Jo Power
Jo Power asked:

Quite enjoyed this, but are there really young people who are so completely innocent as the couple in this book?

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Audrey Yes. Because of how insular the ultra-Orthodox community is, their communication to the outside world is very limited and they can be incredibly sheltered.

I grew up in a modern-Orthodox household, and kept shomer negiya for almost two years. It was a fascinating experience and really alerted me to how much touch makes a difference in our everyday life. I made the choice voluntarily, which made the experience all the more rewarding. Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox teens often don't have the same choice - not because it is forced upon them, but because they don't know anything else. It's a facet of the community so strong that they don't think of what it would be like any other way.

The same concept follows through to many of the other aspects of their life. Being from the modern-Orthodox community, we were significantly more liberal than the community described in the book. Almost every (but not all) homes had a TV in my community, but it was not unheard of for the families to significantly limit what was watched. I remember a friend telling me when we were 12 that she had never seen a movie with a rating more than G. With no way to get to the movie theater and TV restrictions on the public access, her parents could limit her viewing in such a way and chose to do so to protect her.

I am not surprised that they were depicted as so innocent. When you don't know anything else, you don't think to explore or to question.

About the sex aspect - I attended an Orthodox high school. I got threatened with suspension for challenging our sex-ed classes. Because we received partial government funding, we were mandated to meet some education criteria. When I fought for contraception education, many teachers were appalled saying such education was encouraging premarital sex. I took the approach that teens will do what they do and it's best to protect them, but that was not received well at all. Teens may do what they do, but OUR teens would never dream of such a thing.

I grew up very sheltered. I didn't have my first non-Jewish friends until I was 13 and spent two years in public school (before being sent back to Jewish day school). I was not nearly as sheltered as the community in the book, however. Simply being afforded the option to attend public school for a period of time was met with skepticism by many of my classmate's parents who thought such an education was wrong or incomplete without Torah instruction. I knew many families who grew up ultra-Orthodox. I remember walking to synagogue and having men avert their eyes rather than look at me in my bright colored clothing. I was dressed modestly - long skirts, long sleeves, nothing revealing - but my colors were too flashy and would attract such attention the men felt the need to avert their eyes. This community exists in many locations - New York, Baltimore, London, Jerusalem, and many other locations - and I was very impressed with the book for capturing it in such eloquent terms.
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