Sunday, November 20, 2005

Talkline with Zev Brenner

There was a major difference between the book reading at Brooklyn Public Library and interview on Zev Brenner's show last night.

At the book reading Hella was being peppered with questions by people who were seriously fascinated by Chasidim, and sort of took great pleasure in finding that there was a negative side to focus on. On Zev Brenner on the other hand, most callers called to voice outrage at Hella's or "Esty's" perspective.

A couple of points that stood out:

There was this guy from Staten Island who found it upsetting that Hella portrayed her rebels as heroes - which Hella denied. While her subjects were portrayed pretty realistically, faults and all – they after all were still the ‘heroes of the story’. And additionally, throughout the book we find Hella silently cheering them on and applauding their 'achievements'. So in that sense they are indeed idolized. I don't believe that this was in any way an encouragement for others to leave - it was simply disturbing since it glorified those that engaged in the precise behavior we hope and pray that our kids won't attempt.

Another very relevant point was made by a David from Brooklyn, as well as some others. Hella portrayed the 'rebels' as highly intellectual people who entertained serious doubts. Yet while the author no doubt selected to interview those that she felt can give a more honest and well-rounded view of the situation, she actually - consciously or subconsciously - chose those that will portray the 'enlightened and intellectually seeking' persona. Her characters though fail to deliver because, as it came out, they all have issues that are far deeper than any the community could have caused or prevented.

Insanity and immorality hits all walks of life. In all degrees from mild (OCD, and other psychological issues) to severe (Infidelity). From Yossi to P. None of these are guys were pushed away by the community's constraints. Perhaps there are others out there that Hella could have interviewed - and their issues might have been solely friction and the inability to live within community standards. Such people might exist. But the fact remains that those the Hella ultimately depicted were people with issues far deeper than what we were led to believe.


At November 20, 2005 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any way to hear the Zev Brenner interview now?

At November 20, 2005 8:24 PM, Anonymous S said...

I've met on the internet many who have left very frum communities and the derech b/c they couldn't handle the constraints. Some become secular and some become modern frum. The ones who become secular, I feel like saying to them that there Is another option and that is to be both modern and frum. This way, they get both their physical needs and spiritual needs.

At November 21, 2005 4:54 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

The point made by David is the one I made in the comments to the "Like It or Leave It" post.

It is possible that she morphed a few real life stories together to protect people's anonymity, but it came across very badly.

“Perhaps there are others out there that Hella could have interviewed - and their issues might have been solely friction and the inability to live within community standards. Such people might exist.”

Only perhaps? It’s a certainty. Look at some of the bloggers. There’s an adage that if you see one mouse, there are 10 more you didn’t see. I’d say the same thing applies to Chassidim with doubts. I can tell you about some of my friends who too share doubts about Yiddishkeit. None of us have “issues”. Were it not for our families, we would be long gone. Precisely because we don’t have issues, we do the sensible thing, and remain within Yiddishkeit.

At November 21, 2005 4:55 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

"Precisely because we don’t have issues, we do the sensible thing, and remain within Yiddishkeit."

Just realised how that could be read!

I don't mean that everybody who "goes off" has some loose screws, but some do.

At November 21, 2005 8:21 AM, Anonymous queensmaidel said...

has it ever occurred to anyone that people who have emotional problems can also have legitimate issues with life in the community? many of you seem to confuse causation with correlation. for example, someone can have emotional problems independent of his or her desire to leave. he can suffer from depression and rationally, yes, RATIONALLY, also decide that the chassidish velt is not for him. also, one can get those problems as a result of living a life they feel is wrong for them. it is just a typical tactic to discount the experiences of people by saying they have "mental problems." unfortunately, reality is much more complicated than that and there are MANY people in this world who make the decision to leave heimish life for rational reasons, like not believing, or even thinking that aspects of it are morally wrong. and for those who would like to "blame" it on mental problems, you guys are sadly just repeating the crap you have learned in school because to legitimize dissent would be the end of the community and you know it.

At November 21, 2005 9:31 AM, Blogger modern chassidish said...

Sheital as usual you fail at discrediting Hella's work. While her work struck a discord in you, it wasm the money for us who despite the lies we were taught have learned the truth because we expereinced it. Sheital, if you think the book is flawed you are entitled to you opinion but know that there are many people who are happy that this book was published.
I feel that this book was a kidush hashem because finally there is an attempt to stop the BullS@$# that plaques the frum world.

At November 21, 2005 10:04 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...



I AM one of the dissenters. Perhaps you are not familiar with my blog.

I was saying that the author focused (quite a bit) on one individual with obvious "issues". I even clarified my statement with a further comment. There has to be a very powerful force to enable somebody to take the drastic step of giving up on their family to start a new life.

Rarely are those reasons ideological. For one to leave one’s wife and children and go off there HAS to be something wrong. For goodness sake, it’s an irrational thing to do, no matter how frustrated one is with Jewish life!

Maybe the book came across as focusing on those with “issues”, because my thinking is right, and only irrational persons actually do “go off” leaving a wife and kids behind.

At November 21, 2005 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few blog posters and callers on Zev Brenner made statements to the effect that the rebels all have psychological problems. These people’s point is that since the rebels had psychological problems, therefore their experiences should be discounted. It may be that emotional problems occur at a greater frequency among those that rebel than those that do not. However, it does not lead to the conclusion that because someone has emotional problems, his or her opinion should be discounted.

The critics seem to confuse cause and effect. They all assume that because someone has emotional problems, therefore he or she chooses to rebel. However, it can be that because someone chooses to rebel that causes emotional problems. The reason that the rebellion causes emotional problems is because ultra-orthodoxy promotes such a repressive uncompromising position towards even slight deviations from social norms. Thus, a more tolerant ultra-orthodoxy would help alleviate many of these individual’s emotional problems. (I know, “tolerant ultra-orthodoxy” sounds like an oxymoron, but one can dream.)

I know this from my personal experience. I was raised very ultra-orthodox, (but not Chassidic). I became an atheist at thirteen. I did not merely disbelieve what I was taught, I found the beliefs I was taught to be morally reprehensible. Because of my egalitarian belief system, I naturally disapproved of Orthodox religious law, which is racist, sexist, authoritarian and contemptuous of individual freedoms. This was a very unfortunate occurrence for me. It led me to feel a deep sense of alienation for the entire society that was around me, all of whom seemed to accept these beliefs unquestioningly. Because there was so much repression of dissenting viewpoints, I thought that I was the only person who felt that way. There was no one to whom I could confide how I felt. This alienation led to mild depression throughout my teenage years, although fortunately not the severe depression that can be very debilitating. While I would have been happier had I not rebelled, I could no more convince myself that the world was created by god in six days five thousand seven hundred something years ago than I could convince myself that one plus one equals three.

At November 21, 2005 9:25 PM, Anonymous jew said...

What did you think of what "Yossi from Rockland County" had to say - and how he said it?!

At November 21, 2005 10:45 PM, Anonymous tati said...

jew-can you explain yourself?

At November 22, 2005 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he is a loser and a pathetic moron. Claiming to be a typical Chasidish jew who watches movies is bulls crap.

At November 22, 2005 8:03 AM, Anonymous Yossi from Rockland County said...

Yes, if you really have to know, I was that caller. Anonimous, you are plain jelious of my command of the english language and overall articulation.
Admit it that I sounded just as profesional and intellegent as brener and Hella. And I am very chasidish!I have no problem watching movies and I even watch porn too to enhance my marital relationship. What's wrong with that?
I said it then and will say it again, you can be very frum even farchnoked and enjoy life too.
One day I will get an GED and will go to collage and even become a doctor.

At November 22, 2005 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is this yossi really aac? the comments make more sense.

At November 22, 2005 8:56 AM, Anonymous moderngal said...

i for one thought that yossi guy sounded extremely foolish, admitting on the radio that he had not read the book and claiming he was so normal. brenner seemed to find him idiotic, too. (sorry yossi if you are lurking, but just my two cents)

At November 22, 2005 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't it a chilul hashem for "yossi" (whoever he is) to go on the radio and tell the whole world that you can be a good chassidish jew and still watch movies, etc. these are things heimish people are not suppsed to be doing, so not only did he come across foolish, he also made frum yidn look bad like hypocrites.

At November 22, 2005 10:50 AM, Anonymous C-78 said...

Yossi said: "my command of the english language and overall articulation"
"I sounded just as profesional and intellegent as brener and Hella"

Does anyone find it funny? Is pathetic the right word?

At November 22, 2005 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know--it almost came across as a joke! poor guy. (and i am sure the rabbonim will all be praising him for watching porn to enhance his marital relationship). oy vey!

At November 22, 2005 11:22 AM, Anonymous queensmaidel said...

shaietel--i take issue with you on the fact that none of the people in the book were pushed away by the community's restraints. they ALL were. sure some had other problems, but as the anonymous poster above notes, living a life you don't believe in can help to create those problems, and, in addition, having problems does not invalidate people's feelings of being unhappy in the community. i think the thing we must all acknowledge is that this is a very complicated situation and personality and the community both have a role to play. why is it so hard for people here to deal with the truth that the chassidish world can be very tough for people

At November 22, 2005 11:30 AM, Anonymous Yossi from Rockland County said...

Again, you people are green with envy. It's not ok for me to watch movies but you guys can all be on the web? Why the double standard. If I'm a hypercrite, what are you. Besides, since when do real chasidishe yungerliet listen to the radio?

At November 22, 2005 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would venture to suggest--at the risk of being viciously attacked--that people who are happy believing in things that science has unequivocally disproved, living according to rules they are not allowed to publicly question and seem to have no say in changing, and being forced to hide their innocuous behavior from others are the ones with the mental illness! i am frankly shocked that more don't crack up.

At November 22, 2005 2:43 PM, Anonymous ThirtySomething said...

A bit off topic: I am curious as to know how many secular books (I.E. those not found in Eichlers) you have read in your lifetime. A rough figure. This is not an attack. I am truly curious to know where you developed your capable vocabulary.

Most graduates of girls Chassidic schools have a certain lilt to their English which is readily discernable.

Secondly, it is obvious that your family is financialy comfortable - or at least stable. This is not the cause of your contentment though.

I truly believe that you are from the majority of Chassidim who were happily raised with love and devotion by their parents in a healthy thriving environment - as I was.

Now this does not mean my life was a piece of cake. But you have hit the nail on the head with 99% of your posts. Be Happy, don't worry.


At November 22, 2005 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

--- Most graduates of girls Chassidic schools have a certain lilt to their English which is readily discernable. ---

I noticed that as well. I think that Sheitel is really a guy. There is actually was a website, in which you could post someone’s writing, and it would state the writer’s gender with a fair degree of accuracy. Don’t know if it is still around.

At November 23, 2005 7:30 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

I think one would have to use the non fiction setting on the page. Writing of the type one finds on our "heimishe" blogs are not really "blog entries".

I ran 5 of her posts through their checker and according to their computer, Shaitel is a male.

Makes no difference anyway. Points she makes are often true, and computers are often wrong. :)

At November 23, 2005 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have met sheitel and, rest assured, she is no guy. i promise!

At November 23, 2005 1:41 PM, Anonymous A jewish scientist said...

The larger problem is education and hashpah, in the classroom, the home, and in the community.

Our sages, who are much smarter than us, have given us good advice and sensible boundaries.

To depart from this path is ignorance coupled with the imagination that things are somehow better outside.

Imagine how far a person has gone to justify shmutz for himself.

It is simply forbidden to read romances or engage in its production or commerce, just as it is forbidden to attend their theaters - this is Shulchan Aruch.

Rather than dig into shmutz consider that the marriage is one of the greatest expressions of our connections to Kodesh. To prepare for it, we purify our minds and bodies with learning and mikveh, our conduct is with koved and yirah.

At November 23, 2005 3:14 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

I find it amusing the way so many of you are so interested as to with which gender I align. And while the fact that some of you are doubting my femininity did cause some discomfort at first, I take comfort in the fact that this judgement wasn't based on the way I look.

As to my writings making me appear male - I gotta say I find that odd. If for no other reason than that I too often come across more emotionally vexed than I intend to.

As for the writer who asked how many books I read that aren't sold at Eichler's... If I were to list the books I OWN that aren't sold there, I believe the number would be closer to 50. But as for the number that I read - I would say that 300 would be an understatement. There was a time where I read 12 books a month.

As for my English - no lilt, no SatWillSidic enunciation. You'd be hard pressed to identify my accect at all. lol.

At November 23, 2005 3:21 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Odder still, I just went to the website that is supposed to identify gender through writings - and amazingly frummer? was right! They do identify my style as male. I guess I better figure out what I need to do to portray myself as more feminine. It doesn't really behoove me to be mistaken for a male. Not even when it is my writings.

Women can be sexist too, and I guess I am too vain for that.

At November 23, 2005 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am anonymous of November 22, 2005 3:57 PM who suspected you of being male. I am sorry if I offended to. I am male. However, when I put my own writing in, it deemed it female if I selected blog writing but male if I selected non-fiction. I would write the same way for both, so I do not know why it should be different.

At November 23, 2005 4:00 PM, Blogger modern chassidish said...

Truth is I never doubted your feminity. Maybe its your style that seems less emotional to some and therefore masculine.
In any event I think that gender does play a role in how we view community because males experience the system in a different light. It does not surprise me that a female defends the community because they usually have an easier time with the system.

At November 23, 2005 4:39 PM, Anonymous ThirtySomething said...

You wrote: "...I believe the number would be closer to 50. But as for the number that I read - I would say that 300 would be an understatement. There was a time where I read 12 books a month..."

Now to parallel this with your quest for intellect not "foreign", I am curious to know how many books have you read/bought that *are* sold at Eichler's?

At November 23, 2005 6:09 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Thirty- I would have to say that the numbers would probably be similar.

Does that answe any questions you might have?

At November 25, 2005 9:53 AM, Anonymous ThirtySomething said...

I was just trying to identify a certain attitude that relates IQ and intellect to how many secular books one has read.
If you were truely interested in real intelligence your ratio of Jewish to secular reading material could have been higher.

I am not pointing a finger -- far from it -- just making clear that this reasoning is ultimately flawed from a Jewish perspective.

So called "rebels" who are searching for knowledge are also unfortunately bent in this direction.

At November 28, 2005 12:38 AM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Thirty - I had intened to respond to you, but hadn't gotten around to it.

Would the fact that the choice between secular book or 'kosher' one was greatly influenced by genre - change your opinion? My novels, historical non-fiction, and psychology books were mostly from secular authors. whereas theology and philosophy were as a rule from a Judaic library.

Being that I am more fascinated by human psyche and general philosophy versus theology and political ideologies, I believe that the ratio of secular books vs. books from religious sources - was warranted.

At November 28, 2005 11:08 AM, Anonymous ThirtySomething said...

"...Being that I am more fascinated by human psyche and general philosophy versus theology and political ideologies..."

I rest my case.

At November 28, 2005 12:01 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Thirty - if that was intended to be insulting, I fear you were unsuccessful.

I am a strong proponent for being who you want to be, and faithfully pursuing whatever it is that interests you. While I am fluent in most subjects, I prefer to do my in depth reading on the topics that interest me most.

How is that wrong?

At November 29, 2005 10:39 AM, Anonymous ThirtySomething said...

Ask your local Rabbi.
We are told "ubochartoh b'chaim."
I guess we each have a different definition of life. I will leave it at that.
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. It just proves Ms. Winston's point.

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?

At November 29, 2005 10:44 AM, Anonymous 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... :-)

At November 29, 2005 10:57 AM, Blogger Totally Content 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 29, 2005 10:57 AM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Hey, why the pain??

At November 30, 2005 11:04 AM, Anonymous ThirtySomething said...

"...Quite the contrary. I feel that it just proves that intellectual pursuits need not lead to the rejection of our beliefs..."

Quite right. However, it is not always a binary choice -- belief or no belief. "Rejection of our beliefs" is far too simplistic a designator for overstepping our moral bounds in a religion as vast as ours in its concepts, laws, and minhagim. Hella Winston is not a posek or a Talmudical scholar. In fact, I highly doubt she ever opened a "tzenah u'r'enah"...
Therefore she can not judge what boundaries are acceptable or proper to traverse. Not that she makes such a claim in her book, but by you defending these same boundaries that you claim don’t restrict your choices in worldly pursuits, you are actually stating that it is okay to cross the line, however thin and pale that line may be. So then the question remains: Why have boundaries to begin with? I hope you understand my semi-convoluted – but true – logic.


The pain? Isn't it obvious? A heimishe woman chatting anonymously online...

Es past nisht. Nuff said.

At November 30, 2005 12:56 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

Thirty - I follow your logic, but respectfully disagree that I have 'overstepped' any lines. It would be more accurate to say that when I noticed the broken lines along the road I slipped over to 'get ahead', but I always got back into my own lane before it turned into an actual [traffic] violation.

In regard to your pain - I suggest you rest easy. This is blogging, not chatting - and not as anonymous as you might think. Most people who know me, read this blog.

At December 01, 2005 10:46 AM, Anonymous ThirtySomething said...

"Most people who know me, read this blog. "


I like your traffic analogy.
Take care and harzlacha u'bracha.


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