Disclaimer: This isn’t a new cult, just a particular cult I hadn’t previously been aware of. As with all ultra-conservative religious sects, content notice for the usual strains of intense and inhumane abuse.
This time it’s Hasidic Judaism. Batya Ungar-Sargon details with stomach-churning precision some of the communal practices that lead to appalling human rights abuses. And the worst part? They’ve found psychiatrists to help in the job.
But two Hasidim married to other people don’t just get a divorce and start a new life together. The community got involved. A rabbi and what’s known as an askan, a person of influence in the Hasidic community, were given Joseph’s “case.” The role of an askan — collectively called askanim — is part politician, part good Samaritan, and part busybody. Together, Joseph’s rabbi and the askan appointed by the community to his case staged an intervention. Joseph says they got involved in every level of his life, in order to prevent him from leaving his family and starting a new one. They took away Joseph’s BlackBerry. The askan started monitoring Joseph’s computer, a mirror image of Joseph’s screen under surveillance at all times. Joseph’s brother-in-law started tracking Joseph’s car, where he went and whom he saw.
Joseph was faced with a choice: surrender to the will of his community’s leaders, or risk public shaming, and worse — losing his children and friends. He capitulated, and promised never to see Dini again. But that was not enough. The askan chose a psychologist to provide Joseph with talk therapy, and then a psychiatrist for medication, who started Joseph on a course of chemical treatment for sex addiction.
It’s some pretty grizzly reading, but if you’re up to it, there’s more on Hasidic Judaism here.