Monday, November 28, 2005

A Satmar Ladies' Event

As a Satmar Williamsburg graduate, I attended the Satmar Bikkur Cholim party along with most of my classmates. It was on odd sensation - looking around the table and wondering how many of my friends also reside in two worlds. Cyberspace and Williamsburg. Two ends of the spectrum. I wondered how many of them might have chanced upon this blog. I also realized that I didn't really feel inclined to share with any of them anything regarding my online adventures. Not surprising - since very many of these women haven't ever heard of the term 'blog' or what blogging entails. And while some of these women do have a computer at home, many of them don't - and would probably consider it morally reprehensible. They might even be right. I didn't feel that it was necessary to say something that might offend.

Yet in spite of the fact that the majority of these women were 'missing out' on all the wonders of the World Wide Web, there was a lot laughter going around. I was once again surrounded by an intelligent group of girls who enjoyed discussing topics to death. We were surprised to realize that it was just yesterday that we looked the future in the eye, daring it to come and get us. Yet it came, it conquered, and we're better for it.

Throughout our conversations, I was looking for the disillusioned, unhappy faces that are said to be so dominant in our awfully ghettoed community. I wondered where those that have been disenchanted by our 'restrictive rules' were sitting. And then I realized that had they been upset with the 'system' they probably never would have shown up at this party. So apparently I was right all along. The rebellion that is so active online is practically non-existent within the community. There was an auditorium filled with over 2,000 beautiful, talented, intelligent women - who were living the lives they wanted to, and occupying themselves with what they wanted to do.

I have a classmate that has 5 sons. FIVE! She is 26 years old and she has 5 kids! I was about to get mad. Seriously mad. No woman should be subjected to that kind of life! When it suddenly dawned on me... She wanted it. Every woman at the table was discussing the pros and cons and above all the 'Why did she?'. Yes, every woman at the table was aware that they have a choice in the matter. But the woman in question - who is said to be one of the most relaxed mothers there is - actually commented that she would have no problem having five more sons. Foolish? maybe. Forced into anything? not at all. Many of my friends are relating that their husbands are the ones suggesting that they've done their duty (at least for the time being) in 'being fruitful' - but THEY are the ones who want another baby to hold... to cuddle. There are some who love motherhood - not because they were raised to admire it, but because it truly gives them satisfaction. Just like there are those who do not have the patience for it.

After worrying for so long that the public needs to be educated about the 'choices' available, I've come to realize that very many are content because they've already chosen exactly how they want to live their lives. If we truly care about these women's contentment - perhaps we just ought to leave them be.


At November 29, 2005 6:37 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

There are those mothers who love the feeling of holding a baby, you are correct it gives them satisfaction, it gives them a sense of achievement. They are that way because that is how our religion conditions them.

I am not saying that it is a bad thing, but it is not a choice thing. Those who don’t, can find it tough to get an extended “hetter” to have a break.

Of course we should leave happy people alone. Who would disagree with that??

At November 29, 2005 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an auditorium filled with over 2,000 beautiful, talented, intelligent women who discussed all the wonders and metzias they found at Daffy's and Century.

At November 29, 2005 7:43 AM, Anonymous Shlomie said...

this is the reasons for high fences, not to keep thieves out, you know the rest

At November 29, 2005 9:26 AM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Frummer - It isn't our religion that conditions these women to love babies. Although it would be fair to say that our 'traditions' have gotten them used to the concept. Regardless of how they came about those feelings regarding children - the fact remains that they like it.

You are saying that it is not a bad thing - yet you go on to say there is no choice. But saying that one has no choice in a matter that they are entitled to one – would be implying that it IS bad thing. All the same – doing something that is good – whether by choice or by default – it still IS a good thing.

As for the 'heter', it is attainable for those who know where - and how - to ask for it. If the woman is doing the asking - she need not go further than say 'I don't want to now'. Al pi halacha that is enough to give her the break.

Who disagrees with leaving happy people alone? All those that claim that this insular community is causing people to feel stifled and oppressed. That assertion comes with the suggestion that we break down these 'walls'. I stand by my claim that there are no WALLS, just a pretty little picket fence. And those that have set up their homes contently in this little garden would find the removal of this fence very disconcerting.

At November 29, 2005 9:35 AM, Anonymous another satwilli woman said...

Sheitel I was at that party too. And I was looking out for these women too. All I heard was amazement at the speaker I heard no conversations about daffy's or century. Or any sales whatsoever We were discussing our lives and the meaning of being frum after the speaker a 24 year old convert was telling US the beauty of yiddishkeit and she was telling us the emptiness of there way of life. She said she has never seen the likes of a Yiddishe Mama and is amazed at the love a yiddishe mama gives her children I can go on but I think I will leave the writing to you Sheitel I think you will be able to convey it much better.

Happy to be Satmar and to raise my kids that way.

At November 29, 2005 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for the 'heter', it is attainable for those who know where - and how - to ask for it. If the woman is doing the asking - she need not go further than say 'I don't want to now'. Al pi halacha that is enough to give her the break.


At November 29, 2005 11:05 AM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Anon. You are probably right. Although halachic interpretations do vary as to whether two kids of each gender are necessary - or whether one and one is enough. Regardless, people in the community do sometimes feel more comfortable to have their behavior sanctioned by their rebonim.

And I would greatly appreciate if you would choose a name - any name - and stick to it. This holds true for all you out there who go by anonymous. (If the situation won't change, I'll probably block out anonymous comments.)

At November 29, 2005 11:55 AM, Anonymous VFB said...

--- Throughout our conversations, I was looking for the disillusioned, unhappy faces that are said to be so dominant in our awfully ghettoed community. ---

Not everything that someone feels inside can you know from looking at his or her face. This is true even if as you claim, you have a 145 IQ. Thus, your attempts to determine disillusionment by looking for unhappy faces is not a reasonable method of concluding how people feel. Many people learn to mask their feeling for a Varity of reasons. One common reason is that people realize no one wants to be around someone who is grumpy all the time. You have no evidence for your assertion that the “auditorium [was] filled with over 2,000 beautiful, talented, intelligent women - who were living the lives they wanted to, and occupying themselves with what they wanted to do.”

At November 29, 2005 1:05 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

VFB - Being that attending the party last night was in no way a 'requirement' but rather a personal choice, in light of the company, the event and the entertainment - I would say that all those that chose to show up did so because it was along the lines of what they enjoyed.

The Satmar Bikkur Cholim Party is to a large degree an extension of the lives these women lead.

So therefore I would say that these women's presence was all the 'evidence' I needed.

At November 29, 2005 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shietel, you must be kidding. Keep on painting your true colors

At November 29, 2005 3:38 PM, Anonymous afrummytoo said...

its interesting to see how people just love to know or just say that the frum people are just so unhappy and living double lives sure there are unhappy people but from those that are is it the frummness that makes them so unhappy? how many people in the secular world are unhappy? Noticed the trend of Prozac prescription is on the rise?it cant be only willy. and btw having friends from all backgrounds I never noticed the people leaving becoming very happy all of a sudden. Am I just naive?

At November 29, 2005 4:17 PM, Anonymous Der Yid said...

Shietel, how did you like the teichman, ponyovitz biography speeches

At November 29, 2005 4:25 PM, Anonymous miri said...

I agree with VFB that you really cannot see on someone's face if she is happy with the life she is leading. A lot of people in our community have resigned themselves to leading this life, and that's why they are, but it does not mean that they are happy with it. The reason why they don't seek to change it is usually due to pressure, either from a spouse or parents, or anyone else in the community. So they stick with it.

A friend of mine who just gave birth is keeping herself from going to the mikva for 3 months already out of fear of getting pregnant again soon. Birth control she won't take because it 'doesn't feel right' and "what excuse is she going to use to tell the dayan". And this is a girl who loves and embraces the kind of very strict lifestyle she grew up with. She is not happy with all aspects, such as this one, but is scared to change it. I don't think this is an extreme example; rather, it is a fairly common one. I seriously wonder how many ordinary people don't resent this kind of lifestyle where the first 20-25 years of marriage involve being pregnant, giving birth and getting pregnant again.

At November 29, 2005 6:56 PM, Blogger mistake said...

Who cares whether 2000 women are happy or not? What does that prove? That the satmar system is a success? Far from it. U know how I know? Because look at who is telling u about them… our darling sheitel who thinks she can talk for satmar because she wears seams. When really shes in total denial of whats going on around her. You see, just like all the other misfits sheitel didn’t feel like she was getting enough in the satmar system. she went to the library to expand her high school education. She bought a computer and got a place to talk stuff she cant discuss with her friends. A very comforting place where people in her situation can convince themselves together about how intelligent and righteous they are.
Would u walk into the library if ur kid’s principal was passing? Do you really believe secular knowledge and ehrlichkeit can go hand in hand? How come the satmar rebbe didn’t believe like that? Was he less intelligent than u? or is it u?
Sheitel, I don’t give a damn what u do. Its just about the way u scrutinize someones perspective on a lifestyle makes me wonder whether u know more about the lifestyle than she does to criticize her.
Sheitel, ur a satmar misfit and hella’s book bothers you because she touches on stuff in your brain that are deeply repressed by denial

At November 29, 2005 11:00 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Mistake - I found your name endearing... and ironic.

You are apparently angry - scratch that. You are so obviously fuming - and I am still having a difficult time identifying why.

To start with, while incessantly ranting - you aren't saying much at all. You are jumping from topic to topic and I actually am having a difficult time following your train of thought.

Because of the cussing and cyber/teen lingo, I’d assume that you have had some experience on the ‘net. So from your perspective – which one are you? The pot or the kettle?

As for your judgment regarding my position within the community, to quote Mark Twain: Get your facts first. Then you can distort them as you please.

I’ve also heard it said that when we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical. Or as Benjamin Disraeli put it: It is easier to be critical than correct.

At November 30, 2005 1:30 AM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Der Yid - with that kinda knowledge, am I correct to assume that your name should have been 'Der Yiddene'?

At November 30, 2005 2:54 AM, Blogger Cosmic X said...


Please continue posting things about the positive aspects of your community and don't waste time responding to the critics.

At November 30, 2005 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ThirtySomething said...
I respect what you are doing to defend your community, but IMHO your being online as a blogger flaunting your knowledge of the secular - or shall we call it the mundane - world, is definitely not beneficial to our cause.
As an aside, someone named Yossi called in to the Zev Brenner show when Ms. Winston was on, and he defended his version of "freedom" of choice in his community by stating proudly that he was an avid movie fan, "and in fact I am going tonight with my friend -- with the beard and peyes and all that (sic) -- to watch a movie. Our wives are perfectly OK with that."

This attitude shames us and causes deep pain for any self respecting Yid, let alone Chassidim.

In the Jewish world we become great first by showing our *love* for G-d and our religion, our love of people, then for our knowledge. But to flaunt foolishness and our lack of fear of Him?
So you are mostly of sound mind and matter, only making you arguments in the wrong place at the wrong time. For fear of upsetting you I will not state unequivocally that you are the wrong person to be defending your community, but can you understand my point?

ThirtySomething said...
Actually, I just finished reading your latest blog, "A Satmar Ladies' Event".

Please keep it up. As much as your writing pains, all the same it uplifts... :-)
sheitel said...
Thirty - I AM the wrong person to be defending the community. I'm not nearly smart enough. But as for place and time, I do think it is the right one.

I too found that Yossi caller’s claims revolting. The fact the he subsequently bragged about his call on this blog - along with the audacious remarks about watching porn to enhance his marital life (?!?!?) was downright appalling. I sincerely would appreciate not being compared to someone as foolish as that.

I've pointed out pretty early on that all the 'secular' knowledge I've attained are not what makes me more intelligent. I would even venture to guess that all the movie watching I've been doing, has been 'dumbing me down'. I am not defending this pursuit of ‘culturalization' - I just wanted to point out that the community is not as judgmental, nor do they have the power to be as restrictive as Ms. Winston asserts.

You are right too when you point out that our love for Our God and His people are our first and most important characteristics. Knowledge though, while secondary – is not unimportant. I don’t see how displaying an interest in that area defends Hella’s point. Quite the contrary. I feel that it just proves that intellectual pursuits need not lead to the rejection of our beliefs.

At November 30, 2005 4:07 PM, Blogger mistake said...

cosmic, u wanna hear positive aspects of the community? Theres a ton. Of course, it depends how u look at them. Take for instance the trust among the Chasidim. Ur not afraid to take hitches, hire a babysitter, lend money – as long as the parties involved are black hatters. It’s a beautiful thing, right? Definitely.
Now take their absolute devotion to religion and traditions. They ban libraries, assur plays and concerts, don’t use the English language more than is absolutely necesary – all to assure that our generations wont assimilate. And according to alan dershowitz it’s the only way they wont assimilate. So it’s a positive thing, right? No assimilation. Sure, for ppl like sheitel who ends up doing whatever she wants anyway as long as she can convince her friends that its for intelligence reasons then its ok. Or for ppl who like living in a box. But what happens with ppl like the ones from unchosen who don’t get enough in the community yet don’t have the guts of sheitel to be open about their wants? Whether their wishes involve watching movies, going to college, having more sex or just having more fun. Are the positive aspects still positive in these cases? Or does this wonderfully safe community suddenly become a tad too stifling? Its just a different perspective.
These are some of the positive aspects of a community where people can send their kids to school without worrying that they’ll be friends with kids that are exposed to anything goyish.
But hella chose not to romanticize this greatly positive community. And I don’t wonder why. Its because the evil that is unfortunately so prevalent is much more fascinating. But how would u know that, sheitel? Uve lived ur little sheltered life with the support and acceptance of everyone around u. u judge ppl for airing their dirty laundry in public. Have u ever tried to imagine what these ppl must have gone through only for attempting to be individuals? Wouldn’t u be bitter and vengeful?
Hella has every right to write about what she saw throughout her tour in chasidville. She shouldve had some Chasidim edit it thought, just to get her facts straight. But its not the distorted facts that bother you, its ur pride. Ur proud of where u grew up, not because its great, but because it home. Like a black guy is proud of harlem.

At November 30, 2005 4:48 PM, Anonymous VFB said...

--- She shouldve had some Chasidim edit it thought, just to get her facts straight. ---

I am not Chassidish, but fairly knowledgeable about them. I thought that the facts were fairly accurate. What facts do you believe she got wrong?

At November 30, 2005 5:04 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Racism aside, you haven't made your point. I AM proud of my community - and precisely because it IS home.

I've admitted many times that there are faults in this community just like there are faults in every community. Yet you happen to have missed that point by a mile. [You ask if it would be considered positive if children are successfully sheltered from that which their parents deem inappropriate. In a word: Yes.]

What you seem to be upset at is the fact that I seem to have a different perspective from Hella. While some seem to assume that one removed from the situation can have a clearer perspective, consider that the one on the outside - is just that, an outsider. And as such does not have the opportunity or ability to understand the beauty and joys we experience within our lifestyle.

Example – not the best, but it’s all I can think of at the moment: Let’s say I were to study the male psyche. As much as I can learn accept and even respect their behavior, I can never claim to fully understand. Being of a different gender, I might as well be a different species. We think differently, and different things will bring us pleasure. We can analyze, study, explain and discuss – but at the end of the day, I will never be able to relate.

Just like I can not give you the ‘inside scoop’ on Islam, the Chinese perspective on childrearing, or Japanese Kamikazes; Hella Winston isn’t qualified to share her ‘Inside Scoop’ on this culture that is so alien to her.

At November 30, 2005 5:14 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

VFB - You just proved my point. From an outsider's perspective Hella's 'scoop' seems astoundingly accurate. And that precisely is what has me so riled. She had the outsider's perspective and kept that viewpoint while claiming to portray it from the inside.

I am not concerned about what the heimishe think. We recognize the errors and find them somewhat amusing. My concern though, is for the outside community who is devouring this stuff, and loving the fact that it substantiates their unflattering opinion of us.

At November 30, 2005 10:17 PM, Anonymous VFB said...


My question was asked to “Mistake” whose text I quoted. I was actually more curious what technical facts he believes she got wrong, not whether he thought that the underlying premise of her book was wrong. By technical facts, I mean things like the fact that she refers to MacDonald Avenue, rather than McDonald Avenue. I was not acknowledging that he was right that there were such mistakes by asking the question. I think that the author was very accurate, and its not true that “She shouldve [sic] had some Chasidim edit it thought, just to get her facts straight.”

The author’s premise is that there are a lot of Chassidim who are miserable because they cannot conform to the standards of the community, but do not have they skill set necessary to be able to leave the community, so instead they choose to lead double lives. “Mistake” most definitely concurs with her premise.

While its true that an insider might know more facts than an outsider, insiders are often more emotionally vested in believing one way or another, and are thus they are less able to be objective. Thus I differ with your basic assertion that insiders are better able to evaluate this premise. Further, even if its true that all people who are insiders are better able to evaluate the premise of the book, its still hardly proves that you are correct. Many people who are just as insiderish as you came to the opposite conclusion.

At December 01, 2005 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading this blog I think I will make a new bracha every morning:

Shlo Asani Satmar.

At December 01, 2005 11:38 AM, Blogger Hoezentragerin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At December 01, 2005 11:39 AM, Blogger Hoezentragerin said...

Don't say that. Remember 20000 beautiful women came to the party with smiles on their faces.
That is an indication that they are all delighted with their community, and with their chasidishe lives in general.
One can not argue with scientific facts.

At December 01, 2005 1:56 PM, Blogger mistake said...

Sheitel, ive made my point – 1)ur a hypocrite and 2) u have nothing against hella’s book other than it hurts ur pride. Because the truth hurts.
By distorted facts, vfb, I meant the slight exaggerations like the following:
“There is Layka, for example, the Satmar woman who, whenever she can get away, takes the subway to a Manhattan spa for a full-body massage, which, despite it being performed by a woman, flouts Hasidic standards of modesty and forces Layka to keep her visits secret. According to Layka, the Hasidic woman's obligation to bear and raise so many children, though joyfully embraced by most, can nonetheless be very difficult on the body (not to mention the spirit). This is rarely discussed openly, and the thought of seeking physical pleasure for its own sake is one most Hasidic women could not entertain without feeling dangerously immodest, or worse.”
This is not exactly true, vfb. Even though it might seem like it is from an outside perspective or even from some insiders’ perspectives. Insiders who see the system so bleak that they tend to exaggerate a tad. As is what happened in this case, sheitel. Unchosen is a compilation of personal stories and a perspective of a community through the eyes of rejects. Hella has no agenda. Y would she? Quite the contrary:
“And so, rather than shed their Hasidic identities, many who leave find ways, often even subconsciously, to bring aspects of that life -- a warm spirit of community, a clear involvement in tikkun olam, an interest in mysticism and Jewish spirituality -- into the new lives that they make (and are always in the process of remaking) as they move forward.”
What does this sound like? Like shes bashing Chasidim with her “unflattering opinion” of them? Or is it evident that she understands that theres also “beauty and joys we experience within our lifestyle.”?
What hella has done here is written a documentary. Are u gonna say that after months of immersing herself in the project she cant give over a report of everything shes been told and seen? Would it be better if an insider actually did the writing? Then you probably haven’t come across “The Romance Reader”. Written by an insider it has the same “perspective” you claim can only come from an outsider. Someone who doesn’t “understand”.
Sheitel, hella didn’t try to understand you or the 2000 ppl at the party. She tried to understand the rejects. And she does a marvelous job of that. It’s a book written through the eyes of ppl who suffered in the hands of the evil in this community. Its not meant to substantiate any opinions only to be a good read.
U are proud of ur community, sheitel, because its ur home. U live in ur little bubble of beauty and joy without the ability to fathom whats going on at ur neighbors. Suddenly someone breaks ur bubble exposing u to the hurt out there. That’s gotta hurt. I know cuz it hurt me too. What a chilul hashem, right? What an embarrassment. But nothing more. Don’t try to spin some intellectual reason y this book is not legitimate. Its only ur feelings that were shaken.

At December 01, 2005 3:07 PM, Blogger GROUNDED said...


At December 01, 2005 3:21 PM, Blogger GROUNDED said...

i think mistake is right on the money it is as if shitel wants to legalize what she wants and look the other way when it comes to ppl that donot have the guts like her
now for the book i do have a problam with it but not b/c shes wrong with what shes writing but b/c its my pride thats being touched here
and this is what mistake is saying here shitel dont make it out to be as if the people in the book were lying. b/c what they say isnt allowed, is true. and they were rejected by the community b/c they didnt have the support to do what you are doing
im not an apologist for any side here and i dont know how the system should be but dont deny or twist the facts

At December 01, 2005 3:29 PM, Blogger GROUNDED said...

lets take for an example
if hele or others like her will come here and write a book about the eiriv and the point of the book will be about the screaming and pushing little kids who are carrying on shabbos and will talk to ppl about it its going to be true every word shes saying
but lets face it what is it gonna bother us the fact that shes writing about it or the fact that shes wrong with what shes saying
the same if she will write about muslims would it bother you 1 bit
i understand that if shes writing about muslims then it has nothing to do with you but thats exactly my point here
will you believe it or will you say oh shes ab outsider so shes probably wrong with what shes saying

At December 01, 2005 3:46 PM, Blogger modern chassidish said...


Maybe you want to answer my questions from previous posts???
Or you don't have answers???

You can't fool anyone. Hella's book has sold thousands of copies. Your post hasn't sold one person because you are an insult to our intelligence.

At December 01, 2005 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At December 01, 2005 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At December 01, 2005 9:19 PM, Blogger Also A Chussid said...

To all who claim that Hella's book is not open for critique, I urge you to check out my blog. I just posted an open letter addressed to Hella.

At December 05, 2005 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, you moron.

It is very easy to write an open letter and then not let any one comment on your site unless you proof read it. You really have guts! and just by the way, it is the worst post i have ever seen.
Not only cant you write, you have no brains to boot.

At December 11, 2005 6:49 PM, Blogger Sol. said...

Well everyone I'm impressed and sad that we even have to discuses our personal issues on the public web where any anti-Semite can make fun of our internal problems. And the main focus is to resolve the problems with chuchma and true knowledge of real hashkafa. I think that we do have to keep on changing the tactics of chinuch. The yetzer hora also keeps on changing as we all know. But indefinite we are to change the attitude we had from the war to now. Parents are to be more educated with Jewish issues and children are allowed to ask any type of questions on Judaism there is no fear - in Judaism everything has a true answer.

At December 12, 2005 1:55 PM, Blogger bagabund said...

" consider that the Satmar Rebbe was a strong supporter of the yingeleit going out to work"-
and that is in your eyes considert a secular education?

At February 18, 2006 7:33 AM, Blogger iconoclast said...

choice in a system where people are not systematically exposed to different options and equipped by a wide-ranging education to think clearly about them is a rather meaningless concept. An indoor cat may well be content but has no awareness that if outdoors it would be happier. Humans have the capacity to reflect on their situation but without being given the tools to do so it means nothing. let the Chasidic women (and men) have a full secular education and then see how many choose the life. even more, tell them that they won't be socially ostracizedby the community if they opt out and see how many choose it. Only then can one talk about choice.

Incidentally, in the secular world
people are also given limited perspectives and have blinders on. the mass media imprisns as well. if you;re curious to read a critic of those blinders try


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