Deborah Feldman Nibbles Away at the Hasidic Fringe; Suggests We Can Get Rid of our Pekklech

For the first time since launching her book promotion tour for Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, Ms. Feldman yesterday confronted the haredi fringe head-on in a reading and Q&A session at the Thursday Night Chulent weekly conference on the outskirts of Borough Park.

Uncharacteristically of Chulent, the reading started smack-dab on time at 9:00 p.m., which is early in the night as far as Chulent events normally go. More importantly, the order and decorum was unparalleled with rows of seats neatly laid out for the audience which was listening attentively to her microphone-amplified reading and speech. There was even a small table on the platform decked out and furnished with drinks, where the host, the eminent Isaac Schoenfeld, and his guest could commune, Radio- and TV- interview style.

Ms. Feldman had been skeptical about agreeing to do this event, wary of a hostile audience. In a way she “packed the court”, bringing along an entourage of associates, supporters and friends to ensure that her voice will not be drowned out by her anticipated heckling from detractors.

But most of the regular Chulent attendees were present as well and they seemed genuinely impressed by her highly eloquent and intelligent responses to what appeared to be a hostile host, more so than a hostile audience. A one point an elderly gentleman arose and kindly requested that the host quit arguing with his guest and let her express her views and answer the audience’s questions, to which they responded with a resounding applause.

Some of the clarifications she made during the Q&A session seemed peculiar to the Hasidic audience. To an audience member’s question whether she is advocating un-orthodoxy, as her book title would seem to imply, she aptly elucidated that the substantive “Unorthodox” refers to herself, having taken an offbeat, non-orthodox path in life by rejecting her rigorous, hidebound social structure and traditions. It isn’t her imperfect Jewish legal observance that makes her Unorthodox; it’s her overall trajectory in life. “I grew up Hasidic, NOT Orthodox . I want to make it comfortable and inviting for everyone, even those who don’t fit in”, she quipped.

Another thing the host and some audience members couldn’t wrap their head around was how her husband and community’s betrayal of her through incessant gossip about issues in her private marital life, enabled her to write the book guilt free. “It isn’t tit for tat, it’s the flip side of the coin; if they don’t care about my privacy, then they are sending the signal that their privacy doesn’t matter either” and so she needn’t harbor any qualms about defaming her family and community.

When someone asked about the alleged falsehoods and how those could detract from the her overall credibility, she referred him to the various reporters who have looked into the allegations and have aptly noted that those calumniators are creating a smoke screen. As Jesse Korbluth from The Huffington Post notes, “they didn’t take me up on my main accusation: sexism.”

Other prominent online Deborah Feldman defenders are FrumSatire on such blogs entries as http://www.frumsatire.net/2012/02/21/why-i-believe-deborah-feldman/ and myself on HasidicNews.com in such articles as http://hasidicnews.com/hn/?p=45, which is a rebuttal of the Winston Penisgate “investigation”.

What was arguably the most poignant remark in the session came in response to an audience member’s invocation of the folk saying that “everyone has their pekkel (=package/burden)” and it must be carried and endured forever. Why, she asked, didn’t Deborah simply accept that she was different; that her hailing from a broken family and its concomitant disgrace is something that she just must be accept as her destiny. To which Ms. Feldman retorted shrewdly in the humanistic spirit: what if instead of accepting the pekklech we can get rid of the pekklech? What if we can change that?…the Holocaust happened over 60 years ago.

In response to the oft-repeated accusation that she paints the entire Jewish religious community with one paint brush in one broad stroke, she impressed upon the audience that “the Jewish communiy is as foreign to me as the gentile community, because when I was growing up Satmar, even if you were Modern Orthodox, you were as good as a goy (gentile) if not worse”.

Watch the footage of yesterday’s Deborah Feldman Chulent appearance below.

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23 Responses to Deborah Feldman Nibbles Away at the Hasidic Fringe; Suggests We Can Get Rid of our Pekklech

  1. Me says:

    Her skirts from anthropologie 🙂

  2. Ms. Feldman is a heroine to many people. I am usually not one to be impressed, but this situation is special. Her book made you feel like she was holding your hand, walking you through events in her life. Her detractors accuse her of not being truthful. This is a “memoir”, not a “biography”; it says that right on the cover. I am pleased she had a civil audience. She does not hate orthodoxy, just many of the practices. I would be interested in reading her “next book” (hint) on her transition to the secular world, and if she felt more comfortable in her faith now that she has been given “breathing room”.

  3. Mimi says:

    “More importantly, the order and decorum was unparalleled”

    um, apparently we were at different events. It was a total balagan. Even by chulent standards. It was often hard to hear what was being said.

    “But most of the regular Chulent attendees were present as well and they seemed genuinely impressed by her highly eloquent and intelligent responses to what appeared to be a hostile host”

    Um, actually no they weren’t. Most of the regular chulenters stayed away in protest, or hadn’t gotten there yet. But among the chunters who were there they were the opposite of impressed. I spoke to close to ten chulenters that I can think off off-hand.

  4. Mimi says:

    Frum Satire is not an online defender of Deborah Feldman. He had guest posts showing both sides. In addition to the link you posted above, he also has this posted on his blog: http://www.frumsatire.net/2012/03/04/dear-deborah-feldman-it-took-your-lies-to-realize-my-truth/

    • berl says:

      Mimi< read it again and keep in mind its "Satire" than u would understand the point that it is indeed a defense of Feldman

      • Mimi says:

        We are talking about two separate posts on Frum Satire. Both are by two different guest writers. The one that Jacob mentions above is by David Lerner and is pro Deborah Feldman. The one that I mentioned is by S. Simon and is pretty much anti her. What would you like me to read again?

    • I read Mr. Simon’s “article”; he seems angry and confused. To be ignorant is the worst fate.

  5. Yitz says:

    Funny how Chulent group has become an atheist group

  6. Elke says:

    I appreciate the overview, as well as Mimi’s comments since I didn’t make it out.

  7. Frank Karall says:

    When you piss off people you know you are doing something right. Follow your bliss isn’t always easy, but if you are as brave as Deborah life will give you a break. Learn to be positive and the tiger’s tail is your boa to wear. Greatness is her cap we are all better for our exposure to Deborah, and it all looks so good on her! Mazeltoff!

    • Ron says:

      Many neo-nazis and klan members agree with that statement!

      • Amy says:

        That was a statement made out of fear and not love, if that is what you have learned studying the Talmud, you have been studying it with your heart and your eyes closed.

  8. she's a foxy girl says:

    “It isn’t tit for tat, it’s the flip side of the coin; if they don’t care about my privacy, then they are sending the signal that their privacy doesn’t matter either” and so she needn’t harbor any qualms about defaming her family and community.

    Wow! Who is this girl’s publicist?

  9. SHANNAH SCHILIT says:

    Holy Definition–of IGNORANCE:::::::::Corp-Sell-Out:::DEBORAH FELDMAN–says the Holocaust is “over”….what does she Toast to The so-called:: ‘Revisionists’….She is getting all this PRESS 4 some alleged: ‘Sexual-Assault’–Welcome to The World called: ‘WOMAN’–it has happened to The Best of US–not that eye would take HER Word as SCRIPTURE….does she have anything better to do–other than FUEL Antisemitism–as if there isn’t ENOUGH already–what Rival ‘Cult’ put the Reigns on Her Mind–as she Moved Her Pen–how much of what is WRITTEN are even Her Thoughts–and what AGENDA does she Bow To–Best Seller?–Under 25!–either she is a GENIUS or that is a JOKE and eye have a Feeling she is Not exactly “Genius”….Absolutely Everything eye WROTE Under 25…………………….Was TOTAL Garbage–counted as Warm-Up–Embarrassing to My Own Self–but *necessary as Part of the ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT Process–that is How we Eventually Hopefully get SMART with Our Writing–by First Writing a lot of STUPID stuff….eye am Still in the Stupid-Phase myself–even at 31….Deborah can’t even ADDRESS with Her Own Lips–QUESTIONS about the Lies Surfacing in Her Ink–cant she bee Woman enough to say: ‘Eye Made THAT Up–‘……it is OK–that is what the Field of Fiction and Fairy-Tale–is ALL about–ShakeSpeare spent his whole life making things up–and WHAT does Deborah do–she hides behind some “Reporters”–because she can’t take Accountability for her own writing– what is she on some kind of MISSION to Retaliate on Her Husband because she FAILED her Marriage–so now she needs to BASH a whole Community of People–eye hope she Enjoys Thoroughly her new-founded so-called:: ‘Liberation’….and all of its ‘perks’

    –Rachel X

  10. SHANNAH SCHILIT says:

    a) When eye saw a PHOTO of Debs Husband–(eye do Character-Reading on *Faces INSTEAD of the over-played::’Palm-Reading’–) and eye sea a Man of GREAT CHARACTER–so much so–That eye Bet all My Blue Chips–that HIS friends and family–Upon Arrangement–may have Whispered the RUMOR:::::that He is just a little Too GOOD for her–and She may not QUITE Bee PROVERBS 31 Enough–to be Ideal Wife Material–and eye bet all my Red-Chips–that DEBBY will never Find a Man–HALF as Good–as the one she abandoned–even with all Her Searching in the so-called:: ‘Liberated’ World–

    b) eye watched some–YouTube clip–with some Women in a Half-Moon Semi kind of Circle–AND–one is Jewish Barbra eye think Her Name is–and eye don’t follow the show–eye am not a Huge Fan of TV–so eye wouldn’t know all the other names–SO–the topic of ‘Marital-Sex’ arose–as four the ENLIGHTENED and MultiCultural Perspective….

    *Deb was very informative to Secular Society–regarding Ritual Cleansing–which DATES all the Way Back to B4 some BathSheba or–some Queen in The Making–where supposedly we derive The English Word ‘BATH’ from Her Hebrew Roots–or that is the Rumor–and it was SUCH an Important Social Factor–that THE KING who was DAVID at the Time–WAITED until After BathieShebah FINISHED whatever she was doing in The Water BEFOUR totally Tipping over His Own Crown–because He was Bewitched at the Mere Sight of Her–(or that is the 2012 re-mix)–

    *Any of You who are At All familiar–with the Wisdom of Ghandi–would immediately SEA the OverLap in LifeStyle–in THIS Respect–For DEB informs US–going through the calendar–what it comes Down To–is there is Really Just–a SMALL Circle on The Monthly Calendar–where an Honorable Woman could engage in intercourse with Her Husband–WITHOUT feeling Tainted by Shame!–and This Concept is Precisely on The Line of Ghandi–for he Teaches Women that Intercourse is for *Procreation as opposed to Recreation!–Now he gives The SAME Message to MEN too!–However–due to Chromosomal Differences–eye would Say it is More up to The WOMAN to Refuse–since for some KingDavy KingSolly Y-Chromo reasons–MEN seem to bee able to Go All Month Long *if permitted–(by the way–eye confess–eye didn’t actually READ Debs book–eye have never even seen it up close–never even touched it–eye just know a CONFUSED Woman eye sea one–and a DESPERATE one–and a VINDICTIVE one–)

    *Those of you familiar with the Principles of Catholicism–would sea a Direct OverLap–in Custom–and Teaching–if you are TRUE to your Catholic Roots–you are on that Same Ghandi-Line as a Woman–which is like the Hebrew Calendar–four *Wives…..(Now eye am not actually a wife–but what matters is grasping the *Concepts here with their Rich Integrated Complexity)….A CATHOLIC Woman Goes according to The *Calendar–WHEN she is in ProCreating Season AND She Rejects so-called:: ‘BirthControl’ PILLS….Now in Modern Society–many Couples FLIP The Calendar–they Try NOT To ProCreate and so they X off the Hot Red Circle in the Mid-Month–but it is Not a Surprise–to sea an OverLap in Methods At The *Roots–since the FIRST Saints Were All Jews–and The First WAVE of Christianity was Entirely Jewish SO if Religion were a TREE Judaism would bee the ROOTS and Christianity would bee the TRUNK….The Hindu is The *Enigma…Any MY Theory–is That The Hindu dates Back at least to the Time of Moses–along the journey–*At The Golden Calf….Hebrew-Egyptian MIX

    *To BASH The Concept of intercourse reserved for ProCreation–according to the Timing Factor–of Cleansing Ritual in Judaism–IS to essentially–DROP Ghandi on His Head–AND Smash Mother Marys Statue–because Ghandi Entirely Opposed the act of WOMEN using intercourse ‘recreationally’ and ‘randomly’ that would have just been the DISGRACE of His Justice Movement–AND as four The Mother of Catholicism MARY….Intercourse for Her–would have been Preserved as a Divine and Sacred occurrence–there was Nothing ‘Casual’ about it–SO if you are Going on a Bashing Mission–you can’t Bash ONE Branch without Slicing through a Whole Tree–of all different Branches and all different people and all different Customs–so good luck to you DEB…what is next Socialism?–what does MARX have the Run of things

    *TRIVIA::::::Which Social Movements were a direct Slap in the Face–to BOTH Catholicism and Judaism at their *Roots….and Put Ghandi BACK in Prison–

    A. PUSHING of so-called:: ‘BirthControl’ NOT only on Adults–but beginning at a Scarily Young Age–when a Healthy Girl would probably just–bee into Puzzles and Coloring–she is Mandated to be exposed to so called ‘Sex-Education’ ‘Stories’ and THEN at just a Pre-Teen–so called ‘BirthControl’ is on her Screen in Her so-called:: ‘Health’ class–any Psychologist knows how Children are LED by *Curiosity–and if that is Not the most Obviously Dumb thing to do–to Arouse Curiosity at such a Young Age–and call it:: ‘Health-Class’….eye don’t know what Ghandi would say about that–he might just look at our society–like it has been taken over by ALIENS….and this Movement is the Ultimate EXPLOITATION of Innocent-Minds….and it falls under the Euphemism of ‘Feminism’….and the GROSSEST thing–is that NOW PlannedParenthood trucks Painted themselves Carnival–it looks like a Kids Truck–(there is one right on my street–that drives around–offering condoms and what not–)–AND any 8 year old that Saw that Truck would mistake it 4 some kind of Wonka Shop on Wheels–and Wonder if a New IceCreamMan is in town!–all in the name of so-called:: ‘Liberation’

    Rachel X

  11. Ron says:

    OK boys, this is what comes down to, all nonsense aside. If a chick you’re dating says “I dont think you can handle me” then you AGREE and WALK AWAY. Otherwise you end up like the poor stupid bastard who married this silly goose!

  12. Secular Jew says:

    Feldman is not a nice person at all.

    If the ultra-orthodox lifestyle is not for her, then she could have left to follow her own path without such a book.

    Driven perhaps by the profit motive, she has written a book in which she:
    – violates the privacy of family and former spouse mercilessly
    – never quite gets to seeing her ultra-orthodox spouse, family, friends, and community as human who might chafe just as much under restrictions but observe them anyway
    – seems offended, in her book, that not every society allows her to have exactly what she wants excatly when she wants
    – ultimately, leaves the community because the secular world will give her such a lifestyle, with no responsibility to anyone (even to her husband in the modern secular marriage).

    • Carol Miller says:

      Ahhh…if it would only be that easy, just to leave that community and lifestyle. By that statement it became obvious that you are still within that community and by your first statement “Feldman is not a nice person at all” you revealed that you were and are among the gossipers. Gossiping is as egregious as murder, because it is rare indeed that someone can “get their life back” after being gossiped about by an entire community, just as it is rare that someone can get their life back after murder.

      I have lived in just such a *community*, albeit a Christian one, and there are days and weeks and months and years that I wish I had just played by the rules, and lived a lie…if I had only know how hellacious it would be to live the rest of my life being rejected and gossiped about. Gossip is usually 5% truth and 95% hatred. I am following this discussion by the Hasidic/Satmar communities because I have read Feldman’s book, and for this goy, the *discussion* is disgusting…I have read more hate filled responses by your community, and have yet to read anything written with the least smidgeon of love or understanding.

      Don’t. You. Understand. That. All. You. Are. Doing. Is. To. UNDERSCORE everything Feldman wrote??????????????????????????

    • hendl74@aol.com says:

      ‘Secular Jew’: You admonish this author. You strongly imply that she wrote this book merely ‘for profit’; yet she had an extremely important story to tell. If a Satmar wrote a book with the point of view that Satmars’ lives were incredibly good, would you be concluding that the author only wrote it for money?
      In addition, what is this about her failing to observe “her ultra-orthodox spouse, family, friends, and community as human who might chafe just as much under restrictions but observe them anyway”. Huh? How is she to know whether they ‘chafe’ or not, as no one talks about that?? In addition, SO WHAT IF THEY DO CHAFE. This is HER story, not theirs. They have every right to write their own book. You also say she “seems offended, in her book, that not every society allows her to have exactly what she wants excatly when she wants”. Did you read this book? She was not refering to ‘every society’, she was only refering to the one she was raised in, the Satmars. And, no, she addressed the BIG issues, in which the Satmar world would NOT allow her to do the following: Continue her education, i.e., go to college; Not be pushed into marrying at the age of 17, which is VERY young, & to immediately begin having children; and that the MOST intellectual job she could ever attain was teaching children, that she could NOT take up a more professional, or demanding job; THAT she was taught NOTHING about sex until right before marriage, and that all her relatives KNEW that she had not consummated her marriage, which is a very private issue. btw, I am NOT claiming that teaching children is a ‘terrible’ job; I am just saying that she had NO other career choice. And, finally, you claim the author “leaves the community because the secular world will give her such a lifestyle, with no responsibility to anyone (even to her husband in the modern secular marriage).” I agree with the first lady who replied to your comment: YOU ARE NO SECULAR JEW; you still live among the Satmars. Yes, you are right in saying that what she wants she can get in the secular world, which I think is a wonderful thing. Why does she have to have such important choices in her life be so incredibly limited?? Life should be a CHOICE, not a criminal sentence because you are so very limited. And your bizarre claim that in the secular world she would ‘have no responsibilites’ is such meshugash (craziness). Those of us in the secular world have plenty of responsibilities: to our children, our families, and yes, to our husbands. We also have financial responsibilites: to pay our bills, etc. The difference is that as far as marriage goes, we have far more equal marriages; as a woman, I do NOT have to OBEY my husband automatically; instead, we try to work out our issues. Plus, I have a responsbiity to also support my family, which is far easier because I have a graduate degree, and my society is not strongly pushing me to have a lot of children. Also, I have Modern and Ultra-Orthodox relatives on both sides of my family; and the Ultra-Orthodox have judged me, and others, unmercilessly. They think we spend our time flying from chandeliers, in orgies & drug parties, letting our children do as they please, which is the furthest thing from the truth. My kids have morals; and I have given them guidance re: making choices in the world. In your world, very, very few choices have to be made, really, because your lives are so much more limited. However, I do want to say that I admire people who truly choose to be in your world, and enjoy it. I have seen, time and time again, the benefits of your world. But there lacks recognition that in every group there will be people who do NOT want to be there; that is just life. HaShem made those people, not just the ones who stay in the Satmar life. Your world will not accept that, and just ‘let’ those people go, without intense criticism.

  13. Tisha says:

    Finally i quit my regular job, now i earn decent money
    on-line you should try too, just search in google – blackhand roulette system

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