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Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots

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The instant New York Times bestselling memoir of a young Jewish woman’s escape from a religious sect, in the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, featuring a new epilogue by the author.

As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak to what she was allowed to read. It was stolen moments spent with the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that helped her to imagine an alternative way of life. Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at nineteen and realized that, for the sake of herself and her son, she had to escape.

262 pages, Paperback

First published February 14, 2012

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About the author

Deborah Feldman

8 books817 followers
Deborah Feldman was born and raised in the Hasidic community of Satmar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her marriage was arranged at the age of 17, and her son was born two years later.

At the age of 25 she published the New York Times Bestselling memoir, UNORTHODOX: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (Simon and Schuster, 2012)

She currently lives with her son in Berlin, Germany.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,600 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa.
46 reviews8 followers
March 2, 2012
The minute I started this book I was engrossed and I finished it within 2 days. I found as a woman, it was almost infuriating to read. I also think it is disgusting and awful that so many from her former "community" are stalking her and posting fake reviews calling the book false. This book is HER memoir and HER truth and she is completely and utterly entitled to it. This is a rare look into this strange community. It is an interesting read for me personally since I live in an area where there is a large population. I never really knew what to make of these women I see often pushing baby carriages and conversing with no one but their own. Now, I feel a sort of sadness for them. I am sure that many are content and even happy in this lifestyle but I am glad for the author that she wanted more and she was able to attain it.
Profile Image for Melanie Linn.
Author 3 books16 followers
August 30, 2022
While "Unorthodox" is a fascinating and enthralling book, I feel as though it was written several years too early. The book left me with many questions, questions that perhaps could not be addressed by the author because her escape from Hasidism is still too fresh. Did she ever get to the bottom of her husband's infidelity? How was she able to take her son with her when she mentions in the book that 'it's never been done'? Did she lose all contact with her grandparents after she left? Did she become closer to her own mother as a result of her break with her past? I realize that this book was the author's ticket to escaping Hasidism, but it would have benefited greatly from a larger sense of perspective.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Pam Gonçalves.
Author 10 books10.7k followers
July 25, 2021
A liberdade das mulheres passa pela possiblidade da educação. O conhecimento aduba os questionamentos e faz crescer a visão de que a vida pode ir além do que culturas patriarcais dizem ser o lugar dessas mesmas mulheres.

Profile Image for Jaidee.
605 reviews1,202 followers
August 11, 2021
5 "controversial, vivid, courageous" stars !!

2017 Honorable Mention with High Distinction Read

This book has been through so much controversy. Friends, family and her former hasidic Satmar community have blogged, exposed and tried to shame Ms. Feldman into quiet submission of her experiences and opinions and thoughts. I have perused some of these. I do not blame the community for reacting in this way. Some of them believe in the divinity and peacefulness of their way of life. Others are envious of her freedom and for others it may trigger their own guilt and shame. I do not judge their protectiveness harshly, its just that, Ms. Feldman has already been through so much, does she need to go through life having her character and well-being under constant assault.

Please don't get me wrong I am not saying that Ms. Feldman is completely truthful but none of us is. Our memories are filled with errors, interpretations, fears, desires and if you add in a measure of trauma, naivete and neglect then what actually happened and what one understands can be two vastly different things.

Was the writing of this memoir opportunistc ? Perhaps it was. We must remember her circumstances of lack of education, skills or ways of living in the modern world.

Despite these issues with this book I greatly admire Ms. Feldman and her writing. She has a magical way to transporting you to her childhood and adolescence that make you feel that you are part of the Hasidic community. Their isolation, beliefs, customs, social structure and ways of being in the world. The writing is rich, descriptive, sad but also often very funny, loving, admiring even.

I cried, I laughed. I truly believe that Ms. Feldman wants some modified reform of this community not for selfish reasons but to protect women and children. What some men often forget that is that feminism isn't about only equality and justice for women but for all humankind. When women have equal access to all then men can let go of some of their burdens and be free to be themselves in fuller ways as well as express the whole spectrum of emotions that is often denied them.

Ms. Feldman, in a way, you are a pioneer and I admire your resilience, your passion and a desire to live life on your own terms and at such a young age. In the end, it does not matter, that you were not completely truthful. None of us is.

Lekhi beshalom !
Profile Image for El Librero de Valentina.
278 reviews20.6k followers
October 23, 2020
Una historia impactante y esperanzadora. Un libro para entender a la comunidad judía jasídica y el testimonio de una mujer que lucho por su libertad.
913 reviews409 followers
June 4, 2012
Deborah Feldman's narrative has been challenged by many who know her, and although some (though not all) of the challenges may arguably fall into the realm of "he said she said," there is enough here to render her memoir dubious at best. I think we may be in James Frey land here.

Deborah Feldman describes a childhood where she was raised by her grandparents, having been abandoned as a toddler by her mother to a mentally retarded father incapable of caring for her properly. Except some apparently well-documented accounts reveal that her mother left when she was a teenager and that Deborah has a younger sister who went with her mother (a woman Deborah paints as too disempowered to fight for custody). This already changes the poor-unwanted-tiny-little-me story quite a bit. On her blog, Deborah offers a vague and ambiguous explanation, stating that she did not want to discuss her younger sister because she is a minor but that she never denied her existence (would it have hurt to mention said sister just once, with a disclaimer about not wanting to invade her privacy, simply to ensure her memoir's honesty?). Deborah also states something along the lines of Williamsburg and community being a state of mind or some such, and that her mother really did leave the community even though she lived within its bounds. Whatever. People don't usually have to talk in circles like this. I'm guessing there's a simpler explanation here, even if Deborah doesn't want to share it.

Deborah describes a childhood where she was required to hide her library books. A neighbor claims that Deborah's mother took the girls to the library every Friday.

Deborah implies that her entire education took place within an oppressive Satmar school environment. (She also describes a Judaic studies teacher in this institution with a long braid to her wig, something which would never be worn by a Satmar Judaic Studies teacher who would only wear a short wig.) Other accounts (with photographs to prove it) report that Deborah spent her elementary school years in two more open institutions that she was kicked out of and was only relegated to Satmar as a last resort because family connections helped get her accepted. When I say family connections, I mean the Aunt Chaya about whom she hasn't a single good word to say. The one who takes her shopping for her trousseau before her marriage, among other things, and whose involvement, perceived as monolithically controlling by Deborah, also suggests caring and concern and generosity for her niece.

Deborah states that Satmar girls over the age of 12 are not allowed to sing, ever, not even when they are praying amongst themselves with no men present. One wonders why her marriage-preparation teacher then reviews laws with her which include times that she is allowed to sing in her husband's presence.

Deborah describes a bizarre mikvah experience and alleges that a mikvah lady was arrested for molesting brides, a story my friends and I have never heard. I find it highly unlikely that such an arrest would not have hit the Jewish blogosphere and gossip circuit.

Deborah describes hearing about a young Chassidic boy's death and her immediate assumption that the boy's father killed him for masturbating. Investigative journalism has since revealed that this young boy was actually a 20-year-old whose death was ruled a suicide by investigating police. Deborah accepts no responsibility whatsoever for placing this misleading information in her book without following up with the accurate story.

There are a lot of other things Deborah describes. She offers some pretty graphic details on sexual and other dysfunction between herself and her husband. She also includes her husband's picture in her book. Yet she defends many of the inconsistencies in her memoir by claiming that she chose to leave out information in order to protect people's privacy. I can hardly imagine a more gross violation of privacy than publishing someone's picture together with intimate details about their sexuality.

Further, we see that Deborah has chosen to omit or misrepresent information which can be factually verified. What can we then suppose about information that no one could possibly verify, such as private interactions between her husband, family members, or anyone else?

I considered giving Deborah a 2-star rating because her book was in fact readable, and not uninteresting to someone like myself who comes from a similar background. But then I decided to remove the second star because I don't like dishonesty. Before people call me out as someone who's simply feeling defensive because of the perceived attack on my own Orthodoxy (though I am far from Satmar), I want to say that I thought The Romance Reader was a great book. It was also labeled fiction. And yet it felt far more honest than Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots did, in no small part because it was not claiming to be a memoir. I could cut Deborah more slack had she made that choice.
Profile Image for Frieda Vizel.
184 reviews97 followers
April 26, 2020
Note, my review goes over the goodreads character limit. Read the full review here including perspective from the husband Eli and my whole incestous connection with this book.


When Deborah Feldman’s memoir hit shelves in 2012, all hell broke loose. Not before or after have I seen so much to-do about our little niche world of defectors of the Hasidic faith. Everyone was talking about Unorthodox, raving, ranting, attacking, defending, calling her a James Frey or an Angela’s Ashes—fussing it all the way to the New York Time’s bestsellers list. I too was a cauldron of hot-headed opinion and “taking sides.” Soon, there were fault lines among ex-Hasidim. Some tried to criticize Feldman, and some saw this criticism as betrayal. I was among the critics, and that fact rained Feldman’s and other people’s anger down on me. I still hear about my unforgivable betrayal. Yes all we were talking about were pieces of the book and the book publicity. I didn’t give the book a careful read that first time. I was too worked up.

Now, the dust has settled. I have much more distance from the story. I’ve also reaped a bit of the overflow from the book’s success; many fans of Unorthodox wind up in Williamsburg on my walking tour because Feldman piqued their interest. We are also talking about her again because the Netflix miniseries adaption of her book is due to hit on the 26th of this month. I’m cooped up in our New York City apartment with my Kindle, suffering the Covid quarantine. It’s a good time to give the book a careful review, with, I think, more objectivity, and also with an eye for how readers have reacted to the book since its publication.

In order to give you the context in which I come to this book, let me tell you that I’m a metaphorical cousin second-removed to it. Here are the connections: I also was raised in the Satmar Hasidic community, and I also have one son. I am a year older than Feldman. We both got divorced with dreams for more, we both are public about our journey. I also lived in Rockland County. People often comment that I am like her. It makes me want to pounce and gauge their eyes out, but I can’t blame them.

More importantly, I personally know half the cast of characters. Mindy the brilliant friend: She was my camp buddy and email pen pal for many years; she’s a magnetic personality. Her villainous mother-in-law: She was our chef through middle and high school, and she was like an icon in our schools; she was known for her eggplant parmesan and for shooing girls out of the kitchen as we went on the prowl for a toaster to make the whole-wheat bread more edible. Her husband’s “ugly” and “jealous” sister in law: She was my tenth grade first aid teacher and was known as “lively;” she, like me, lived on Satmar Drive. And the sleep-away camp scenes: Of course I too was in summer camp and can vouch for Mr. Rosenberg’s red beard and Mrs. Halberstam’s renown…and for that field of tall grass. And then there’s Eli, Feldman’s husband, who, like me, grew up on Satmar Drive in Monroe, although we didn’t know each other until much later. We met as residents of the greater Monsey area in about 2010, well before we had any idea about all the shit would go down. We were close for many years, and had a million playdates with our sons. Eli and Yitzy were really like family.

I never met Deborah. She came as close as pulling up to my house in an SUV to collect her son, but that’s it. I never understood her. But now, by rereading her book, I think I know her. And I don’t like her much. She lives in an inner world in which things are skewed, poisonous. She is an unreliable narrator because she sees the world in distortions, and herself as a victim of everything. This helped me understand her, but it also confuses any reader who doesn’t have enough context, and it ends up creating a false brand of feminism, pointing a judgmental finger at Hasidic women who don’t leave the fold, regardless of their reason or ability.


I’ve browsed the bulk of the reviews on both her books, and the single question readers want answered is: How did she escape? How did Eli allow her to take the child? How did she get custody? Was it proven that she lied about something? How did she get on her feet financially? Why doesn’t she fill us in on this in her follow-up memoir, Exodus?
She does answer all these questions. It’s there, in Unorthodox. She tells us of the important moments but with many spins and misrepresentations. She is so consumed with her perpetual victimization that the reader doesn’t notice how her life evolves, how she slowly inches away from her childhood world.

Let me tell you how she left, how she was able to get custody, how her husband allowed it; I’ll tell you by drawing entirely from Unorthodox. So behold...


Feldman introduces us to her life in the Williamsburg Hasidic community when she is a young teen. The early chapters of the book are very different from the second half. These are a series of descriptive essays without any forward progression in the narrative. She paints her world, and sometimes it is even lovely. She tells us the important part of her story: her shame. Her family isn’t “normal,” whatever the wretched word means. Her father is cognitively disabled, and her mother has previously come out as gay and left the fold. In the eyes of the community, Feldman is a bit of a pity. She feels that people look down at her and she is not comfortable being assigned to the lowest rungs in the hierarchy of status. She is already uncomfortable, already not snugly fixed into this world.

I don’t say this with judgement, heaven forfend; it is more likely that those who already don’t fit in will leave. Think Shulem Deen, who also published a memoir or Gitty Grunwalk, who was in New York Magazine. The community loves to point out that those who leave are more likely to come from “broken” homes. “Why did she leave?—ah, a broken home, poor thing, tut tut tut, she just fell through the cracks…” The community reads this as proof that the breakaways are damaged people who are not rejecting Hasidic society, but are rejecting their own lives. But that’s not why coming from a different background makes you more likely to leave.

People with families like Feldman’s are more likely to leave because they are not as deeply ingrained as those who have an entire respectable family in the community. For the “broken” homes, roots don’t run so deep, or there aren’t as many roots to begin with. In Feldman’s case, she had a mother on the outside and a father who wasn’t present. She lived with her grandparents where she had much less oversight than the supposedly normal children who suffered snitching and snooping siblings. (I know she has a sibling but don’t know the details.) Because she has a looser leash, she reads more. She can show off her advanced reading in class, and she buys herself contraband books in Boro Park. She gets away with it. She becomes a sixth grade secular studies teacher, a position held by the fanciest and most stylish girls.

I’m showing the ways she is “deviating,” but I don’t deny her struggles. Undoubtedly, she was raised in hard circumstances, in a community of trauma and where the patriarchy inflicts its damage on women on a whole other level. The small ways that she modernizes or chafes or breaks the norms trace the growing chasm between the expectations of the Hasidic community and her becoming an ex-Hasidic minor celebrity. The chasm grows slowly. The reader might easily miss it.

The weightier changes unfold in the second half of the book. At age seventeen, Feldman gets engaged to another “problem case.” She is to marry Eli, an older boy from the insular village of Monroe. He was twenty-four at the time, and that senior age tells you that he is trouble. Older boys are usually “bums,” the ones who just didn’t get engaged when their friends did and got bored and adventurous on the sly. It is hard to see in the early chapters that Eli is Hasidic Lite, because Feldman does not tell us much about him. She is fixated first on his blond hair (I hear one more word of blond hair and blue eyes and I scream!) then on silly grievances over the gifts she gives verses the gifts she receives, and then on the very heartbreaking difficulty consummating the marriage, as the couple grasps in the dark for answers and takes a year to understand and treat her vaginismus. This is especially devastating because as these sheltered novices grapple in the dark for help, their entire respective families butt in and violate their privacy, making things exponentially worse.

But even as several real and petty crises overshadow the story about Eli’s religiosity, we see glimpses of him as more “with it.” Here are some things that are a tiny bit subversive: Most girls from Monroe don’t talk on the phones with their grooms, a golden wristwatch is fancier than a pocket-watch (which is what my family gives in gift exchanges), and it is not par for the course for a sheltered Hasidic bride to be poured wine in champagne flutes. Romantic gestures from my wedding night entailed sitting at the kitchen table and making super awkward conversation while we noshed from the three-layer cake on the triple level cobalt dishes. Feldman and her husband are first to embrace the new phenomena of kosher Chinese food, and they “sneak out to go bowling.”
Things soon get devilishly goyish. Eli is a romantic (this I know to be true), and Feldman recounts that when she gets home from the ritual bath, she finds “the lights dimmed and rose pedals sprinkled on the bed sheets.” And ooh la la, “Eli likes foreplay more than I do. Before sex, he wants to kiss and touch, and feel loved.” Also not typical for repressed religious extremists, he “tries to teach me to kiss slowly…He wants to make the experience last as long as possible.”

Of course, sex alone is never indicative of an entire relationship, as too many hypocritical males on this planet will prove. In their everyday life, Eli is also “progressive.” When Feldman vomits, “Eli hears me and comes out to hold my head, which is something he is used to doing for me.” There he is for the housework. “He takes to cleaning up the kitchen while I am ostensibly at the mikvah.” He takes her to her appointments, from the doctors about a rash, hypnosis, the many pregnancy scares, anxiety treatments, the unexplained STD. He takes a great interest in their child and cries when she finds out they will have a son and then again when the child is born. When the baby is born, she doesn’t want to hold the baby right away because “A glimpse of squirming, slimy pinkness makes me want to vomit,” but “Eli is already over by the crib, peering between the shoulders of two doctors…Eli is tearing up next to me.” When they arrive home with the newborn, “Eli has cleaned the apartment thoroughly, and when we get home, everything has been set up for the baby.”

Eli agrees to relocate from the Williamsburg enclave to the city’s suburb, Rockland County. This gives her an enormous amount of freedom. Feldman describes her new home in a community of non-conformists:

“I moved to Airmont… It used to be a small group of Hasidic families that had migrated from places like Williamsburg and Kiryas Joel, where the lifestyle was too rigid and extreme for them to be happy. A few young couples, like us—wives who wore long human-hair wigs and jean skirts, husbands who drank beer and smoked marijuana on poker nights. Someone called a “bum” in Williamsburg was now just another lapsed Hasid in the sprawling, diverse Jewish community of Rockland County. The difference between living in Airmont and living in Williamsburg is that as long as you don’t talk about it, you can break the rules. You can have the privacy to live the life you choose as long as you don’t draw attention to yourself.”

It’s a big deal that she can convince her husband to move; it’s an uprooting of sorts. I remember when people in my circle were saying she moved. I still lived in Kiryas Joel, and when I heard through the grapevine that she moved, I envied her so much because my husband was adamant not to move, as it’s a “slippery slope.”

Feldman needs only to prod a little to get her husband to pack up with her:

“Eli has difficulty adjusting to change; he is by nature averse to any sort of risk taking. For weeks I lay the groundwork, reminding him how tedious his two hour commute to work is and how deeply that will cut into his time with the baby. All his brothers and sisters live upstate, I point out.”

So they move.

In the new environment, Feldman tackles a new milestone: learning to drive. This would have never been possible in Williamsburg. I wrote a longer post about the way Williamsburg women came to be barred from driving. Women are not allowed to drive. If they do, their children are not accepted to schools. This can be a problem if the husband refuses to consider more modern schools. Leaving is so hard if there are children who are enmeshed in the expansive Hasidic school system, but Feldman will never enroll her kid there. Feldman lives in Rockland County and is pregnant with her son when she starts on instruction:

“Steve is my driving teacher…I wake up early so I can get the vomiting out of the way, and by the time he honks his horn outside, my stomach is usually settled enough… When we get back, Eli is sitting on one of the lounge chairs on the front lawn waiting for me, and Steve looks out at him and says “That’s your husband?”
I nod yes.
“Huh. He looks like a hip dude.”

Soon she grows her hair in and wears bouncy long wigs; her entire look changes. When she visits Williamsburg to introduce the baby to his grandparents, the local kids peg her as a shiksa:
“I return to Williamsburg in the summer to visit Bubby and show off the baby, and I wear my long wig with the curls in it and a pretty dress that I bought from Ann Taylor and had lengthened so it would cover my knees…Walking down Penn Street pushing the baby carriage we got as a gift, I hear a little boy, no more than six years old, whisper to his playmate,‘Farvus vuktzi du, di shiksa?’—’Why does this gentile woman walk here?’ I realize he is referring to me, dressed too well to fit into his idea of a Hasidic woman.”

Her next secular endeavor is college. She is still married, still very young. As always, she is dreaming of ginormous things. She tells Eli that she will take college classes. She fudges a bit, telling him it will be for business, not literature. “I will learn bookkeeping and marketing and things like that.” He is fine with it. He asks her about the practical implications and “if I will be home to pick up Yitzy from day care.”

173 reviews15 followers
June 2, 2012
Many of the details this book are apparently inaccurate, exaggerated, or even fabricated. I learned only after reading the book, for example, that the author has a much younger sister--so she couldn't have actually been abandoned by her mother as a toddler. She apparently also only attended a Satmar school for a few years after being expelled from one or two more liberal Jewish schools.

I was suspicious, additionally, about the author's silence on how exactly she gained custody of her son (when, earlier in the book, she mentions that such a feat would be impossible)--and by her complete ignorance of sex, despite all her extracurricular reading.

What really did this book in for me was all the negativity. Feldman came off as whiny and immature, and that's just not interesting to read. Surely she could have found something positive to say about her family or community? Something she'd miss when she left it all behind? I expect some self-reflection in the memoirs I read, and some character growth. This didn't have it. It was just a run-down of All the Ways I Have Been Wronged.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,027 reviews372 followers
April 5, 2021
The Power of No

Deborah Feldman is real.
She’s a Jewish girl who used to be part of a religious community that controlled every second of her life:

They told her what to eat!
They told her what to wear!
They told her whom to talk to!
They told her what to do!...

She was a marionette, an obedient robot and, at the same time, an extremely unhappy human being!...

Until the day she met Jane Austen heroines!

Those irreverent characters triggered her rebel side, and made her dream about a life without chains.

A Huge No was now growing inside her, and... the moment she gave birth to her son, she was definitely determined to leave for good!
Some years later... Freedom was no longer a Dream 🦅...

Deborah Feldman is a young warrior, an heroine of our times, and her passionate story will probably inspire other Jewish (and non Jewish) girls like her to conquer their Freedom. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Profile Image for Sunny.
51 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2012
A story of a girl brought up in a religion and culture that feels foreign to her from the start and her experience trying to separate from it. I gravitate towards stories like these because I think many people have similar experiences and can relate to the struggles of discovering who you truly are, and what you believe in. Then, how you deal with the negative impact that has on your future with your family and community who can't and aren't willing to understand. I gave this book two stars for two reasons. One, for someone like me who has little back ground in the Jewish religion and traditions needs more explanation. She threw out Jewish names, holidays, traditions etc.. without fulling explaining what they meant. This cause me to skim through paragraphs and gloss over the Jewish words instead of being able to learn from them. Secondly, I felt she wrote this book prematurely. She got this book deal before even leaving her community completely. If she had waited 5 or so more years she could have had a lot more reflection on how her life has unfolded and how she feels about her past and future.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,930 reviews439 followers
April 28, 2023
Who will rid me of these religions! (Paraphrasing Henry II, 1170 CE) Too much?

Not whenever the complete list of any religious rites and rituals and prohibitions and punishments are exposed, as they are in 'Unorthodox'. Which religion am I specifically talking about? Pick any one that comes to mind, although this non-fiction memoir is about a sect of Hasidic Judaism.

Americans consistently come in near the bottom of surveys on having religious knowledge, yet always end up in the top five of countries with citizens who say 'yes' to being religious. My own personal story involves taking two years to read everything I could lay my hands on regarding the history of religions and myths.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

My one complaint about Deborah Feldman's non-fiction memoir is she didn't include a fourth of the actual required 'sacred' restrictions and activities of membership in her sect of Hasidic Judaism. It would have put to rest all questions of why she felt trapped and how amazing it is she was able to finally leave her religion. I think she sacrificed informational depth about her religion in order to reach a larger readership. I wouldn't be shocked to learn she was maybe protecting her son as well. They both are young and they still need to live among some of the people and religion they are criticizing. As it is, I understand Feldman has had lots of death threats from those who supposedly claim belief in a loving fatherly God.

I liked Feldman's book and the writing, if not the subject matter - a child's shaping into a kitchen slave. The religious thrust of all of her education into being a silent, obedient baby production machine was interesting (actually a cultural shaping that is true of ALL religions, not only of Hasidic Judaism), if also utterly horrifying to me (see the slightly more fictional version of women's lives in Religion, IMHO, in The Handmaid's Tale ).

I recently finished another book on a religion, Scientology, by Jenna Miscavige Hill, 'Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape'. Hill was another child trapped inside a dictatorship of minutiae and senseless institutional obedience. There are a lot of similarities between their experiences, but not in the way the authors presented their life stories. 'Unorthodox' is more literary and easier to read, plus Feldman appears to be more of a scofflaw resistant to authority by nature.

Boundaries are challenges to Feldman, instead of limits. At age ten she slipped her leash and walked into a public library, forbidden behavior for her by command of her community. But more than curiosity or the seeking of information, she seems to have done it because she was told not to.

There is a huge difference between Scientology and religious cults in the education of girls. I get the feeling that the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Feldman's sect, would not teach reading and writing to females if they were not under the eye of the United States Government, minimal as the sect's educating of women is. However, both religions forbid all of their children any contact with outsiders, as much as they can get away with. The Satmar sect, though, is far worse in terms of equality of females or in valuing women. Both organizations would prefer to add lobotomy to their rituals, in my opinion, but Scientology would at least be reluctant about it.

Does self-induced religious ecstasy and prayer/chanting/fasting cause in you an intense desire to erase your personality in return for domestic slavery, endless stupid pointless OCD daily rituals/apparel, constant criticism, and one-sided sexual pleasuring for only males on-demand? The promise that after your indentured servitude to all men in your sect, and unjust severe punishments for the smallest mistakes and heavy daily workloads and unwanted pregnancies beginning when you start menstruating, will somehow earn you the love of God after you are dead maybe 80 years later? Are promises that the rewards of finally experiencing some affection and fun and justice at last after death, for which you sacrifice all free will and agency and fun in this life, enough to survive the horrors/deprivations/sect punishments in being religious while alive?

NOT. Absolutely no. Just, no. The reward of a God's pat on the head after death after decades of sufferings in slavery, torture/abuse and deprivation because you are a female? NoT. Totally absolutely not enticing to me on any level.

Many uneducated or religious females do not know, since they are dependent on historical religious texts written by men (not a god-check it out), long ago, and/or by whatever men tell them, there has actually been no sign of any god during all of the millennia of Mankind's existence. Religion was created by men to enslave and control people, especially women. Men really want to be sure children are of their own flesh, thus some kind of purdah or enslavement/imprisonment/restrictions of the movements and freedoms of women has evolved in every culture. Think about it. If any religion was truly good for women, then why is every single religion full of abnormal behavioral restrictions and sexual perversions and instructions on punishing/killing women? Why are most women in the world punished or killed for learning how to read and write, or marry who they choose as men do?

Why is it religious people do not understand why atheists resist religion, when even the most ignorant of the religious know about the stories, as well as personal knowledge, of violence and murders committed by religious believers? I already know from experience how many Christians and other woman-despising religions are unaware of how unappealing all of those restrictions on female behavior are. Even worse, IMHO, are the religious who cherry pick amongst the requirements of being a Christian or whatever and yet they still believe they are members in good religious standing; then they attempt to to convince me that their Christian-lite or whatever-lite is legitimate. For me, both the fundamentalists and religious-lite believers are completely deluded and ignorant.

On my list of theories as to why, the top one is that most religious people do not fully comprehend their religion. Surveys have shown ordinary atheists consistently know more about the history and ideas of their local religions than believers. My other top theory is those folks who need a lot of structure in their lives aren't going to let historical scholarship and facts destroy their need for regimentation and dictatorship.

Live and let live, right? Right? Then why do the religious close the abortion clinics down? Why do they prevent birth control and contraception from being available to anyone who wants them, or forbid including family planning in healthcare plans? Why forbid gay marriage? Why force heavy religious rules on their families and employees with brutality and punishments? Obviously the religious are trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us by legal mechanisms, cultural ostracism and force, yet I can't tell you how often they tell me it's the other way around.

As an experiment, I've sometimes gone to church with a religious person who thought exposure to the 'love' would entice me, only to be dismayed by the shock of me exercising my right to free speech in rebutting their utterly ridiculous statements and assertions of Bible verses as proof of a god's existence by using scientific and historical facts in my response. There isn't much godly love for me after that. Ordinary Christians often do not understand how their Bible came to be written, so debate is usually short and one sided. Faith is usually the last card the religious play. Faith is similar to a having created a lap in sitting down - it's gone as soon as I stand up for myself.
1 review1 follower
February 22, 2012
With all the hype and publicity this book generated I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. I so badly wanted to like this but there were a few things that bothered me that I just couldn't get past. The book was decently written, (not particularly good writing but the honesty and humor make up for it), however the overall tone of the book made me instinctively distrust the author. I kept feeling like the author was more focused on taking her anger and hurt over her perceived rejection out on the community than of sharing her own personal memoir with us. Also, the title of the book is somewhat misleading, as it doesn't really paint a clear picture as to what was a) so scandalous and b) so rejecting. It seems almost as if Ms Feldman is using her memoir to attack her former community and unfortunately, I felt like this discredited her a bit. In addition, there is an underlying whining tone and almost a sense of entitlement which makes it hard to like her, even though certain parts are endearing. I gave this book 3 stars because it wasn't a bad read, just somewhat disappointing.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,387 reviews115 followers
June 11, 2020
I confess that I really did not know much about Hasidic Jewish traditions or culture before reading this book. Feldman was born into the Satmar sect of Hasidism in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and raised by her grandparents. Her mother left after divorcing her mentally ill father. She found books to be her salvation, even though she had to become adept at hiding the forbidden children’s classics from her grandparents. This memoir exposed the myriad traditions followed by the secretive sect. Not surprisingly, the book was denounced by her former friends and family.

Among the startling things I learned, the sect believes that Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was God’s punishment for European Jewish secularization. Therefore, she was taught to abide by old Jewish rules and traditions—filled with patriarchy and misogyny—in order to regain God’s favor. Nor is the sect in favor of a Zionist state. Apparently, Jews should not have to fight to have a separate state, for God will provide.

Feldman found the courage to leave this religious community and gain a measure of personal freedom for herself and her young son. They currently reside in Berlin. Recommend.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,027 reviews372 followers
April 7, 2021
Liberdade é Vida

São múltiplos os caminhos que vão dar à infelicidade. Porém, há uma fórmula que todos sobejamente conhecemos:
Se abdicarmos da fabulosa aventura que consiste na auto-descoberta, e a cambiarmos pela obediência e seguidismo, enveredamos por um trilho de infelicidade.

A felicidade é um reconhecimento do Eu que pressupõe uma miríade de escolhas capazes de o espelhar e expandir. Nada tem a ver com imposições familiares e sociais que fazem de nós marionetes — robots bem comportados e seres exponencialmente infelizes.

Deborah Feldman, uma jovem judia da seita Satmar, foi um robot infeliz até ao dia em que conviveu com as heroínas de Jane Austen. Essas jovens irreverentes estimularam-lhe o lado rebelde, levando-a a sonhar com uma vida livre.

Um vigoroso NÃO cresceu, assim, agora dentro dela, e... quando aos 19 anos foi mãe, encontrou finalmente a imprescindível coragem para quebrar as grilhetas — alguns anos depois, a almejada Liberdade... deixou de ser um Sonho 🦅 ...


Deborah Feldman é uma jovem guerreira — uma heroína da nossa era — cuja história inspiradora irá certamente motivar outras jovens como ela a conquistar a Liberdade a que têm direito! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Profile Image for Patricija || book.duo.
586 reviews384 followers
November 21, 2020

Nežinojimas. Skaudinantis, žeidžiantis, uždarantis duris ir nepaliekantis net praverto lango. Toks aklas, toks žiaurus. Primetamas iš šono – tariamai Dievo, bet kodėl dažniausiai jo vietininku tampa tiesiog vyrai? Nežinojimas. Paverčiantis marionetėmis. Pasmerkiantis metams gėdos ir nesusipratimų, baisioms tragedijoms – fizinėms, emocinėms. Pasmerkiantis moteris prievartavimui, emociniam smurtui, per pirmąją vestuvių naktį praplėšiama ne mergystės plėve, o storąja žarna – nes viskas patyliukais, viskas tamsoje, viskas pastoviame kieno nors kybojime virš galvų, pastoviame tikrinime – nes nieko nėra asmeniško, viskas yra visos šeimos, visos bendruomenės, o ir, savaime aišku, Dievo reikalas. Nežinojimas. Didžiausia įmanoma gėda ir skausmas – emocinis, fizinis, paveldimas. Amžinas?

Neortodoksiška – toks neįprastas karštos bulvės žaidimo variantas. Tik vietoj bulvės – moterys. Ką moterys, mergaitės. Paauglės, vos vos žengiančios į suaugusiųjų pasaulį. Jos čia mėtomos iš rankų į rankas – op iš tėvų namus į mokyklą, kur smegenis plauna visi, kas netingi, op tik į tokius darbus (galimi kokie trys – mokytoja, seselė, gal dar kokia virėja), kuriuos patvirtina bendruomenė, op į parinkto vyro lovą, iš kurios, jei viskas pasiseks – tiesiai į gimdyklą. O į tarpus – op į nesibaigiančius tikrinimus – ar sergi mėnesinėmis? Ar tave iš viso gali liesti vyras, o gal esi purvina? Ar moki gaminti? Ar paklūsti taip, kaip reikia, kaip buvai mokoma? Ar plaukų ilgis nesiekia kelių centimetrų? Ar savo triusikus, jei juose kokia neaiški dėmė tada, kai neturėtum sirgi mėnesinėmis, nuneši rabinui patikrinti? Nes tu, apgailėtina moterėle, tai tikrai pati nesusiprasi, kraujas čia, ar koks kitas moteriško purvinumo reikalas! Norėčiau čia juokauti, bet net mano fantazija taip toli nesiekia.

Neortodoksiška gali kiek priminti Apšviestąją – savo šokiruojančia vidine tamsa, slogumu ir suvokimu, kad niekuo negali padėti tiems, kurie nemano, kad pagalbos jiems apskritai reikia. Kur gali tik žvilgtelėti pro durų plyšį – tiek, kiek kažkas pasirinko jį praverti. Čia autorė praveria pakankamai, skaitosi greitai, bet viskas prabėgomis, šiek tiek suskubintai, įžangą į savo skandalingą išsilaisvinimą paverčiant ištisa knyga, bet nutraukdama pasakojimą beveik įdomiausioje vietoje, paliekant milijoną klausimų, ypač temomis, į kurias tik pamėto užuominų kaip į skandalingas, niekada anksčiau nepavykusias NIEKAM iš chasidų bendruomenės. Knyga – toks paprastas nepaprastų įvykių atpasakojimas, be jokių literatūrinių užraitojimų, neabejotinai įtraukiantis ir įdomus dėl visų šokiruojančių faktorių, pykdantis ir paliekantis tokį nusivylimą, kuris įmanomas tik jaučiantis absoliučiai bejėgiu ką nors pakeisti. Toks siaubo, žiaurumo ir protu neaprėpiamų baisybių rinkinys, vainikuojamas puikiu Ievos Sidaravičiūtės vertimu, tačiau visgi, reikalaujantis jei ne tęsinio, tai bent jau neblogo papildymo.
6 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2012
This book felt deeply insincere and in an odd way, pardon the pun, unobservant—as if the writer did not deign it her job to pay attention to what is going on. The apartment rodent invested, the streets always dirty, the classmates mean or stupid or ugly, the teachers ignorant but only in comparison to the writer
So to me, her attempts to frame herself as a victim and smarter than all those around her only serve to annoy. It is very clever in setting up the community based on the repeated adages and labels she quotes; these fed perfectly into the construct of her as a grammatically advanced individual. Love the quote: “I am convinced my ability to feel deeply is what makes me extraordinary.” Well, I am not convinced she is extraordinary and certainly not in the way she wishes. Truly clever, she admits to being a liar at the bottom of page 23. “I can act so convincingly that no one will ever be able to discover the truth.” What is worse is that there is no reflection on the part of the writer as to why she lies. Are we expected to believe that it is because she is just that smart or that she does not value anyone around her as much as herself—um, and where would a reader fit into that construct?
The clichés keep coming and the sensational exaggeration comes straight of some Gothic novel—Mad cousin in the basement. The cousin locked up with a hole in the door to pass food trays through. Did they order that special door from the door store in Brooklyn that makes them—did it have one slot for milk and another for meat? Okay a screwed up family with two old people trying their best—This lacks anything other than some clichéd observation from Chaim Potok.
I can’t help but sympathize with the grandparents who have all this crap dropped on them and who honestly do not strike me as bad. You know it occurs to me how much of her complaints sound like a greedy child—had to wear hand me downs—Oh horror. In the first 100 pages she has mentioned Saks Fifth Ave 4 times and she is supposed to be in what 6th grade.
This is predatory writing. It preys on every other person and situation mentioned in order to construct the writer as some kind of woman of valor. But it is so obvious that I am not even sure how she pulled this off. Sadly my theory. Best let people believe what they want to believe, even though she herself gives heaps of evidence to the contrary of what she says. And this really does not shed any light on anything Orthodox or Unorthodox. Neither are taken apart analytically. The driving force behind the prose is spite, after that jealousy, and I am not sure if either lead to much insight. “Scandals rejection?” Well it seems like her family has weathered a few scandals. The Rebbe’s daughter pushed down the stairs and killed? Never heard that before. Oh pregnant too—just like in Gone With The Wind—um. Another issue is the writer only declares herself as this or that—no process involved, no transformation. Is it the function of her age or something else? Well HL Menken said nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
Profile Image for Sharon.
592 reviews19 followers
March 28, 2012
A brave woman wrote this book and her spirit shines throughout. It takes exceptional courage to break out of the only life you've ever known, especially one as repressive to women as Hasidic Judaism seems to be. The story is a fascinating look inside this closed community where, like all communities, there is both good and bad. The author knew instinctively that she couldn't thrive where she was planted, and she knew this at a young age.

The book is her journey from childhood to adulthood and how religious repression kept her from knowledge of even basic things. Women are kept mostly uneducated in Hasidic life, to such an extent that a young woman has no idea what to expect on her wedding night. Some women suffer from extreme lack of self esteem. Male children are taken into religious training at age 3.

I applaud the author for saving her son and herself and for her courage in the face of fear and the unknown. She's wise enough to understand that some parts of her background are valuable and yet she can move forward with a spirit of adventure and freedom. Every non-Hasidic reader will learn intimate details of a cloistered religious segment of the population.

The writing is straightforward and I would have liked to see more dialog. I liked the references and bits from other famous literary works.
Profile Image for Anniebananie.
552 reviews398 followers
July 19, 2021
Wow was für ein wichtiges Buch!

Zu Beginn hatte ich zuerst ein wenig Probleme in die Geschichte reinzukommen, da der Schreibstil recht emotionslos und schnörkellos Deborahs Leben in der streng orthodoxen jüdischen Gemeinde in Williamsburg beschreibt. Doch nachdem ich einmal drin war, hatte das Buch eine enorme Sogwirkung auf mich.

Für mich war das Thema komplett neu und ich bin echt schockiert wie krass die Regeln in dieser Gemeinde sind! Vor allem als Frau wird man dort sowas von strukturell unterdrückt, es ist für mich unvorstellbar. Daher passte hier dann der Schreibstil doch ganz gut, da ich das alles sonst vermutlich nicht verkraftet hätte.

Deborah ist eine wirklich bewundernswert starke Frau und ich konnte ihre Gedanken so gut nachempfinden. Was ich nicht nachempfinden kann ist, dass sie scheinbar die einzige mit solchen Gedanken in ihrer Gemeinde war.

Dieses Buch vermittelt einen guten und umfassenden ersten Eindruck, wie es in einer ultraorthodoxen jüdischen Gemeinschaft abläuft. Auch wenn ich so manches trotzdem nicht verstehen kann, ist das Buch perfekt für alle, die sich mal mit diesem Thema beschäftigen wollen und so wie ich nahezu kein Vorwissen bezüglich Judentum haben. Für alle unentschlossenen: es gibt das ungekürzte Hörbuch bei Spotify. Jetzt freue ich mich darauf auch noch die Netflix-Serie schauen zu können :)
Profile Image for Anita.
98 reviews16 followers
September 10, 2022
به نظرم توی بحث ( ناراضی بودن از نحوه‌ی نشون داده شدن توی مدیا ) مسلمانان و یهودی ها به خصوص یهودی های ارتودوکس شبیه بهم هستن .
اینکه اینفلوئنسر های ارتودوکس دارن تلاش میکنن که بگن چیزهایی که میشنوین تمام ِ حقیقت نیست .
من تا دو سال پیش قبل تماشای سریال این کتاب اصلا نمیدونستم گروهی وسط آمریکا با این عقاید زندگی میکنن ، شاید الان برخی‌شون به سمت مدرن شدن رفته باشن .. ولی روایت این کتاب دردناکه ..
هرچقدر میخوان بگن که این داستان یه نفره ، بازم دردناکه
سریالش جز بهترین سریال های عمرمه ..
Profile Image for Saloma Furlong.
Author 5 books63 followers
July 4, 2012
I read this book because I thought I would be able to relate to Ms. Feldman. I, too, left an insular community (in my case Old Order Amish) in which preserving the collective or community was valued over an individual's freedom. I know what it's like to be required to follow the rules blindly, even when these rules contradict one another and any self-respecting person can't help but question them. I know what it feels like to have my education limited in an intentional attempt to keep me ignorant of the choices I had for charting my own life path.

I, too, gravitated towards a college education and eventually graduated from Smith College, but I had to leave my community to be able to do so. Feldman was very resourceful in utilizing the freedoms she did have in moving toward her goal of self-actualization.

I did learn about the Satmar community from reading this book, but I was very bored with the first half (the childhood portion) of "Unorthodox." I understand that her childhood was very boring, but the reader should not be bored in reading about it. Perhaps much of this could have been omitted from her story.

The other thing that strikes me about Feldman's childhood is that a boring and secure childhood is preferable to one filled with abuse, neglect, or uncertainty. Though her parents did not provide for her, her grandparents did. From Feldman's account it seems they did a fairly decent job of providing for her, which I'm not sure she realizes or appreciates. Perhaps these are the kinds of things she will appreciate later in life.

So, given all the parallels between Feldman's life and my own, I was prepared to really enjoy this book. But I really didn't. Even though the book does get less boring when Feldman's struggles begin after her arranged marriage when she is still a teenager, she failed to make me care about her. Yes, of course I have empathy for her in a general way because she is a fellow human, but she didn't make me care about her in a specific way, because I don't feel I got to know her all that well, even after reading a whole book about her. I cared more about her education at Sarah Lawrence College than I did whether people thought she was glamorous or not. She herself seemed distracted from the learning when she wrote: "When the class starts, I can't hear anything the professor is saying because I keep looking down at my legs and smoothing the denim with my fingers." WHO CARES what she was wearing... I want to know what she was LEARNING. I also didn't want to see her take up the nasty habit of smoking by hearing how she pretended she'd been smoking all along, rather than show she was a novice at it. The last photo in the book may as well be a cigarette commercial. Doesn't she realize that smoking is no longer glamorous -- that in fact it has become passe?

The emphasis on clothing and other superficial details seemed to be the "screen" she held between me as the reader and the substance of her story.

Towards the end of the story, her husband, Eli, goes away for a week. Feldman tells herself that if she cannot make it on her own for a week, then she can't make it on her own permanently, but then she doesn't write about the outcome of that week... I would have rejoiced with her if at the end of the week she discovered that she can indeed make it on her own and use that feeling of accomplishment as an inspiration to make the final break. I didn't get that chance.

Overall, I was disappointed with this book... I expected much more. Some people learn what's important in life as they mature. Other people live on a superficial level all their lives. Only time will tell which will be true of Feldman.

Profile Image for Sadie.
750 reviews174 followers
December 10, 2019
Ein an sich sehr bewegendes Schicksal über eine Frau in/aus einer Kultur, von der mir nur wenig bekannt ist. Leider fand ich das Buch streckenweise langweilig und teilweise fast schon... unsympathisch, was allerdings auch am gewählten Format (Audiobuch) gelegen haben mag.

Deborah Feldman erzählt ihre Geschichte vom Aufwachsen und geprägt werden in einer ultraorthodoxen jüdischen Gemeinde, der Satmarer in Williamsburg (New York). Das Mädchen wächst in einer streng konservativen Gemeinde auf. Die Satmarer führen ein stark abgeschiedenes Leben, unter anderem weil sie den Holocaust als Strafe für die Assimilation vieler Juden ansehen. Das führt dazu, dass vor allem Mädchen und Frauen strengen Reglements unterworfen sind, die denen in anderen streng konservativen Strömungen und Religionen ähneln. Das ist zweifelsohne meist unfair, teils schockierend zu erfahren.

Den Prozess, wie ein Mädchen, das unter dieser Art der Weltanschauung aufwächst, zu einer freiheitsliebenden, emanzipierten Frau wird, die dieser Welt schließlich den Rücken kehrt, wollte ich gerne erkunden. Leider wurde dieser nicht so mitreißend geschildert wie erhofft. Denn die Deborah aus dem Buch hat mir von Anfang an das Gefühl gebeben, dass sie weiß, dass sie etwas besonderes ist, dass sie irgendwie zu etwas anderem bestimmt ist. Und dies zog sich für mich durch das ganze Werk: Dieses immer leicht überhebliche, stets neunmalkluge Besserwisser- und -fühlerei und die vorausschauende Weisheit des Zukünftigen. Die Lesestimme von Anita Hopt hat diesen Effekt für mich leider zusätzlich verstärkt - ich konnte es quasi nicht mehr nicht hören.

Und ich fand das schade, weil überflüssig und unerwartet. Ich hatte im Vorfeld und auch beim Lesen einige Interviews mit Deborah Feldman gesehen, und sie wirkte auf mich sympathisch und nahbar. In ihrem Memoir kommt das leider weniger vorteilhaft rüber. Und es hätte das doch auch gar nicht gebraucht: Das Schicksal der kleinen Deborah ist schlimm genug, ich hätte intensiveren Anteil daran gehabt, wenn sie mich nicht immer mal wieder an ihre Überlegenheit erinnert hätte.

Hinzu kommt, dass ich das Buch über weite Strecken auch ziemlich langweilig fand. Ziemlich lange ist ziemlich wenig passiert. Dazu beigetragen hat zum Teil auch, dass viele Rituale, Regeln und Gebräuche der Satmarer Chassiden wenig oder gar nicht erklärt wurden. Hier hätte ich mir mehr Hintergrund und Einblicke gewünscht, die an der ein oder anderen Stelle sicher zu etwas vielschichtigerem Verständnis beigetragen hätte.

Letztlich kam mir der eigentliche Ausstieg auch ein wenig zu kurz. Da sind viele Fragen offen geblieben, die Frau Feldman vermutlich in ihrem zweiten Memoir Überbitten beantwortet. Das vorliegende Buch war ["nur"] ihr "Ticket nach draußen", und das merkt man dem Werk an einigen Stellen leider auch an. Nichtsdestotrotz bleibt es eine interessante Leseerfahrung mit einer schönen versöhnenden Botschaft. War unterm Strich also durchaus "okay".
Profile Image for Michael.
84 reviews16 followers
January 18, 2013
Mark Twain once said twenty years from now we’ll be more disappointed by the things we didn’t do than the things we did do. Mr. Twain might have changed that around some had he read Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman.

I was excited when I first heard about this book and excited when I finally got it. I was interested in learning about Hasidic Judaism from an insider’s perspective and what happened in the author's life to make her leave the faith. I wasn’t expecting a fairy story filled with tales of a wonderful life but I was certainly expecting more than what I got which was little more than a poorly written and poorly edited fierce and bitter temper tantrum. Granted, this is a memoir and not a biography and I accept that I’m reading Ms. Feldman’s subjective account of her life and the lives of the people around her, but even taking that into account, I believe that much of the information she shared with us was inaccurate and exaggerated and coming more from a sense of revenge and anger than anything else.

If Ms. Feldman’s thoughts and beliefs about Hasidic Judaism weren’t bothersome enough, they were made worse by her passing off secondhand information and hearsay as factual. And what was factual was incomplete and left us with questions: How did she just leave? What happened to her husband? Where did she suddenly get all her money? Worse, and this is probably my biggest complaint about the book, was that she had no compunctions against dragging everyone around her, family and friends included, through the mud. Sure, she changed the names of everyone in the story, but she didn’t change her name and are we really supposed to believe that in the insular society of Satmar Jews living in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York she’s writing about that people don’t know who her family is and who her friends are? I feel sad for those people who were caricatured and shamed in the book.

There was very little I liked about this book. Insights into some of the rituals around marriage and cleanliness were interesting, but that was it for me. Unfortunately, I took nothing away from this book. Worse, I learned nothing.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,636 reviews22 followers
March 20, 2012
Would you like being brought up to never go into a public library? If you did manage to sneak in and get a library card which you have to hide, you would also have to hide your books under the mattress. You even have to hide 'Little Women'! If Deborah Feldman had not had the courage to wonder and then seek out knowledge about the outside world, this book never would have been written. I believe that her desire to know more her desire to read. That desire was a fountain of information for her and also a momentary escape from her troubles.

What about losing your mom to the outside world and not knowing much about her. What about having a father who you don't feel connected to? You are raised by your grandmother and grandfather. Hugging and kissing in the family is not encouraged. Your grandfather is extra stern.

'Unorthodox' by Deborah Feldman tells about growing up in the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism in Williamsbug, Brooklyn. The history and politics of the sect is fascinating in itself and is touched on in the prologue.
She writes in the prologue that she changed the names but everything that happened in this book happened in real life. This is a very rare look into a secretive sect.

I did not want to put this book down for anything! It snares you from the first sentence to the last. It is not serious restrictions, there are funny moments and also a terrible lot of great food (all a particular type of kosher or it is not eaten. It is also how matchmaking is carried out in this sect and all the prescriptions of this sect.

If you read this book, you will learn so much, enjoy it so much and feel so glad that Deborah Feldman wrote it.
You will also be amazed at her talent and skill.

I recommend this book to everyone, it is truly a must read.

I received 'Unorthodox' as a win from the GoodReads program and that in no way influenced my review.

Profile Image for Bren.
824 reviews130 followers
July 30, 2020

Lo que más me ha llamado la atención de este libro es entrar a ese mundo del judaísmo ortodoxo, siempre me han parecido una comunidad exageradamente cerrada y que guardan con mucho celo sus costumbres, creencias y forma de vida.

Por supuesto como cualquier religión sectaria o extremista es restrictiva, es tremendamente asfixiante y hace que sus miembros sientan culpa casi hasta por respirar.

Aquí lo que me ha parecido muy curioso es que a pesar de las inquietudes que siempre demostró tener Deborah, nos relata una infancia casi idílica, que sí, que deseaba cosas que no podía tener, que también buscaba leer libros que estaban prohibidos por su religión e incluso con su particular situación familiar que siempre fue una piedra en su cuello, es imposible no sentir que su vida no fue tan mala, al final fue una niña protegida en una comunidad con restricciones pero que para ella eran naturales.

Para mí fue imposible no comparar esta historia con la Tara Westover, una educación, sin embargo creo que a diferencia de ese otro libro, siento mucho más centrada sobre sus objetivos a Deborah, menos victimista y que no ha escrito este libro con la finalidad de señalar a nadie o la comunidad como tal, más bien a un nivel de sacar sus demonios y de alguna manera poder ayudar a otras personas que como ella se sientan atrapadas en una comunidad restrictiva y no sepan cómo salir de ahí.

Por supuesto Deborah encontró la manera y aunque no entra en detalles de su vida después de salir de su comunidad sí que nos da a entender que no fue fácil para ella, aunque si liberador.

Me resulta difícil pensar que todavía exista gente que viva bajo estos preceptos y formas de vida en pleno Nueva York y en pleno siglo XX, una mujer de 17 años que ni siquiera sabe que es una vagina y que ni siquiera es consciente de tener una, supongo que siempre existirá la rebelde que se niegue a vivir bajo tanta restricción, pero también es verdad que hay quienes se acomodan y son felices de esa manera.

Es un libro algo lento, pero no por eso menos interesante y entretenido que, honestamente, me ha gustado mucho se deja leer muy bien y tal vez pueda resultar que para algunas personas sea un poco complicado entender tanta jerga de la lengua yiddish y aunque hay un glosario al final del libro, hay que ir a buscar cada palabra, con esto no quiero decir que no comprenda la lectura, pero sería mejor que existieran notas al pie.

La misma Deborah nos dice que la serie de Netflix es diferente al libro ya que introdujeron historias de otras personas que salieron de la comunidad y vivencias que nos precisamente de ella, pero que representan a muchas personas en esta situación, no la he visto pero la voy a buscar.

Es un libro que personalmente me ha gustado aunque no ha sido precisamente lo que esperaba encontrar.
Profile Image for nettebuecherkiste.
517 reviews132 followers
July 20, 2018
Deborah Feldman wird 1986 in die ultraorthodox-chassidische Gemeinschaft in Williamsburg, New York geboren. Ihre britischstämmige Mutter hält es nicht lange in der restriktiven Gesellschaft aus und lässt ihre Tochter bei den Großeltern zurück. Früh zeigt sich, dass Deborah Interesse an Büchern und Bildung hat, was in ihrem Umfeld nicht nur verachtet sondern sogar teilweise verboten ist. Nur bestimmte jiddische Bücher sind erlaubt. So beginnt Deborah bereits in jungen Jahren im Kleinen ihre Rebellion und leiht heimlich englischsprachige Bücher in Bibliotheken aus. Als sie schließlich verheiratet werden soll, wird immer klarer, dass ihre Persönlichkeit aus dem sozialen Gefüge ihrer Herkunft ausbrechen muss.

Bereits in Pearl Abrahams „The Romance Reader“ habe ich einiges über das chassidische Judentum und die drastischen Einschränkungen und Bräuche erfahren, denen die Mitglieder dieser Gesellschaft unterworfen sind. Wie in Pearl Abrahams Roman, der auf ihren eigenen Erfahrungen beruht, ist auch Deborah Feldman ein bildungshungriges Kind, das früh beginnt, sich gegen die strengen Regeln aufzulehnen – wenn auch im Heimlichen. Deborah wagt es lange nicht, ihre Zweifel offen zu äußern, sie verbirgt sogar vor ihrem Ehemann, dass sie sich an einem College eingeschrieben hat, und wechselt unterwegs im Auto die Kleidung. Irgendwann ist klar, dass sie Williamsburg verlassen muss. Es ist ihr unvorstellbar, ihren kleinen Sohn dort zurückzulassen, ihn unter den Bedingungen des Chassidentums aufwachsen zulassen. Sie schaffte es tatsächlich und lebt heute mit ihrem Sohn in Berlin.

Feldmans Biografie ist gut lesbar, wenn auch kein sprachliches Meisterstück. Besonders interessant ist es sicherlich für Leser, die bisher wenig über die New Yorker Chassiden wissen, manche Bräuche und Regeln erscheinen uns heute schier unglaublich. Neu für mich war u. A. die Ablehnung des Staates Israel durch manche ultraorthodoxe Gruppierungen, wie die Satmarer, der chassidischen Teilgruppe, der Deborah Feldman angehörte. Auch für Leser, die schon „The Romance Reader“ kennen, ist das Buch eine lohnende und weiterführende Lektüre. Deborah Feldman zeigt am eigenen und anhand weiterer Beispiele, welche Konsquenzen mangelnde Aufklärung und Bildung für junge Chassiden haben können.

Feldman hat inzwischen eine Fortsetzung ihrer Biografie veröffentlicht („Exodus“, deutsch: „Überbitten“), die ich auch mit Interesse lesen werde.
Profile Image for Dar vieną puslapį.
372 reviews561 followers
September 13, 2021
„Neortodoksiška“ – viena tų knygų, kurių laukiau su dideliu nekantrumu. Buvau vos per porą vakarų sužiūrėjusi Netflix serialą, kurtą pagal šią knygą, ir labai intrigavo paskaityti originalų kūrinį.

Tai tikra istorija apie mergaitę, kuri auga viename laisviausių pasaulio miestų Niujorke, bet jos gyvenimo būdas toli gražu nekvepia jokia laisve. Gyvenimas chasidų bendruomenėje toks suvaržytas, kad net lakiausia vaizduotė tokių dalykų neišgalvotų. Debora dievina knygas, kurios budina jos kritinį mąstymą, verčia pergalvoti iš naujo „savaime suprantamus“ dalykus ir galiausiai formuotis asmenybei. Kas iš to išeis, sužinosite perskaitę, bet pažadu – nuobodu tikrai nebus.

Knyga sukėlė begalę emocijų: pykdė, liūdino, trikdė ir niekaip nepavyko iki galo suvokti, kad tai tikra istorija, kad taip išties gyvena žmonės. Moterys chasidų bendruomenėje nuo mažų dienų žino kam jos gimė ir tai yra neginčytina: jos šiek tiek palanko mokyklą, išteka ir gimdo vaikus. Viskas. Toks jų gyvenimas. Išsilavinimo stoka suponuoja negalėjimą dirbti aukštesnės kvalifikacijos darbų, o be gero darbo nėra ir pajamų. Moteris įstringa savo gyvenimo modelyje. Ji priklausoma ir ištrūkti jai yra beveik neįmanoma.

Itin įstrigo moterų seksualumo demonizavimas. Viena epizode moteris persismeigia koja smeigtuku, kad vėjas neplaikstytų jos sijono – juk žmonės gali pamatyti jos kojas! O tai nepadoru ir jau geriau fizinis skausmas nei kažkas pamatys kojas. Kraupu kai pagalvoji.

Įkvepia tai, kaip knygos autorė lyg sfinksas kyla iš pelenų, bunda ir auga. Mažais žingsneliais vyksta didžiuliai pokyčiai. Autorė pradeda rašyti. Tiesa, nėra čia kažkoks literatūrinis šedevras – dar yra kur tobulėti, bet jei susitelki į istorija, skaityti tikrai labai įdomu. Dar geriau tai, kad serialas ir knyga skiriasi, tad nėra de javu jausmo, o tik smalsumas – kas bus toliau.

Tie, kurie domisi tikromis moterų istorijomis ir nori pažinti jas kitų kultūrų fone - bus labai įdomu. Gero skaitymo.
Profile Image for Jeść treść.
244 reviews579 followers
May 1, 2020
Bardzo ciekawa historia, którą czyta się jeszcze lepiej, odnosząc ją do "Educated". Obydwa non-fiction traktują o ucieczce z religijnego fundamentalizmu. W obydwu przypadkach widzimy Stany Zjednoczone skrajnie różne od obrazu wspaniałego, wolnościowego american dream, do którego przywykliśmy.
Profile Image for sónia.
196 reviews86 followers
January 23, 2021
Mais uma daquelas leituras brutais, obrigatórias, revolucionárias.
Recomendado para quem gostou de Uma Educação, de Tara Westover.
Profile Image for Dmitrijus Andrušanecas.
227 reviews284 followers
January 11, 2021

“ <…> visi mane supantys žmonės išliko tyri ir nesutepti, tik aš, suteršta žodžių, pasidariau akla ir abejinga viskam, kas šventa.”

Nuojauta kužda, kad daugelis Jūsų jau bus perskaitę šią knygą. Galimai ne tik perskaitę, bet dar ir pažiūrėję ekranizaciją, kuri, pripažinkim, nėra knygos kopija, o tik paremta autorės patirtimi - pasiskolinti bėgiai, kad traukinys sėkmingiau judėtų.

- Vėl kaltins žydus, - sako senelis, linguodamas galva. - Kaip visada.
Ne žydus, - paprieštarauja močiutė. - Izraelį, bet ne žydus.
Ne, Freida, argi nesupranti? - lėtai ištaria senelis. - Juk jiems atrodo, kad tai vienas ir tas pats.

Įspūdis. Vengiu vietų (ar netgi pačių kūrinių), kuriose nepaprastai daug dėmesio yra skiriama religijai. Tai tokia tema, kurią norėčiau, kad kiekvienas pasiliktų sau. Esu iš tų, kuris tiki, kad užaugęs vaikas pats pasirinks savo tikėjimo kryptį, o ne tėveliai, juolab seneliai, turėtų pakrikštyti juos, nes taip pridera. Giminės dar gauna velnių už tai, kad buvau pakrikštytas - atėmė galimybę pasirinkti pačiam. Bet juk ne apie tai.

“Mane žavi mintis apie drąsą, išstūmusią pasyvumą.”

Taigi, įspūdis. Vis tik šios neortodoksiškos knygos neišvengiau. Netgi su mielu noru labai laukiau, norėjau. Suskaičiau žvėrišku tempu ir jaučiau tarsi tuštumą - o kur daugiau? Pirmiausia - tai žinių šaltinis. Savam apskritime, kurį nusibraižiau gyvenime, tokie nedalykai nėra matomi, čiupinėjami ir sutinkami. Gerai yra, kai literatūra auklėja (ne veltui metai iš metų populiariausiais-perkamiausiai tampa negrožiniai kūriniai). Be to, kas nenorėtų stebėti kaimynų gyvenimą pro rakto skylutę arba bent jau langą, kuris priešais švieste šviečia.

“Jeigu pateisinsiu lūkesčius, nusikratysiu mane persekiojančios gėdos. Jei būsiu nepriekaištinga, paklusni namų šeimininkė, daugiau niekas neturės teisės kritikuoti mano šeimą.”

Tuštuma. Norėjau dar, buvo negana. Bet eikime toliau. Lengvai, aiškiai, suprantamai, informatyviai, bet tuo pačiu nuolatos juntamas autorės kažkoks giluminis išjautimas, potyris, būsena, esmė. Pradėjęs nežinojau, kad tai yra autorės gyvenimo pamatais paremtas kūrinys. Tik vėliau - kuo giliau į mišką, tuo daugiau medžių - viskas susiliejo į bendrą vaizdą ir šūksnius Eureka! Buvo negana, tai leisdavau laiką žiūrėdamas serialą, o vėliau - ir intervių įrašai, vaizdo makaluokliai, įvairūs tekstai ir straipsniai, kiti šaltiniai.

“Tad ir toliau patyliukais gyvenu alternatyvų gyvenimą, savo mintis slėpdama smegenų dalyje, kurią rezervavau maištingajai savo tapatybei.”

Patiko. Neatsitraukiau. Skaičiau greitai, tai greitai ir pabaigiau. Informatyvu, naudinga, bjauru, gera, džiugu, bet tuo pačiu ir liūdna. Jeigu paklaustumėte, ką daryčiau, atsakyčiau, kad nelabai turiu ką atsakyti. Tikiu, kad būčiau tas paukštis, kuris nuolatos norėtų pakilti. Esminis klausimas - ar daugelis jų suvokia, kokio platumo pasaulio jie nemato, ko nėra ragavę, kokių nuotykių nėra patyrę ar koks galėjo būti jų gyvenimas, negimus šioje sektoje. Neskubėkite teisti, sociologas suskubtų jums papasakoti, kad sektos savoka nebūtinai turi neigiamą reikšmę.

“Kaip nuostabu, mąstau, kai vyriškumą galima laikyti duotybe ir nereikia baimintis jo netekti. Ar ne ši baimė paskatino mano bendruomenę griežtai atskirti vyrus nuo moterų? Gal pasaulyje, kuriame moterys turi daugiau laisvės, staiga kyla grėsmė prarasti vyriškumą?”

Dabar, žinant laisvės ir galimybių skonį, niekaip neįsivaizduoju, kad galėčiau užsidaryti į vienos bendruomenės rėmus. Netgi dėl mylimo žmogaus to nepadaryčiau. Vis tik labai įdomu būtų, kaip jausčiausi ir kaip elgčiausi, jei nebūčiau paragavęs saldaus ir sultingo obuolio. Vertinu autorės, rodos, kovą su pačia savimi, postringavimus, monologus. Jos vidinį turtą, kuriuos dalinasi. Pažinimu, į kurį atėjo pati savarankiškai. Stiprios valios ir stiprios energijos žmogus.

Rekomenduoju. Perskaitykite ir supraskite, kokį turtą turėjote ir vis dar turite. Laisvę rinktis, galimybes veikti, progas juoktis, neribotai judėti, savaip atrodyti, išpažinti savo, būti ne tiek žmogumi, kiek asmenybe. Skaitydamas pasvarstydavau, ar tai negalėtų būti artima TARNAITĖS PASAKOJIMUI?
Profile Image for Mercedes Fernández Varea.
254 reviews72 followers
July 25, 2021
Reseña en 5 minutos y al dictado

Como es fácil suponer, llegué a este libro después de haber visto la miniserie de Netflix. Si la serie ya me gustó, el relato de Deborah Feldman me ha gustado aún más.

En un relato escrito con detalle y esmero, la autora nos transporta a su infancia, adolescencia y primera juventud para mostrarnos ese entorno cerrado en el que vivió, la comunidad judía ultraconservadora satmar, y lo que es más importante, cómo poquito a poquito se le fue despertando la conciencia.

Conocía ya el tema de la comunidad satmar por un documental y por otra lectura también muy recomendable, Las hijas de Zalman; pero me he vuelto a sentir fascinada al leer sobre estos “guetos” de seres humanos que viven en medio de nuestra sociedad occidental pero de un modo tan radicalmente alejado del nuestro. También me ha traído a la mente esta lectura otra obra americana, Una educación.

Me conmueve lo que leo y por supuesto no todo lo que relata Deborah Feldman es negativo: seguro que ella misma echa de menos el sentimiento familiar y sobre todo los olores de la cocina de su abuela. Pero por encima de todo está el control absoluto del individuo, especialmente de la mujer, en base a unas creencias religiosas y con la finalidad de mantener unida a la comunidad.

Me puedo imaginar a la autora escondida leyendo esas obras tan inocentes a mis ojos (Mujercitas, Orgullo y Prejuicio, Ana de las Tejas Verdes, Jane Eyre) e inspirándose en estas protagonistas para soñar una vida diferente.

“Miro los libros que llenan los estantes y recuerdo cómo codiciaba de pequeña el privilegio de leer, cuánto arriesgué a cambio de ese conocimiento y cómo la dicha que me proporcionaban esas lecturas siempre pesaba más que el miedo. Me maravillaba que esos autores sintieran que tenían un derecho innato a expresar sus opiniones como creyeran conveniente, a poner sobre el papel sus pensamientos más íntimos cuando en mi caso no pasa un día sin que me sienta obligada a guardar secretos.”

Al finalizar la lectura he buscado diversas entrevistas en YouTube que me han permitido conocer un poco más del contexto en que se escribió esta obra. El libro está escrito poco después de la salida de la comunidad con la finalidad de encontrar un modo de sustento pero sobre todo de crear una opinión pública favorable puesto que su abogado le indica que de otro modo jamás va a poder tener la custodia de su hijo. Este último hecho me generó ciertas dudas de si había algo de exageración en el relato. Sin embargo, en una larguísima entrevista de la televisión alemana, si no recuerdo mal, y relativamente reciente la autora se reafirma en lo narrado en este libro, mientras que reniega de partes de lo escrito en la segunda parte (Exodus), donde declara que fue bastante manipulada por la editorial para tratar determinados temas o enfocar algunas cuestiones de un determinado modo, con miras a aumentar las ventas.

En fin, con solo la mitad de verdad hay para salir corriendo.

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