Frenzied Consumption of Unorthodox by the Orthodox

NYT Bestseller Listing

Frenzied Consumption of Unorthodox by the Orthodox

In a typical society, if its leaders proclaim a particular product anathema or ineffective, there will be a marked decline in its consumption. Not so in the Ultra-orthodox world of Haredi Jewry. Often, the very ban of an item could catapult its use to stratospheric levels, IF members have an effective way to consume the product without being spotted.

The website VIN (vosizneias.com) is a case in point. It was at one point banned by community leaders, only to see its readership skyrocket. Evidently, hordes of Williamsburgers who had previously never heard of the website were now intrigued about the matter: what does VIN say or preach that makes them more evil than the devil himself? let me be the judge myself! And with the proliferation of semi-kosher Blackberries (Blackberries have become acceptable more than any other smart phones, due to their incomplete support for multimedia), there is is ample means of access to the website, all under the guise of simply phoning and texting (for business).

Leaders of Haredi Jewry know better than to give Feldman official attention. But the unofficial attention she is getting is doing the trick just the same. The ill repute she has garnered in Hasid Land for what they deem a malicious polemic against them, draws members to her book en masse. They all want to know: What is she saying? Why is she so bitter? How did her book become such a bestseller (#7 in the combined print and e-book non-fiction in the New York Times bestseller list).

THE REASON FOR SEEKING OUT THE ILLICIT

Why do the Satmars seek out the illicit with much greater gusto than the population at large?

It’s because in Satmar Land, life is very strictly controlled. In a liberal society, if a recognized leader or expert in a field advises the masses that a particular book is not worth reading or a movie is not worth watching, sales will most assuredly suffer because crowds have a plethora of alternative entertainment options available. And after all, the condemned item is not “prohibited”; it is merely touted as a waste of time. In Satmar, however, most entertainment options have already been banned a long time ago and the very appetite for them quashed in the process. There are very few legitimate discretionary outlets remaining, some of which have shifted somewhat into the domain of the recommended, as fitting in a black-or-white society.

Now that a book about them is cascading through the many layers of Jewish society and into the mainstream, Satmars want to know what others “know” about them. Despite the rampant “lies” and calumny hurled at them in the book, they are balking at the suggestion that reading it is a waste of time; they want to judge it for themselves.

This explains why in the NYT e-book non-fiction category, Unorthodox has risen to #2 while she lags at #16 in the hardcover non-fiction category. According to some sources, Feldman sold 100,000 e-book copies in the first day alone. Who are all those e-book readers? A large segment of them is –no doubt– Haredim who are ashamed to openly carry her book around. With an option to read her book discreetly on the digital screen, her popularity among them who seek to get a grip on an outsiders’ perspective on them (as formulated after reading the book) is soaring.

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