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  • Rommel Santos

....and now for something different

I recently read the book “Unorthodox, The Scandalous Rejection Of My Hasidic Roots”, by Deborah Feldman. The book left me reeling with questions about religion, history, Judaism, and caused some self reflection of my own experiences that surprised me. Rarely does a book leave me like that.



Being male and a growing up Catholic, I hesitated to read this book by a Jewish woman. “Give your head a shake Rommel, there’s a lot other books to read.” I generally don’t read women authors because I fear getting into a self indulgent examination of the author’s thoughts that I can’t relate to (But having said that I was drawn to Tara Westover and Michelle Obama). But, hey, I’m always up doing something out of my comfort zone, and venture into a something different.


I’m not going to ramble on about this book but suffice to say that it’s a must read, even if you think that it isn’t for you.


Top take-a-ways:


This was my first glimpse into Hasidic culture, and that glimpse was a bad one. I’m being told that Orthodox Judaism is oppressive, evil, soul sucking, and a story that must be told. I couldn’t help to draw similarities from other cultures, religions, countries, [insert your own], experiences found in any corner of the world. To me it’s a matter of degrees- even in my own Catholic experience. Oppression is everywhere, and one’s ability to rise above it in a seemingly hopeless situation makes an inspiring story. Religion, after all, is the Number 1 reason for war.


Judaism is thousands of years old. I’m sure there are millions of happy Hasidis out there. To seek balance I took the time to read some scathing criticism of Deborah Feldman after I put down the book. My question to the critics is this: don’t you want to form your opinions outside the influence of your own faith? I do. The world is massive with so many different religious and secular ideologies that it’s almost fun to try and explore, and understand all of it.


**Spoiler Alert** don’t read any further if you plan to read the book


How does an adolescent girl NOT know she has a vagina? Is the author’s environment so restrictive that she denied herself the most basic curiosity: the right to explore one’s body? I couldn’t get my head around that. Maybe it’s dumb jock in me blocking some revelation that I fail to acknowledge.


I dunno, man. Can somebody help me out with this?


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