah teachings and distortion of our tradition regardless of the group carrying their specific tradition. I don’t know what more can i say about it

Irvine Divorce Lawyer said...

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I'm fascinated with accounts of women (and men) who manage to escape from extreme religious backgrounds, and Unorthodox is the first book I've read about the Hasidic community. I was very interested to read about Feldman's day-to-day life in Williamsburg, including the bizarre (to me) religious rituals and the community's treatment of women.