Another one gets away. Deborah Feldman was raised in the reactionary Hasidic Satmar community based in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. She escaped.
In her memoir, “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots,” out Feb. 14, she chronicles her oppressive upbringing and arranged marriage.
At 23, emboldened by classes at Sarah Lawrence College, she left her husband and the community for good — taking her 3-year-old son with her.
So often the way – college classes inspire and/or embolden people to escape. Fundamentalists are right, in their terms, not to want their children to get tertiary education.
She was married at 17, to a man she had met once. Their sex life was creepy beyond belief.
After the first time, you have to call a rabbi and he asks the man questions — did this happen? And he declares you either unclean, or not yet consummated. Once you’re consummated, you’re unclean, because you bled. So after the first time, your honeymoon is a no-sex period.
For two weeks every month, he can’t touch you. He can’t hand you a glass, even if your fingers don’t touch. He has to put it down on the table and then you pick it up. Secondary contact can’t happen. If you’re sitting on a sofa, you have a divider between you. It makes you feel so gross. You feel like this animal in the room. If there’s a question about your period, you take the underwear and put it in a zip-lock bag, and give it to your husband. He takes it to the synagogue and pushes it into this special window and the rabbi looks at it and pronounces it kosher or nonkosher. It’s so disgusting.
Maybe a little.
She says things are getting worse.
Over the past 10 or 20 years [the Hasidic community] has gone from being extreme to being ultra-extreme. They’ve passed more laws from out of nowhere, limiting women — there’s a rule that women can’t be on the street after a certain hour. That was new when I was growing up. We hear all these stories about Muslim extremists; how is this any better? This is just another example of extreme fundamentalism.
And notice the common element: it’s all about controlling women. It’s all about making the restraints tighter…and tighter…and tighter. God is always A Man; men are always the people, and women are always the others; the people always have to keep the others down; down down down. The people always have to strip the others of all rights, all capabilities, all modes of escape and autonomy. This kind of religion seems to be about almost nothing but puffing up men and stamping down women. It’s religion as constructed by stags in rut.