Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn
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Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  70 ratings  ·  12 reviews
"Mitzvah Girls" is the first book about bringing up Hasidic Jewish girls in North America, providing an in-depth look into a closed community. Ayala Fader examines language, gender, and the body from infancy to adulthood, showing how Hasidic girls in Brooklyn become women responsible for rearing the next generation of nonliberal Jewish believers. To uncover how girls learn...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published August 1st 2009 by Princeton University Press (first published July 20th 2009)
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30th out of 81 books — 10 voters
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45th out of 64 books — 26 voters

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This review will probably end up being edited once my husband reads the book and hashes it out with me but in the meantime, here are my first impressions.

Ethnographic studies of Orthodox Jewish women are one of my favorite sub-genres. Can an academic researcher really "get" the world I belong to, I always wonder. I don't know if a researcher can ever attain the insight of an insider, but certainly some come closer than others. In "Mitzvah Girls," while I think Ayala Fader got some things, I thi...more
This book is written like a thesis and I really had a hard time with the format and the dryness.
While I am not Hasidic, and I have plenty of fundamental issues with the community, I do think that there is a certain beauty to their way of life, and I don't feel any of this came through at all in the book. I feel the author definitely judged the people she interviewed and spent time with, even though she claims to have become good friends with some of them. And that judgement came through in her w...more
Alison Dellit
One of the best books I've read about religious communities. Respectful, analytical and thought provoking. Very helpful in understanding the worldviews underpinning Hasidic Judaism, which differ fundamentally from the individualism of protestant Christianity which dominates modern liberalism.
Something about this book just didn't work for me, because the author presents everything as if she's an insider, but really it's clear from her writing that the community still treated her as an outsider and as a potential convert.
I'm not sure how to rate this book. I think first of all it's important to note for the rating and for any prospective readers, that this is almost purely an ethnographic study -- there is no argument or viewpoint, no deeply rooted opinion or bias, it's just as matter-of-fact as possible, relating information and observations from the author's time spent with women and children of Hasidic families, with a special emphasis on the Bobover sect.

Comparing it to other books that are not ethnographies...more
Eli Mandel
A nice body of work.

The million dollar quote, for me, was this gem on page 66 in a chapter about defiance: "one should accustom the child to believing without reason and explanation and then, even when he ages and his rationality is strengthened....he will not depart from the true path and observance...." -- the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

I also enjoyed her perception, and implied criticism of the Hasidic (and ultra-orthodox in general)habit of disdaining secular Jews and non-Jews which comes to an abrup...more
I have always been interested in the Hasidic people as I worked at a bank in Boro Park in the early 1980s and then worked with ultra Orthodox Jews at a financial services company following that. Being a shiksa, I learned a lot from them about their faith and their observant practices. I felt this book gave me some insight into how children are raised in this belief system and how they view themselves and the secular world.
Explores the role of "nonliberal religion" in the everyday lives of Hasidic women, with a focus on how they raise their children and socialize girls into Hasidic notions of nonliberal femininity. Very useful comparison for my own work on the socialization of Muslim brides on the Swahili coast.
The anthropologist/ethnologist in me loved this well written AND WELL DOCUMENTED study. The author really remains neutral in her observations but pairs that with an respectful empathy that is so important in academic writing. Very well done.
Of all the books about hasidim I've read, Fader gives what is probably the most accurate portrayal.
pretty complete anthropological study. better than most on the subject.
Katja Buckley
Excellent ethnography. Very well researched and well written!
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Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn

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