Sunday, November 06, 2005

Unchosen - and her lack of choice in perspective

In her introduction Hella Winston attempts to soften the blow with which her future chapters might hit the Hasidic reader, with her long narrative in which she purports to admire the lifestyle and those that are content to live within its guidelines. And she claims rather explicitly that from what she had seen many are indeed content, but that she simply felt that the story of those breaking away needed a voice. What she didn’t tell us but we could clearly hear was her disdain for religious belief in general, and our observances in particular. Each time she mentions prohibitions, traditions or simple-minded faith, her stifled giggles are deafening.

And who could blame her?

As a person raised on very different ideals, what she saw in our community does indeed seem like extreme fanaticism. According to her logic then, anyone of a higher intellect would come to their senses and see the insanity behind religion as a whole, and this oppressed tradition in particular. Thus attempting this desperate measure to break away.

Throughout her book, each example she brought was, by her own admission, a compilation of characters she met. Yet invariably she attempted to paint them all as Hasidim with a thirst for knowledge which could not be quenched within the community.

While the truth remains that a great percentage of those who broke away did so due to either physical / emotional / sexual abuse or because of their homosexuality. Not that I am condemning or condoning their form of expressing their discontent with the way the community handled / handles their troubles, I am only pointing out that the aforementioned aren’t necessarily looking for an alternate lifestyle due to their intellectual pursuits being thwarted, or because they are truly being oppressed by the community as a whole.

It is even true there are indeed seekers amongst them – but these aren’t necessarily seekers of truth, more like seekers of adventure. Which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Even though no amount of adventure or entertainment our community would offer (not that it does – but even if it did) could satiate these particular seekers. Because this thirst for adventure is not one that any particular lifestyle can quench as it inevitably is precisely about exploring many different ways of life. The part that is bad and truly sad, is that our community has not yet learnt how to cope with those that have chosen to behave in a manner that does not coincide with what they believe to be right.

I do want to point out that there are indeed those who are highly intelligent and questioning. Yet while they will readily admit that they could probably find the answers in the books they have studied and learnt so well, they don’t want to. They want out. The reason has little to do with the lack of answers in the Scriptures, and a lot more to do with their discontent with their personal lives. Be it their family: parents, siblings, spouses, and even difficult children or whether the stress is financial. Disgruntlement leads to restlessness, and ultimately resentment.

Every community has its faults. And ours is far from an exception. But her description of the oppression and abuse was faulty (while unfortunately not entirely wrong), and her bias tainted her perception of real life in this community.

I could go on and on… And I probably will.

12 Comments:

At November 06, 2005 10:37 PM, Blogger Gandalin said...

"The part that is bad and truly sad, is that our community has not yet learnt how to cope with those that have chosen to behave in a manner that does not coincide with what they believe to be right."

This is a very astute observation. I can only add that I think this is a challenge for every community, and every society, and I am unaware of any community or any society that has learned so how to cope successfully.

The most successful way of handling this problem may be for the individuals who can't live according to the standards of the community to leave. The fact that certain individuals find it better for them to separate from the communities in which they were reared should not be taken as an indictment of those communities. This is true of every community. It is a good thing to allow people who do not fit in to leave and try to fit in elsewhere. Painful, certainly. For the leaver and the left. But it is part of the natural way that things are.

There is no reason that the community should not respect these individuals as individuals who have to live with their choices, and there is no reason that these individuals should not respect the individuals who have chosen to continue living in their community.

I am looking forward to your future contributions.

 
At November 07, 2005 10:44 AM, Blogger shlomohamelech said...

Well said.

 
At November 07, 2005 8:12 PM, Blogger Hirshel Tzig said...

At least when she wrote about girls from Williamsburg they remained anonymous. The only אויבערחכם'טע was Malky Schwartz, "פון אונזערע"

אוי לנו

 
At November 08, 2005 12:58 PM, Blogger Dovid said...

It's sad that all of these authors who write about frum life seem to have some agenda. I have yet to see an honest account that includes the positive and negative aspects of Chassidic life.
Peace.

 
At November 08, 2005 5:26 PM, Blogger modern chassidish said...

Do you ever post comments from those who have dissenting views?
Why did you reject my comment?

 
At November 08, 2005 6:58 PM, Blogger Totally Content said...

To the best of my knowledge I have never rejected any comments. But being that I am new at this, it is indeed a possibility that I set something up wrong.

Yesterday no comment was received until late in the evening, at which point an email pointed out to me that I set things up wrong.

I didn't even receive the comments that some thought I was 'censoring'. I didn't.

I apologize to those of you who didn't get through. As of now, (as far as I know) anything posted will be viewed by all.

 
At November 11, 2005 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, isn't life an agenda in itself? We all have an agenda. Or don't we? Why must we become so irate (for lack of a better word) when we question a writer's agenda just because the content hits too close to home?

 
At November 16, 2005 1:55 PM, Anonymous Yoely said...

Unwittingly, you seem to basically agree with Helen. You are trying to point out why she is wrong, but keep admitting that "unfortunately" things are quite wrong in the community.

You don't make a bad point when saying that the people she relies on may be motivated by disgruntledness. It is usually true. As much as the community is messed up, it is still very dificult to leave your loved ones behind, unless you aren't leaving much behind. But, that doesn't take away the validity of her criticism. You fail to refute the criticism. You are just saying that she is biased. Even more, you seem to be admitting that she is right.

Have you never been frustrated with the community, being that you're so intelligent?

 
At November 16, 2005 10:17 PM, Blogger Margaritagirrl said...

Welcome to Bloggerland!!
I see that you live in my old turf...and you're Satmar, young, and happy with life in Willy?
hmmmmm.........either you're taking some excellent meds, cocaine, or have a never ending supply of xanax, valium, percocets and klonipin. Or possibly you're still very naive.
I grew up there - I still drive in to see relatives, and all the little "Yoelies" kick my car and call me a shiksa because I dare to drive! I wear a sheitel,
but oh g-d, I'm a blonde! and more sinner I, I'm an attractive blonde.....so I must be a "bad girl"
Why? Why are they so biased without knowing anything about a person before they feel free to talk "loshon horah" - what is it? Jealousy? ignorance?
I still can't figure it out, and I try to be pleasant and not notice all the stares.
Can anyone explain the Williamsburg mentality?

 
At December 01, 2005 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree w/margaritagirl. most willy women are into clothing and what other ppl think of them. they don't know any better, and the outside world scares them, or is to dirty to them. I to moved away from willy cuz I couldn't behave or belive as I wish. It's not a one size fit all. Not everyone leaves cuz they want adventure, It's about being able to live the way you please, in a moral fashion. Leaving the strict confines of willy or chasidic way of life doesn't mean you are falling off the world. It's not just black and white, theres a fine line between.

 
At December 15, 2005 6:16 PM, Blogger survival is not enough said...

Hello;

I took the liberty of copying and pasting one of your paragrahs to my comment because I beg to differ with its content and intended message.

Theory of the case:
Why do people leave the fold?

Defense:
While the truth remains that a great percentage of those who broke away did so due to either physical / emotional / sexual abuse or because of their homosexuality. Not that I am condemning or condoning their form of expressing their discontent with the way the community handled / handles their troubles, I am only pointing out that the aforementioned aren’t necessarily looking for an alternate lifestyle due to their intellectual pursuits being thwarted, or because they are truly being oppressed by the community as a whole.

Prosecution:

I wonder why we learned in grade school, "never judge a person until you are in his/her shoes"? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that our minds make sense of what our eyes see by comparing it to our trained standards of normalcy.

From your description of your upbringing and current life it is easy to conclude that no person who had/has the ability to control/thwart you in living and achieving did/does so.

Thus, you grew up (I guess) feeling fulfilled enough - not having to seek elsewhere. This is good! I wish you continued happiness. However, that is mostly not the case!

I grew up knowing that I was unwanted - and could never be good enough to please the people who had authority over me. I too have an unsatiable desire for knowledge and have read incesently growing up, (and no - I did not seek elsewhere, instead, I prayed obsessively for guidance).

Although, growing up was hell, marriage to my husband was what finally made me seek elsewhere. Although while growing up, means were invented to squelch my desire for knowledge, including "marrying her off young, putting her to work under age, discouraging developing friendships and (the puncher) blaming her for her beauty, intelligence and talents, I still managed.

My husband married me for my beauty and shamed me for my intellignece.

Wife:

I love to learn - I can't help it. I don't care for jewelry, makeup and parties. I just want to learn and be the most I can be!

Husband:

It's not normal for a woman to want what you want. Look at my mother/sister, friends wives, etc. I can't help you. Next time ask g-d to make you a man!

I was raised to submit myself to my husband fully, and I did for a very long time. Then, one day, I realized - I could never be good enough - I will never reach that coveted Aishes Chayal spot that I have dreamed to fill.....

Theory of the case:

People leave the fold for various reasons - including, being mentally imprisoned! I believe most people want to be loved, supported and respected. If they don't get it at home, they'll seek it elsewhere, and this applies to all religions.

 
At April 21, 2006 10:14 AM, Blogger James Fletcher Baxter said...

Consider:
The missing element in every human 'solution' is
an accurate definition of the creature.

The way we define 'human' determines our view
of self, others, relationships, institutions, life, and
future. Important? Only the Creator who made us
in His own image is qualified to define us accurately.
Choose wisely...there are results.

Many problems in human experience are the result of
false and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly
developed, and sensitive perception of diversity. Thus
aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact-
ing internal mental and external physical selectivity.
Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends
itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
ence intent on the development of perceptive
awareness and the following acts of decision and
choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
making process and include the cognition of self,
the utility of experience, the development of value-
measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
ation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however
marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
highest expression of the creative process.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
singular and plural brow.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by
nature and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of
Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive
characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural
foundation of his environments, institutions, and re-
spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien-
ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the
universe.

Let us proclaim it. Behold!
The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV

- from The HUMAN PARADIGM

 

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